How to get the best wedding reception photos

I really enjoy writing these ‘wedding top tips’ posts and whenever I share them I get lots of messages about how helpful they’ve been, so it’s great to be able to share ideas for ways to get the best photos of your wedding day. In this post I’m going to share some great tips to get the best wedding reception photos.

You have said the ‘I do’s’ and signed the register. You will walk back down the aisle, hand in hand, to cheering from your loved ones and the biggest smiles on your faces. It’s the happiest moment and you are excited to chat to all your guests, have a glass of something fizzy and start the celebrations. This is as it should be! I was ecstatic in those moments after my wedding ceremony. I was properly on cloud nine and really wanted to start enjoying the wedding reception and time with the wonderful people who had come to share my day.

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To make sure you have the fun-filled, laid back, happy and fabulous wedding reception that you are dreaming of you need to make sure you have enough time for everything that you want to happen t0… well, happen! This is where a bit of planning ahead makes all the difference. The wedding reception is by far the busiest time of the wedding day for photos. During this time there will be group photos if you want them (check out my guide to ‘group photos made easy’ for a little extra guidance), detail photos were taken of the wedding breakfast room, photos of the two of you (this is a lovely time, a little escape for you both) as well as capturing the wedding reception itself with candid, natural photos of you and your guests having a grand old time. That is a lot to fit into what can be a fairly short amount of time. Add in some travelling if you get married at a different place to your wedding reception and you can see how easily it can become fairly hectic for photos and something might have to give.

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Here’s how you make sure you get all the amazing, wonderful photos you want and feel relaxed, have time to talk to everyone and don’t feel like you are being pushed from one photo to another.

1. Make sure you plan enough time for the wedding reception.

This is the big one. More than anything else please, please make sure you give yourself plenty of time during the wedding reception. If you are travelling from one venue to another make sure to take the travel time into account. The standard for a wedding reception seems to be an hour and a half, however, I always recommend two hours if you can do this.

If you can’t an hour and a half is great, but please make sure the time is from the end of the ceremony to your guests being called for dinner, not dinner being served. This is a distinction I am making as many venues will give you the time for dinner, and then you will find out they will call your guests to dinner 20-30 minutes before that time, which means you lose 20-30 minutes of your wedding reception time.

With two hours, you will have plenty of time to speak to all your guests. You will get loads of wonderful, natural, captured photos of you and your guests chatting, laughing and enjoying themselves. You will get the group photos you want. You will get fabulous photos of your table setups, the flowers, the cake and all the details you have spent time and effort on.

You will get beautiful photos of the two of you, away from everyone, taken in a relaxed way, with no panic about timings. If you have planned anything special for the wedding reception time (a little surprise for your guests) it’s good to know they have plenty of time to enjoy that special something. The only thing you need to think about with a slightly longer wedding reception is drinks and canapés for your guests. In my experience, no guest will complain about an extra 30 minutes for the wedding reception as long as they have a little bite to eat and something to drink.


2. Work out group shots beforehand

Limiting the number of group shots you do is also highly recommended. Please do check out the Group Photos Made Easy post I wrote as this goes into a lot of detail about getting great group photos with minimal hassle. In short for this, confirm what groups you want before the day (I recommend a maximum of 1o individual groups). Let your photographer know who is in each group. Make one or two people responsible for helping your photographer, generally, people who are good at being organised, maybe slightly louder than most and who know the people who will be needed. This pre-wedding organisation can make the difference between group photos that take 20 minutes and group photos that take up to an hour. Trust me when I say you really don’t want to be spending the best part of your wedding reception standing in a line having your photo taken!


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3. When choosing your venue bear in mind where you might go for the wedding reception if the weather isn’t nice

Is there enough room for everyone? Is there enough room inside or somewhere undercover for the group photos you might want? With the best will in the world we all want a wedding where the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting and a soft warm breeze is keeping us at the perfect temperature to enjoy a Pimms sat outside. However, we are in the UK and the weather can be somewhat erratic. When you are looking for your venue think about the inside as well as the outside. If you do have a day where it’s a little cooler or it’s raining, is the space inside a nice area where you would want to spend the wedding reception time? This is worth thinking about. The photos that are taken during the wedding reception will capture where you are, and if it’s not a space you like then you will have to look at it in the photos forever.


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4. Confetti time

If you have the chance to get a bit of confetti thrown at the end of the ceremony and the start of the wedding reception I will always encourage it. It can be such fun for all your guests and can make the best photos. Nothing beats a good confetti face! This does tend to need a little co-ordination. If you can throw confetti straight after the ceremony consider hiding away once you have walked down the aisle. This way all your guests can make their way outside and be ready to shower you with confetti as you make your grand exit as the new Mr. & Mrs.


5. Think about the time of the day you have your reception

(and therefore wedding ceremony, you can read more about that here). This is probably one of the last things on your mind, but from a photography point of view light is everything and the time of day that you are taking photos makes a huge difference. If you are having a summer wedding and you choose a midday ceremony, this means that your wedding reception will be from about 1 pm. This is the brightest time of the day, the sun is at its highest and it is the most unflattering time for photos as everyone ends up with panda eye shadows and looks like they are squinting. This will also have an effect on the photos of the two of you. My natural style is to shoot backlit or in the shade, which can help to make more flattering photos and for the portrait session is something I absolutely do. But during the wedding reception it’s a little trickier as you are working around wherever people are standing. The later into the afternoon, the softer the light goes. If you choose a 3 pm ceremony, then the wedding reception will be from 3.30-4 pm and the light will be starting to get less harsh. If it’s a particularly warm day, your guests will also be grateful to not be standing outside, dressed to the nines, in the midday sun. The opposite is the case for winter weddings, the light can be gone by 4 pm, so if you are wanting wedding reception photos with any kind of natural light you need to make sure that you give enough time to do that. By choosing a midday ceremony, this will allow a good couple of hours of daylight for the wedding reception time.

6. Keep your makeup nearby to touch up

So you can have a quick touch up before the portrait session. This seems like quite a small thing, but before you go for your bride and groom portrait session you will probably want to touch up your lipstick and have a quick check of your make up. Especially if the ceremony was a bit of a teary one, making sure mascara is where it should be is quite handy! The easiest way to do this is to pack a couple of essentials in a small bag and have your mum or one of your bridesmaids carry that for you. This way, it will only take a minute or two to have a quick check, rather than having to go back to your room and hunt down the makeup you want.


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7. Go with the flow.

This is slightly in contradiction to my general sense of organisation pre-wedding, however, the organisation is for a good reason. To make sure that there is plenty of time to get all the photos you want during the wedding reception and to ensure the ones you do want go as smoothly and easily as possible. When it comes to you on the day, however, you need to have a bit of a ‘go with the flow’ attitude. There is a chance things might run late, or not go fully to plan. That’s fine, it happens, and it happens far more frequently than you would imagine. Not getting stressed about the small stuff when it comes to your wedding reception will mean you enjoy the time fully. Coming from someone who is a complete control freak, I know how hard it can be to relax and let others take over and sort things if they aren’t perfect. Once you hit the wedding day if somethings not right delegate it to a bridesmaid or groomsman to sort. Don’t try to sort it yourself and end up missing half your own wedding reception. You want photos capturing you there, at the moment, having a wonderful day. This goes with weather concerns too. You have no control over what is going to happen with the weather, so try not to worry too much. If it does rain, just go with it. Plan ahead if it looks likely and get yourself a cool umbrella and some wellies and get out for photos in the rain! Whatever happens, remember this is your special day and you should be drinking Prosecco, having a laugh and enjoying every moment.

Which flows nicely to my next point…


It seems a bit crazy to have to say this. After all, this is your wedding day and one of the happiest days of your life. However, sometimes the stress of the build-up to the day or the nerves on the day can get the better of you. Try to take a step back, relax and be in the moment. You have married your best friend and the love of your life, you are surrounded by the people who mean the most to you and its one hell of a celebration! Enjoy it. It shows on the photos if you are, and it might show if you’re not. I love to capture fabulous natural smiles, awesome emotional moments and true joy. The kind of smiles that are so wide they almost hurt, smiles that shine through your eyes and make you radiate happiness. This is what wedding days are about, so leave the stresses and worries at the door and embrace a wonderful day.


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9. If your photographer offers the option of adding a second photographer it could be worth considering.

Not all photographers do offer this, but if they do having a second photographer can make a real difference on the coverage you have during the wedding reception, especially if time is a little tighter or you have a fair bit of travelling to do from the wedding venue to the wedding reception venue. I work with second photographers (mainly my awesome assistant, Jesse, who also works as an associate photographer for me) and find it works really well during the wedding reception. The role of my second photographer is mainly to concentrate on capturing the natural, fun, documentary-style photos of you and your guests. This leaves me free to do the group photos, the detail photos and portraits with the bride and groom. If I have time I will then capture some of the candid photos too, but this way there’s not as much stress getting everything covered.

There you go, a few key top tips to get the best out of your wedding photos during the wedding reception. Hope this helps to give some ideas and guidance. Why not check out the other posts and find out more about getting the best out of your photos on the morning of the wedding day, top tips for capturing a first look and making the most of your photos during the ceremony. Please do leave a comment or share this with anyone you know who is planning a wedding.

Thanks for popping by

Fiona x