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Chapter 6

Ultimate Photographic Guide to

Wedding Confetti & Congratulations

Presenting Mr & Mrs –  Confetti and Congratulations


Extreme confetti storm over couple on steps on Chelsea Old Town Hall

The confetti shower and subsequent congratulations is a dynamic time when anything can happen. It will keep your photographer thinking on their feet.

Exiting the venue as husband and wife and the subsequent posed photos are the only part of your day when your reportage wedding photographer may be strict with what needs to be done and the timescale (see NB below). There will be so much you want to do yet time constraints will likely prove limiting. At this time, everyone will be vying for your attention, wanting to give you congratulatory hugs and good wishes for your future together.

NB: Wedding photographers’ with different shooting styles will vary.  As mine is the low-key, natural style, I prefer not to dominate things and record the day as it unfolds.  The more traditional photographer may want to pose and direct throughout the day.

Bride and groom laughing between purple wedding flower display at Chelsea Old Town Hall

Exiting the venue is a very exciting time for the newlyweds, and I shoot fast to photograph as many dynamic moments of joy as possible.

Wedding Portrait of Wedding Couple Exiting Castell Coch

Sometimes, the confetti has to be set up separately from the couple leaving the venue room. I arranged it in the courtyard a few minutes after this exit shot.

Setting Up for the Venue Exit & Confetti Photography Sequence

The moment you leave the venue into the bright daylight to be showered in confetti by an avenue of guests isn’t quite as seamless as it seems.  It takes a little time for the photographer to set this up, sometimes aided by a registrar or usher. Churches and register offices differ in how they work, which slightly affects the running.

Morden Park House Confetti Procession

Rachel and David’s wedding was at Morden Park House (Merton Register Office) in South London. The venue allows confetti, which makes for a great sequence of shots.

The Confetti Sequence

The confetti (where allowed) is usually thrown soon after you exit the venue.  In register offices it is usually the guests who leave the building first.  The registrars may give time in the ceremony room for congratulations, and I make the best use of this (covered below).  This all depends on the time between weddings.  Some town halls are exceptionally busy, especially on Saturdays when things are rushed slightly.

Chelsea Old Town Hall Wedding Confetti

Confetti is a big part of the final stages of a Chelsea Old Town Hall wedding. With such an iconic facade in the background, it makes for some wonderful photography.

In a church, you will probably exit first and may need to return inside whilst the photographer organises your guests.  In other venues, you may hang back for everyone to assemble outside.  This often gives the couple a few minutes to collect their thoughts and discuss what happened!

Guests Blowing Bubbles at Castle Coch Wedding

Confetti is not allowed at weddings at Castell Coch near Cardiff. Bubbles are now a popular and effective alternative.

Arranging Your Guests for the Confetti

Your photographer should then organise your guests into an aisle with each side facing the other. I ask everyone to throw the confetti as the couple goes by, to maintain as much as possible in the air. I beckon the newlyweds out, and they exit the venue in a whirl of colourful paper. Using a wide-angle lens and walking backwards away from the couple, I’m right in the middle of the action. I try not to walk into anyone or fall over, although this has happened!

With bubbles, I ask everyone to fill the air as much as possible before the happy couple walk out to maximise the effect.

Gay wedding at Fitzrovia Chapel - Sparklers instead on confetti

For winter weddings in the dark, sparkles are an option, too, as at Andrew & Andrew’s same-sex wedding at the Fitzrovia Chapel in London.

Top Confetti Tip:

Always ask the venue, as some do not allow paper (or plastic) confetti but allow organic bio-degradable products such as petals. The council may have warned some venues about litter violations, so it is important to abide by their rules. Where confetti is not allowed at all, bubbles have become popular and can look effective in photographs.

Bubbles Confetti at Old Marylebone Town Hall

Lindsay and Greg were somewhat spoiled: They had both petals and bubbles on their exit from the register office.

Another Top Confetti Tip:

Try colour-coordinating your confetti. If you’re having a purple wedding, choose confetti that compliments this. If there is any leftover, sprinkled over the dinner tables may look good.

Gay couple leaving Southwark Register Office with guests clapping but no confetti

Very occasionally, guests forget to bring confetti, as at Andy & Chris’ small wedding.

Wedding Confetti Tip 3:

If you and your guests neglect to bring confetti to your wedding, don’t worry.  Often, the venue sells it or has a spare bag left from a previous wedding.  If not, that’s fine.  Still, leave the venue as you normally would, with your guests lined up and applauding as above.

Family Hug at Porchester Hall Marriage

Bride Rebecca hugs new husband Kolbe’s mum as he looks on. Unusually, this happened halfway through the ceremony. Their wedding was a tactile affair with plenty of hugging and kissing – great for photography!

Congratulations and Kisses

When your guests finally get to congratulate you depends largely on the running of the day.  Often, it’s in the ceremony room after a register office wedding.  Sometimes, it takes place after the confetti, and occasionally, it’s not until the drinks’ reception – at hotels, this is often straight after the confetti.

Congratulations at Westminster Register Office Wedding

I love this one: Not only is the groom’s friend clearly emotional, but his mum and dad have decided they want a hug on the right of the frame. Maybe congratulating each other on a job well done!

Difficulties with Photographic Unpredictability

This time is probably the most unpredictable of the day.  Hugging shots are amazingly difficult to take and to take well.  The photographer must work fast to capture as many emotive moments as possible.  The Bride and Groom often separate at this time and receive good wishes from family and friends in different places.  It is good practice to concentrate mainly on the bride, but I like to take some photographs of the groom enjoying his congratulations, too.

Friend passionately hugs the bride at Southwark Register Office

Most people aren’t aware that I’m photographing them at moments such as this heartfelt congratulatory hug.

The Flattery Factor vs. A Moment in Time

Sometimes I consider not including photos in the final edit but as they may be considered unflattering.  The problem in taking shots like the ones above and below is that they are natural moments…  snapshots in time…  With stills photography, facial expression matters.  But so do context and emotion.  These photos have both of those, although the facial expression (or flattery factor) could be better…  Flattery factor?  Maybe I’ve just coined a phrase!!

Bride Mum Kissing Daughter with Groom Watching

She was the most gorgeous bridesmaid ever! Newly-wed Charlotte kisses her daughter, and it’s not quite clear who’s congratulating who!

Congratulating the Newly-weds in Marylebone

This is a wider photo, which gives more context – plenty is going on. The light’s good, and it’s colourful too. A generally pleasing photograph.

Groom and father Kissing Bridesmaid

A similar shot taken at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. This time, it’s the groom kissing his bridesmaid daughter. Neither knew I was taking it.

A Friendly Nudge to Keep the Day Flowing

The moment after the confetti throwing can be when the wedding party is confused about what to do next.  Every guest is reluctant to be the first to offer congratulations, and the couple may look to their photographer as if to say, “What now!”

At moments like this, I am very quick to suggest that guests offer their congratulations.  Your photographer is the person on hand with the experience to be able to know what should happen and be able to advise and keep the day running smoothly with few pregnant pauses.

Groom and friend go to hug each other outside Levan Cafe in Peckham

It’s often not possible for some guests to offer their congratulations until arrival at the reception venue. For this reason, I prefer to travel with the couple, so I’m on hand to capture any shots like this.

Hugging After Marriage Ceremony

With hugging comes faces resting on shoulders. This can cause distortion, but who cares?? It’s two friends sharing a moment.

Bridegroom Being Congratulated by Guests at Pencoed House Cardiff

From the Groom’s point of view now. More manly, more hand-shakey, but just as fun.

Guests hug the bride and groom at wedding in Fulham Library

2 for the price of 1: I sometimes set up where the couple is for the congratulations shots.  It’s so lovely when I capture both bride and groom hugging friends or family in one shot.

Bride Hugging Female Guest After Marriage Ceremony

Good window light and vivid colours give this hugging photo a pleasing look.

Bride Touching Toddler on Cheek

A few moments later:  This was the moment Paloma met her best friend’s daughter. The little girl isn’t doing much, but her steady eye contact and slight smile really make the photo.  A very special moment indeed!

Groom Shakes Hand of Guest After Marriage Ceremony

Another groom’s handshake. It’s a shame that a photograph doesn’t capture sound. I often look at wedding photos and wonder what they were saying.

Bride excitedly greeting a friend outside church in Crystal Palace

The moment before two people hug is often photographically better than the hug itself…

Setting Up for Congratulations Shots

Sometimes, there’s a chance to direct where the couple stand for these meetings and greetings.  Often, it’s as the guests are leaving the church.  If the spot they choose isn’t the best for me, I might suggest they turn slightly or stand facing the light.  This is one of the few moments of manipulation a reportage photographer should give.

Couple being congratulated by parents at register office wedding in Bromley

Often, guests can’t wait to congratulate the couple and jump in straight after the vows at the signing, such as this wedding at Bromley Civic Centre.

Post Wedding Hand Shaking at Southwark Register Office

The couple often naturally greet people in a line as they exit the venue. I’m always on the lookout for different photo opportunities.

Chapter 7: Posed Photographs – To please the In-laws? – Next>>>>

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Bride at Old Marylebone Town Hall Signing the Register

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Wedding Photographer in London, Bristol & Cardiff

Guy Milnes Photography is based between London and Cardiff, covering South Wales, Bristol, London and the home counties.
He has been a professional photographer since 2008 and loves to capture the wedding day's atmosphere as it unfolds naturally.


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