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Chapter 9

Ultimate Guide to

Wedding Drinks Reception Photography

Guide to Wedding Reception Photography


Woman at wedding raising fascinator whilstother guests drink

I’m not sure why this image works – it just does… Whether it’s the lady on the left, seemingly raising her fascinator, or the hand holding bottle near the camera giving it a ‘point of view’ feel. I think it’s the combination of everything that helps to make it a great overview shot to illustrate the wedding drinks reception.

Wedding Day Overlaps

At the drinks’ reception there is often an overlap with the other parts of the wedding day.  Because the couple sometimes go straight from the ceremony into their reception, many elements of the day can come together almost at once:

This could be the ideal opportunity for the confetti shots.  If both the ceremony and reception are in the same venue, then it almost certainly will be.  There are also many guests who want to congratulate the couple at the reception.  See Chapter 6 for more on these aspects of the day.

I also find myself regularly photographing the posed shots at the reception.  There is a short section about this further down the page.

Wedding Drinks Reception Hug from Guest to Groom

I am on the constant lookout for displays of love and affection at the drinks’ reception. The connection between the groom and his best man is only too apparent in this natural photograph.

First Chance to Relax

One constant about the drinks’ reception is that drinks and usually canapés are served.  Most of the formalities are over and the couple take a well-earned breath and mix with their family and friends properly for the first time.  It is the first chance for the photographer to capture the newly-weds together in a more relaxed environment.

Bride laughing with guests at wedding reception

I’ve no idea what bride Suzie and her guests were laughing about, but I love to capture natural wedding day moments such as this at the reception.

Creating Wedding Day Memories

The drinks’ reception is the prefect time for natural, true reportage photography.  The more that you have going on, the more the photographer has to work with.  Photography is all about creating memories…  Fun additions such as a dressing up box for the children (and grown-ups!), live music and even a magician are all popular ways to ensure that your day is truly unforgettable.  There are so many diverse and different ideas these days.  There are 110 amazing wedding ideas to check out via that website link.

Magician performing card trick and guest covering her face at wedding

Magician Nicholas Clement added interest at Rachel and Greg’s wedding at the Ned in London recently enabling me to produce a more diverse range of photographs for them.  He was a really excellent addition to the day.

Bride and groom with wedding reception band at Winchester House

Happy couple Helen and Dale pose with their reception band at Winchester House in London. The duo only played the reception as there was a DJ in the evening. But they created a lovely atmosphere for the couple to socialise in.

Outdoor Wedding Receptions

The location also plays a huge part.  Many venues have beautiful outdoor spaces to be used in nice weather.  They will usually offer this, but if not, do ask.  Occasionally the outside area might be out of bounds unless a certain package is ordered or the wedding ceremony is held in the area.

Guests at wedding drinks reception on lawn taken from above

An upstairs window is ideal to shoot a good overview of the reception and location – every group of people tells a different story.  It’s also a great spot to direct the couple and their guests for a group portrait of everyone.

Posed Shots: Informal

At the reception, guests often request small and informal group shots of them, and I am very happy to accommodate. The below shot is a good example, and I’m sure that had I asked them to pose, it wouldn’t have looked as fun and relaxed.

Guests in Glasses Smiling at Sunny Wedding

Wedding portraits don’t need to be posed. These shaded sisters were having a sunny garden catch-up when I caught them. Notice how the outdoors creates a totally different feel.  This reception took place at the couple’s home.

Wedding guests larking around for the camera in black and white

This is a typical shot of guests at a wedding. With the alcohol in full flow, people relax more and are up for a bit of monkeying around.

Posed Shots: Formal

The drinks’ reception is a great time for the couple’s list of posed shots, particularly if the ceremony and reception are in the same venue.  I like to keep this short as it can interfere with the flow of the day – but some posed shots are usually required.  However, I’m happy to be led by the couple and if they are happy and their guests are too, then I’ve no problem extending it a bit.  Posed photographs mean more to some couples than others.  See my chapter on posed wedding photographs for more information.

Family portrait taken at Indian Wedding in London

Tara’s Indian wedding was at her parent’s house. The dining room presented the perfect background to the posed photos at the reception.

Wedding guest holding three glasses of wine and laughing

I snapped this whilst photographing the group shots at the drinks’ reception. He was holding the extra glasses for other guests, and we both saw the humour in the situation.

Drinks Reception Top Tip:

Sometimes (i.e. fairly often!) events run a little late and this may limit time for drinks. Venues should allow for this, however some are very strict about timings, especially for dinner. So do check with the venue beforehand about what will happen should things overrun. This can depend on the caterers’ flexibility, so if hiring them separately, check with them too.

Happy Bride Hugging Family Member at Wedding Reception

At the reception I spend a lot of time photographing the couple’s interactions with their guests. Here the bride is overjoyed to meet up with a close relative.

Groom between two friends smiling at wedding reception

When the groom and his friends saw me taking a photo here, they came together and I captured this lovely shot of mates having a good time.

Wedding Details & Trimmings

This is also a good time to go off and take some detail shots of the dining room and dinner tables before everyone sits for dinner.  I try to photograph the place settings, flowers, cake and anything else that is included to help make the day so special.

Sometimes the wedding planner or venue manager shows the couple the dining room ahead of the guests.  I accompany them where possible to take some reaction photographs as they see the room for the first time.

Bride with mum admiring wedding cake at reception

At the reception venue, Tanya and her mum spot the cake in-situ for the first time. After they had finished, I shot a few photos of the cake alone.

Toddler admiring grandma's necklace at wedding party in pub

Old meets young: I love photos of the more mature guests with the very young. It’s such a delight to witness meetings across the generation gap. I took a sequence of this pair at the finger buffet reception.

Siblings looking at back of camera whilst being photographed by someone on phone

Turning the tables: I have absolutely no problem with guest photography and positively encourage it as it can present me with some interesting shots. These two are unaware that they are being photographed from both sides!

Bride talking with friend in bright sunlight at reception outside Pembroke Lodge

Some photographers shy away from shooting into the sun, but I embrace it. Bright sunshine gives an interesting effect here, although the detail is lost in the bride’s dress.

Family member kissing groom whilst seated at wedding reception

At the drinks’ reception, I’m always on the look out for spontaneous acts of affection.

Bride Laughing with Bridesmaid at wedding in Canvas and Cream, Forest Hill

It’s funny what effect a couple of drinks can have. Although I don’t think Melissa and her bridesmaid generally had any problems letting their hair down!

Toddler girl looking sitting on floor looking at crouched dad at wedding

A quiet moment between father and daughter. This was at a garden reception in Cardiff.

Chapter 10: The Wedding Breakfast – Food & Speeches – Next>>>>

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Guy Milnes Photography is based between London and Cardiff, covering South Wales, Bristol, London and the home counties.
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