Welcome back to your course, Wedding Planning 101: The Road to “I Do”! This monthly series will provide you with a whole lot of clarity, destroy myths about how you’re “supposed to” plan a wedding and all the things you should know before your wedding day. I’m so glad you’re back. If this is the first lesson of the course you’ve read, I’ve linked parts 1 through 3 of Wedding Planning 101 below so you can access those & get caught up!
Today, we’ll be talking about the Reception and what happens (or should happen) when your wedding is over. This post is so FULL of information, so grab a notebook and settle in because this info is RICH!
determining the best time for sunset photos
From my eyes, this is SO crucial! The best time for sunset photos can be determined based on the time of year you’re getting married as well as small considerations based on your venue and its placement. For example, if your wedding takes place in the Fall or Winter, your sunset session will take place much earlier than a wedding in the Summer months.
As a rule of thumb, I google the exact sunset time for the wedding date – let’s say it’s today (July 27th in San Francisco), so sunset isn’t until 8:22pm. Can I get a hallelujah for these long Summer days? California is such a dream! In this instance I’d try to schedule a 20-30 minute photo session with just my couple about 30-60 minutes before the sun sets to get that golden hour light. So for today I’d start sunset photos at about 7:45pm.
Another thing to consider is your particular venue. If you’re getting married at a venue that’s tucked behind a large mountain range or in a more wooded area, you should consider doing your “sunset” photos earlier just in case the sun dips behind that mountain range before the true sunset time.
Lighting at your reception may be something you haven’t yet considered, but it can truly make a big difference in your images. If your reception is going to take place outdoors, a)You’re my favorite, because natural light will always win in my eyes (and the camera’s) and b)all you need to really consider is having minimal light when it gets dark such as candles on the tables and string lights on the dance floor.
If your reception is indoors, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with candlelight! It’s one of my favorite lighting looks because it’s super warm and gives off a very romantic feeling. The more, the better, just make sure you know your venue’s rules in regards to fire regulations.
Other options to consider are uplights or fixtures. Uplighting adds a warm, subtle glow to the space, making sure there’s no bright spots. Read this article HERE for some great do’s and don’ts when it comes to uplighting. Your reception space may also already be equipped with lighting fixtures such as chandeliers and wall sconces that can usually be brightened or dimmed based on your preference.
Lastly, make sure there is at least SOME light on your dance floor! This is a common misconception because couples often like that dark, clubby feel on the dance floor, but it’s not ideal for photos. With no light in the room, our cameras have no spots to sample from and it makes focusing really difficult, resulting in terrible, blurry photos.
toasts & table visits
We’ve all been to that wedding where the best man had one too many tequila shots before his toast and starts rambling on about the groom for 20 minutes. Inapprops! Try to prepare your toasters by asking them to stick to about 2-5 minutes so that the rest of your guests can enjoy the evening & get on the dance floor.
It’s always nice when the couple visits each table after finishing their meal (while everyone else is finishing) so you get to say Hi and welcome each guest personally. It’s great for hugs too. However, this is typically not an important time to have your photographer with you & it actually the best time during the reception for us to take a break and eat dinner ourselves!
to toss or not to toss (and other traditions)
The tradition of the bouquet toss and the garter toss goes way back. But ya know what? If you don’t wanna do it, just don’t! It’s your wedding and you don’t have to! In fact, I’d suggest only doing it if you have A LOT of single friends who will be totally down (and not shy) to come to the dance floor to compete. There’s nothing more awkward than 4 single and ashamed girls on the dance floor pretending to be interested in catching your flowers!
This goes for other traditions as well, like cake cutting or parent dances – I give you a no rules policy! Do what feels right 🙂
the grand exit
If you plan on orchestrating a grand exit from your reception, there’s a few things to keep in mind. On camera, things like glow sticks don’t tend to read very well, but balloons, bubbles and sparklers are great! Sparklers definitely look stunning on camera, so here are a couple pointers. 1) Purchase the extra long ones so you get plenty of burn time. The short ones run out SO fast! 2) Make sure the venue has a WIDE passage for you to go through. Remember: you are literally handing fire to over 100 intoxicated people. You do not want that aisle to be super tight to cram through – might cause a fiery fiasco!
now, hear about the reception from a wedding planner!
As usual, I have my dear friend Kellyne of Hand & Heart Events here with me to help you babes understand every aspect from a planner’s point of view in addition to mine. She details everything that you probably haven’t even thought about yet!
flow of events
The flow of the events at your reception can make or break the guest experience. Your wedding coordinator will work with you and your vendors to create a detailed timeline that will be used as guide throughout the entire day. Specifically for my clients, I make sure there is time allotted to all those important reception events – wedding party entrance, toasts, first dance, cake cutting, and everything else in between.
The last thing you want is to burden your maid of honor or family friend to feel like they’re working the reception rather than enjoying it. For that reason, your planner is there on site to cue your DJ, communicate with photographers/videographers (so they don’t miss a shot!), make sure your dad has his dancing shoes on, and that you and your boo have a full glass of champagne for toasts!
I also keep an eye on all the little details as the night progresses. I make sure lights are dimmed, candles stay lit, and flowers are moved or repurposed to get the maximum enjoyment of those blooms. My team and I set up dessert, make sure the cake is set with utensils and plates for cake cutting, and replenish any sweet treats so the dessert table never looks bare. This whole time, you & all of your guests stay worry free (and likely on the dance floor)!
Throughout the evening, a coordinator is responsible for packing up personal items, gifts/cards, guestbook, etc. to make sure they’re stored in a safe place for you to take home or pick up the next day. As the evening winds down, we make sure rentals and decor are broken down and packed up, final payments and tips are distributed to vendors, and we ensure that the venue is left it tip-top condition!
Although the wedding may be over, a coordinator’s job is still going! At Hand & Heart, we love to check in with couples after the wedding to make sure all loose ends are tied up and to touch base about any final details. I am always available to you after the wedding, should you need anything (that includes a post-wedding glass of wine, too)!!
You Made It!
Cheers Babes from Jess & Kellyne! You made it through Wedding Planning 101! Tune in next month for a HUGE SURPRISE (coming Labor Day weekend)!!! Xx