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A collage of three images of the bride and groom from the wedding reception

You just finished shooting a wonderful tear-jerking wedding ceremony, and you nailed all of the must-have shots. As the bride and groom happily run off as husband and wife, you think to yourself, “Only 5 more hours left of coverage!” While that can seem exhausting at first, there’s good news! The hard part is over, and it’s almost time for you to capture some fun moments from the party - the reception! Wedding reception traditions have been around for centuries. Wedding reception planning is challenging, and as a wedding photographer, it is your job to document these so that your couples can show the treasure trove of images to their children and continue the traditions for years to come. Here are the 10 must-have shots that you must take from the wedding reception - and some fun facts to help you understand the importance of certain traditions!

Moments You Can’t Miss Capturing At A Reception

1. The Grand Entrance 

During the cocktail hour, the guests anticipate the arrival of the newlyweds to the reception. Once the couple walks through the doors, music blaring, the host will announce them and the room will go wild. It is the first time that they will be introduced to their friends and family as husband and wife. Make sure you take a ton of pictures of the excitement on the faces of the bride and groom during this moment.

2. The First Dance

A bride and groom on the dance floor during their first dance as the band sings at the background

Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @trevorhooperphoto

Similar to an old-fashioned ball, the bride and groom are the guests of honor who open the dancing for the reception. The bride and groom have spent a lot of time choosing a song that fits their first dance. This song represents the journey the couple took to get to this important day. Be sure to take many pictures, with different angles, of the couple as they dance for the first time in their new roles.

3. The Toasts

A bride and groom standing beside the dinner table as a guest gives a toast

Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @wild.trail.studio

Did you know that the origin of “toasting” at the reception came from England? The gin that was present at weddings to drink was so oily that a piece of toast was strategically placed on top to absorb the oil. As the best man raised his glass to the newlyweds, there was a piece of toast on his drink to honor the couple. This is an important moment, as the best man, maid of honor, and family members have spent time thinking of the special words they want to share with the newlyweds. Capture the genuine emotion of the bride and groom as their loved ones speak.

4. The Special Dances

A bird-eye view of a couple's first dance as the bridesmaids and groomsmen circle around them

Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @iqphoto

From the mother/son dance to the father/daughter dance to the money dance, there are several traditional dances that the couple may choose to include during their reception. These are all opportunities for you to capture images of the intimate moments between everyone involved.

5. The Cake Cutting

Back in ancient Rome, wedding ceremonies were finalized by breaking a cake of wheat or barley over the bride’s head as a symbol of good fortune - the newlyweds then ate crumbs from the cake in a custom of eating together. Over the years, this tradition has been modified, and now the bride and groom stand in front of their uniquely styled wedding cake, cut individual pieces, and gently feed them to one another. If the couple is feeling adventurous, they may even try smashing it into each other’s faces! There are not many angles that you can experiment with here, so don’t forget to take that classic shot of the bride and groom with the cake, while cutting it and feeding it to each other.

6. The Bouquet Toss

As the bride is about to toss her bouquet, get in position & get ready to take some fun candids.

As you hear the DJ start to play All the Single Ladies, you know what is about to happen - the bouquet toss! All of the single women gather together as the bride excitedly tosses her bouquet into the sea of bachelorettes. It is believed that the single lady who catches the bouquet is next in line to get married, so be sure to make a lasting impression on her so you can be her wedding photographer!

Fun fact: Centuries ago, a bride’s bouquet was made up of garlic, fruit blossoms, and herbs. These were replaced by flowers over time because they represent happiness and fertility.

7. The Garter Toss

This tradition dates back to 14th-century England, where it was decided that to give good luck to their guests, the bride and groom would rip pieces of the bridal dress to throw to the crowd. Thankfully, that part of the tradition changed, because now the dresses are far too special (and expensive) to be ripped apart! Today, this is where the garter toss comes in. The groom tosses the garter to the single men at the reception, and the pictures of the fight for the garter will be great additions to the wedding album!

8. The Party

A bride and groom dancing on the dance floor

Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @robbmccormickphotography

The wedding reception completes the marriage ceremony, so of course, everyone wants to celebrate! This is one of the happiest days of your couple’s lives, and they have all of their friends and family to join them! From the Cupid Shuffle to the YMCA, there are plenty of moments for you to capture with your camera. You never know, you may find that the bride’s father or grandfather may have some serious moves - and you have to document that!

9. The Details

A photograph of the setup at the ceremony area

Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @erinm_photography

The bride and groom spent months preparing for the wedding day, and this includes the reception. There are so many details that you must take note of! Because of all of the events that happen during the day, the bride and groom may not get to take time and enjoy all of the little details that went into creating a fantastic reception space; so it’s your job to help them watch all of that come alive through photographs. Be sure to take an elevated picture of the entire room, as well as individual pictures of the table decor, the guest book, the exquisite food and drinks, the lighting, and of course the beautifully designed cake.

10. The Exit

A bride and groom kissing during a sparkler exit

Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @erinm_photography

This is the last bit of the wedding reception timeline. After a full day of celebration, it is finally time for the night to come to an end. As a final shot, capture the bride and groom departing from the reception into their getaway car. If they plan to do a sparkler exit, line all of the guests up in two lines and have the bride and groom run through the center! These shots can be difficult to master because of the difficult lighting, but this is where location scouting can come in handy. By the time you get to this point, you will already know all your vantage points and the lighting equipment you require.

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you succeed as a wedding photographer. We aim to help you dedicate more time to doing the things you love with our photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help, check out our pricing plans.


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