Wedding Planning Tips // Cocktail Hour Guaranteed

Wedding Planning Tips // Cocktail Hour Guaranteed

Cheers! Couples deserve to enjoy their cocktail hour.

Take back your cocktail hour!

I see couples miss their cocktail hour all the time. It’s become an acceptable practice to have your bridal and family photographs during one of the more enjoyable portions of your wedding day.

It makes me sad.

Why? Because couples put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into planning their wedding and they end up missing out on the very fun that they planned in the first place!

What’s the point of having a cocktail hour if you are stuck taking photos during it? Isn’t the whole point of cocktail hour to mingle with your guests and celebrate your wedding with those near and dear to you?

I think so!

Bride: “I couldn’t agree more Jeff! But how do I plan my wedding day so we can actually be at our cocktail hour?”

So glad you asked! Here are a few ways to arrange your wedding day schedule to make sure that you attend your cocktail hour.

Early Afternoon Ceremony

The best way to ensure that you get to partake in your cocktail hour is to have an earlier afternoon ceremony, like 2:00pm or 3:00pm. Cocktail hours traditionally start around 5:00pm or 6:00pm so an earlier ceremony time would give you enough time for family photos, bridal party photos, and, of course, bride and groom photos.

I personally recommend about 90 minutes for family, bridal party, and bride and groom photos. That can vary depending on the size of your family and your bridal party, but that’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

Just make sure to budget in extra time for travel, if your ceremony and reception locations are different. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic while everyone is sipping on your signature cocktail!

First Look with family photos before the ceremony

If you want to sip mai-tai’s with your BFF’s and you have an evening ceremony, like 5:00pm or later, then you should definitely consider a First Look with bridal party and family photos before your ceremony.

This allows you to get all your photos out of the way before the ceremony which frees you up to enjoy those mai-tai’s!

If you are not familiar with what a First Look is, it’s pretty simple. You set a location (either your getting ready hotel or your reception venue), you place the groom in said location, and then you have the bride walk up behind him real ninja-quiet like and tap him on the shoulder. BOOM! First Look!

As a photographer, I love First Looks. They are great because of all the nervous energy and anticipation. It makes for some really authentic candid moments between the bride and groom.

As a couple, First Looks are great because, not only do you get some amazing images, but you also get to relax after your ceremony because there is no mad dash to squeeze in a bunch of bridal party and family photos – they’re already done!

Traditional Wedding Day Timeline

If you are not into the First Look idea and you are having an evening ceremony and you are determined to knock back a Negroni or two during cocktail hour, then be prepared to only make the tail-end of your cocktail hour, if everything runs on time.

Here’s why …

Let’s say your ceremony is at 5:00pm and your cocktail hour is 6:00pm with your reception entrance scheduled for 7:00pm. The average wedding ceremony is about 20 minutes. I’m talking average. There are exceptions, of course. Add in another 10 minutes for some well wishers and a quick glass of bubbly after your ceremony and you are looking at an hour and a half before you are announced for your entrance.

Remember above when I said you’ll need about 90 minutes for family, bridal party, and bride and groom photos? Yeah … that brings you right up to your reception entrance.

Can you cut a little time off the 90 minutes? Sure. If you have a small bridal party and you don’t have a ton of family, but still you are probably looking at a having maybe 15 minutes before your reception. And let me tell ya, after all those photos, you’re probably going to want to chill in your bridal suite to catch your breath before your grand entrance!

So, take it from someone who’s photographed 10 years of weddings – if you want to make your cocktail hour either have an early ceremony or do a First Look.

Feel free to sound off in the comments – I read ‘em all.

If you know anyone who’s planning a wedding and think this post may be helpful, click SHARE ON FACEBOOK or email them the link!

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Wedding Photography Tips // How many hours of photography do we need?

Wedding Photography Tips // How many hours of photography do we need?

The much anticipated cake cutting ritual..

How many hours of photography do we need?

How long will you need your wedding photographer with you on wedding day? I get asked this question quite a bit. Makes sense, right? I mean chances are you’ve never planned a wedding before so naturally this question is on your mind.

The best way to answer this is to consider the following 3 questions …

  1. What time is your ceremony?
  2. Do you want photos of your getting ready preparation?
  3. Do you want photos of your entire reception?

What Time is Your Ceremony?

Your ceremony time is the #1 driving factor for how long you will need your wedding photographer with you on wedding day because once we start, we shoot continuously until we go home for the day. My couples almost always have me arrive to photograph their getting ready preparation and have me stay through to the end of the reception. I like to arrive about 3 to 3 1/2 hours before the bride has to leave for the ceremony. During that time, I photograph both the bride’s details (dress, flowers, shoes, etc.), the candid moments between her and her bridesmaids, a few bridal portraits, and your first look (if you are doing one). If your ceremony is at 5:00pm and you need to leave at 4:30pm for the ceremony, then I’ll arrive about 1:00pm.  If your reception goes until 11:00pm then that’s 10 hours of wedding day coverage. Check out the timeline below.

Timeline schedule for 5:00pm Ceremony:

1:00pm – 4:30pm Getting Ready (& First Look, if applicable)

5:00pm – 5:30pm Ceremony

5:30pm – 6:30pm Cocktail Hour/Photographs

6:30pm – 11:00pm Reception

Now if your ceremony is earlier, like say 2:00pm, then you will need me to start earlier. Let’s assume (again) you want me through to the end of the evening, 11:00pm, like the timeline above. That would be about 13 hours of photography on your wedding day. Adds up quickly, doesn’t it!

Timeline schedule for 2:00pm Ceremony:

10:00am – 1:30pm Getting Ready (& First Look, if applicable)

2:00pm – 2:30pm Ceremony

2:30pm – 5:00pm Photographs (maybe even a well-deserved break for the bride and groom!)

5:30pm – 6:30pm Cocktail Hour

6:30pm – 11:00pm Reception

Do we want ‘All Day’ Coverage?

So, as you can see, your ceremony time will largely dictate how much coverage you will need on your wedding day. There are, however, two more considerations that will impact the number of hours you need. Do you want all your getting ready prep photographed ? And do you want all of your reception photographed ? If you only want your getting ready photographed from the time you are done with your hair and makeup and ready to get your dress on then that can cut out about 2 hours of photography. So, using the timelines above, I would arrive about 1 1/2 before you need to leave for your ceremony, 3:00pm for the 5:00pm ceremony start which would be a total of 8 hours and 12:00pm for the 2:00pm ceremony start which would be a total of 11 hours.

You could also choose to not photograph the entire reception. Personally, this is the best place to cut hours. Why? Because dancing photos tend to be repetitive whereas if you cut some of your getting ready you’d miss out on photos of your details and those great candid moments between you and your bridesmaids. With that said, I would recommend that you keep me at least through your cake cutting.

Let’s assume that cake cutting is at 8:30pm for both schedules above. That is the same two hours that we shaved off from your getting ready prep in the above example, so my arrival time would be 1:00pm and 10:00am respectively, but with a 9:00pm departure (I suggest a 30min buffer in the event things run late). So that would be 8 hours for the 5:00pm ceremony timeline (1:00pm to 9:00pm) and 11 hours for the 2:00pm ceremony timeline (10:00am to 9:00pm).

So, How much time do we need?

Based on these schedules, you are looking at a range of 8 to 13 hours of wedding photography depending on your ceremony start time and depending on how long you want your photographer with you on wedding day. Some couples want ‘all day’ coverage from getting ready to the end of the reception. Some couples prefer to send the photographer home in the middle of the reception after cake cutting.

There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on what you want for your wedding day. Your timeline may even be shorter than the examples I used above. I have photographed smaller, more intimate weddings that required only about 6 hours of coverage. There are plenty of options at your disposal.

That’s the advantage of a photographer that has an A La Carte pricing system (like I use) as opposed to a Package system. I believe flexibility is important and you should be able to choose the products and services you want and not be forced into a one-size-fits-all package. You can visit my Pricing Page here.

I hope I was able to shed some light on the number of hours of wedding photography that you will need. If you have any questions for me, sound off in the comments and/or send me an email – If you think this post would be helpful for a bride and groom that you know, then please click SHARE ON FACEBOOK to spread the love or just email them the link.




Wedding Champagne

Wedding Champagne

Wedding Champagne

What sparkling wine is right for your wedding? Cremant, Prosecco, Cava, Sparkling, or traditional Champagne?

Which sparkling wine is right for your wedding? (L to R) Cremant, Prosecco, California Sparkling, Cava, or (not pictured) Champagne.

I interrupt your regularly scheduled wedding photography blog post to quickly right a wrong I came across in a local paper or ours here in Connecticut.

The article I read was entitled “Choosing Wine For A Wedding”. In said article there was a picture of a bottle of Prosecco. Under the picture, the caption read “Prosecco is a sweet (Italian) wine …” 

Ugh! Are you kidding me!? Prosecco is NOT a sweet wine! It’s a dry wine. In fact Prosecco is Italy’s version of Champagne which, as we all know, is (mostly) a dry (brut) sparkling wine.

Yes, yes, yes … there are versions of Champagne that range from semi-sweet (demi-sec) to sweet (doux). That is true. However, most of the Champagne you see in the U.S. is dry (brut).

Moscato d’Asti, Asti Spumante, Vin Santo … THOSE are true sweet (Italian) wines!

Misinformation like this drives me insane! Why? Because you’ve got droves of people reading this article and thinking “Oh, look, a new sweet wine to try! Cool!”. Then they buy it, bring it home, and open it, only to find out it’s not sweet at all!  

And I don’t want brides and grooms, especially my brides and grooms, buying Prosecco for their wedding day thinking it’s going to be a sweet wine. That’s just not cool!

Now, truth be told, Prosecco is a great choice for your celebratory wedding day sparkler, but please don’t expect it to be sweet, ‘cause it ain’t.

If you are new to the world of wine and are a bit confused by all this Prosecco and Champagne talk, it might be good for me to give you a little lesson on sparkling wine in general. It may even help you select your perfect bottle of bubbly for your wedding day!

Don’t worry, you can trust me. In a former life, I worked in a wine store and actually carry a certification from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (or WSET as it’s known in the biz).

So, here goes …

There are actually several different kinds of sparkling wine …

Champagne – sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France.

Cremant – a lower pressure sparkling wine from France. There are several regions in France that use this method, namely Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Loire.  

Prosecco – sparkling wine made in multiple regions throughout Italy.

Cava – sparkling wine made in Spain.

Sparkling – And of course there’s sparkling wines from right here in the U.S., namely from California.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the big hitters.

Champagne is typically the most well known and the most expensive of the lot with Cremant, Prosecco, Cava, and California Sparkling coming in at lower price points. There are exceptions to this, of course, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

I could write volumes on sparkling wines – from the different production methods, the different styles within each kind, the vintages, the grapes that go into them, etc. etc.

But that’s for another time.

What I do want you to know before you head back to your social media feeds is this …

It is a well know faux-pas to refer to any sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region of France as ‘Champagne’. ONLY Champagne comes from Champagne (France).

So, that bottle of Korbel or Mumm or Roderer or Schramsberg that you are enjoying (all California wineries) CAN’T be called Champagne. Feel?

Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want you to lose your street cred when it comes to wine. And because it violates the Treaty of Versailles. Seriously! The French don’t mess around when it comes to their wine!

Don’t believe me? Check out this explanation from Wine Spectator Magazine

The French wanted to protect the use of the term “Champagne” to only refer to bubbly made using traditional methods from grapes grown and vinified in the Champagne region of France, so when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end WWI, they included limits on the use of the word. However, history buffs may recall that the United States never actually ratified the Treaty of Versailles, and that in 1919 the U.S. was in the midst of Prohibition, so alcohol-labeling laws hardly seemed important at the time. Domestic sparkling wine producers remained free here to legally slap the word “Champagne” on their bottles of bubbly, much to the irritation of the winegrowers in Champagne. Out of respect and to avoid confusion, many producers in the United States called their bubbly “sparkling wine.”

Then, in early 2006, the United States and the European Union signed a wine-trade agreement, and the issue was brought up again. This time, the United States agreed to not allow new uses of certain terms that were previously considered to be “semi-generic,” such as “Champagne” (as well as “Burgundy,” “Chablis,” “Port” and “Chianti”). But anyone who already had an approved label—Korbel and Miller High Life come to mind—was grandfathered in and may continue to use the term.

So, in short, you may very well see the term California Champagne on a label here and there, but it’s because it was ‘grandfathered’ in. Don’t be fooled though, it’s not ‘real’ Champagne. 

Have any wine geek friends who you think would benefit from this info? Click SHARE ON FACEBOOK to spread the love!


Unique Wedding Venues in CT | CT Wedding Photographer

Unique Wedding Venues in CT | CT Wedding Photographer

Photo of outdoor wedding in Jamaica Jeff Lundstrom PhotographyIn this series, I’ve featured rustic venues, barn venues, and venues on the water. This post features a few of my all time favorite venues in CT. These venues don’t fit neatly into a traditional category. I just call them unique. They aren’t country. They aren’t coastal. And they certainly aren’t traditional. But they sure are one of a kind!

I love when couples think outside the box. That may be a trite expression, but it really is true. Anyone can get married in a traditional wedding hall. It takes a really adventurous soul to strike out on their own and choose a non-traditional venue. I admire that spirit. That boldness. That’s what inspired me to write this series of posts. To celebrate couples that break from the norm and follow their own path. And to celebrate the places that they choose to marry in.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at my favorite unique wedding venues in Connecticut.

Photo of Rock Hall. A unique wedding venue located in Colebrook, CT

Rock Hall

The brain child of famed architect Addison Mizner, Rock Hall is hands down the coolest wedding venue I’ve ever been inside of. It’s also the coolest hotel I’ve been inside of (yes, you can actually stay here!). Built in 1912, Rock Hall has seen plenty of history. So much so it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 23 acre estate is quietly nestled in the town of Colebrook, CT in the beautiful Litchfield Hills in northwest Connecticut. As you can probably guess, the interior is as stunning as its exterior with gorgeous wood paneling, soaring ceilings, and a fireplace that you can stand inside of. And if you over did it a little at your reception, you can recuperate poolside surrounded by nothing but blue skies and leafy green foliage. If you are looking for a one of kind wedding venue, then Rock Hall is it.

Photo of Gallaher Mansion. A unique wedding venue in Norwalk, CT

Gallaher Mansion

Like Rock Hall, Gallaher Mansion has also seen its share of history. Built in 1930 by Edward Gallaher, Gallaher Mansion was designed in a Tudor Revival style complete with carvings, stained-glass windows and walnut paneled rooms.  A huge flagstone terrace and adjacent gardens make it the perfect venue for an outdoor ceremony and reception. And not to be outdone, the property features a great lawn that makes for a uniquely dramatic backdrop for your wedding.

Photo of Keller Tavern. A unique wedding venue in Ridgefield, CT

Keeler Tavern

In keeping with the history theme, Keeler Tavern is another unique and historic venue in Ridgefield, CT. Like Rock Hall and Gallaher, Keeler Tavern has quite the history. It’s been a farmhouse, a tavern, a stagecoach stop, a post office, a hotel, a home to noted architect Cass Gilbert, and now a museum and wedding venue. It’s no surprise that Keeler is listed on the National Register of Historic Places too! Keeler Tavern is truly one of my favorite venues. I love it’s history and charm and I especially love it’s gorgeous garden. Arguably the best wedding ceremony location in the state!

Photo of Fox Hill Inn. A unique wedding venue in Brookfield, CT

Fox Hill Inn

Some may argue putting Fox Hill Inn on a list of unique wedding venues in CT, but I couldn’t disagree more! Fox Hill is truly unique in my mind. You feel like you are in someone’s home at Fox Hill. It’s a beautiful old southern mansion style home that’s full of character and charm. The foyer boasts a dramatic sweeping staircase, the sunken bar room features a cozy fireplace, the main ball room intimately accommodates your guests, and the back garden is ideal for an outdoor ceremony. I would recommend Fox Hill Inn to anyone looking for a unique experience.

A photo of a tented wedding reception in Essex, CTYour Home

Shhh, I’ve got a secret for ya. Wanna know the only venue SO unique that it’s literally impossible to duplicate anywhere!? You guessed it … Your Home! I love home weddings (aka backyard, private estate, private residence weddings). Whatever you want to call it, a wedding at your home is simply a joy to experience. Surrounded by family and friends and your own history, a home wedding is as intimate and sentimental as you can get. I applaud couples for hosting their own weddings. It may require a little more planning and effort, but it’s SO worth it!


Know anyone who could use a little wedding inspiration? Just click SHARE ON FACEBOOK to share the love!

My Favorite Wedding Venues on the Water in CT

My Favorite Wedding Venues on the Water in CT

A bride and groom enter their water side wedding reception from their boat in Essex, CT

Connecticut has a wonderfully diverse landscape. From its historic cities to its rolling country hills to its vast and furtive farmland to its glistening shores, Connecticut has something for everyone. Especially when it comes to planning a wedding!

In my last two posts, I focused on country themed wedding venues. In this post, I am highlighting a number of water-side wedding venues from the banks of the Connecticut River to the shores of the Long Island Sound to the historic Mystic Seaport. If you are a water lover, your are going to love these venues.

Photo of an outdoor ceremony on the water in CT at the Inn at Longshore Westport, CT

The Inn at Longshore

For an outdoor wedding on the water in Connecticut, it doesn’t get much better than The Inn at Longshore. Situated right on the shores of the Long Island Sound, the Inn is wildly popular with today’s brides and grooms, but it’s history is what makes it a Connecticut icon. Since 1890, the Inn has hosted the likes of the Roosevelts, the Rockefellers, F. Scott and Zelda Fitgerald, Frank Sinatra, and even Marilyn Monroe. So, if you decide to have your wedding at The Inn at Longshore, you’ll be in some pretty good company.

Photo of CT wedding venue on the beach in CT Jacky Durell Pavilion Fairfield, CT

Jacky Durell Pavilion

If a beach wedding is your thing, Jacky Durell Pavilion just may be your perfect venue. Personally, I love Jacky Durell. I love it for it’s laid-back, casual vibe. I love it for its family friendly feel. And I love it for it’s beach front. It feels like a summer share house in the Hamptons. The kind of place where everyone is welcome and there’s always a party! Not a bad place for wedding either!

Photo of a bride and groom at sunset on the beach at Madison Beach Hotel wedding venue

Madison Beach Hotel

Looking for ocean-side luxury for your wedding? Madison Beach Hotel is that resort-like spot you’ve been longing to getaway to. Located in Madison, CT (hence the name), the hotel is tucked away off the main road and only steps away from the waves of the Long Island Sound. It’s such a pristine beach front location that you’ll feel like you packed your bags and flew off to a destination wedding. A local destination wedding!

Photo of a wedding venue on the water in CT Latitude 41 Mystic, CT

Latitude 41 Mystic Seaport

Wanna get married amongst the tall ships!? Yeah, ya do! Mystic, CT speaks for itself. If you’ve spent any time in Connecticut, you’ve undoubtedly been to Mystic, right? The history, the ships, the shops, even the pizza! But did you know that Mystic is home to one of the perfect waterside wedding reception venues in the state? Latitude 41 and the Coastal Gourmet Group have been hosting coastal Connecticut weddings for years and no one does a Mystic wedding better!

photo of an outdoor ceremony on the CT River at Saint Clements Castle in Portland, CT

Saint Clements Castle

It may not be on the coast, but Saint Clements Castle has some of the most breathtaking views of the Connecticut River. You have your choice of saying “I Do” in a gorgeous replica English garden or on a dramatic hillside overlooking the Connecticut River. Built in 1898, the architecture of Saint Clements was incluenced by the French Tudor style and borrows some of its features from the most famous of French Chateaux (Château de Langeais was the inspiration for its medieval style Art Gallery). You will literally feel like a princess on the grounds of Saint Clements Castle.

ct vineyard wedding salt water farm vineyard

Saltwater Farms Vineyard

Love the water? Love wine? Then Saltwater Farms just may be your ideal wedding venue. At Saltwater Farms you get the romance of a vineyard coupled with some of Connecticut’s freshest sea breezes. What bride and groom wouldn’t love that!? Located on the tidal marshes of the Wequetequock Cove at the mouth of Little Narragannsett Bay, Saltwater Farms is a truly unique venue. Originally an airplane hangar back in 1930, Saltwater Farms Vineyard was masterfully (and lovingly) transformed into a sleek, modern structure that you see today. But it still maintains it’s iconic hangar-like facade. A symbol that lives on to this day on the label of each bottle of wine that Saltwater Farms produces. A wedding at Saltwater Farms is truly something special.

So, if you are looking to say I Do with a water view, then look no further than the venues listed above. Check in next time when I feature some wedding venues than defy categorization because they are truly unique.

As always, if you know someone who could use a little inspiration when it comes to planning their wedding, then please click SHARE ON FACEBOOK below to, you know, share on facebook!



My Favorite Barn Wedding Venues in CT

My Favorite Barn Wedding Venues in CT

Photo of a bride and grom outside on the ground of the Golden Lamb Buttery wedding venue in Brooklyn, CTMy Favorite Barn Wedding Venues in CT. This post will help all you barn lovin’ brides and grooms find the barn wedding venue that’s perfect for your wedding.

Barn Weddings

In my last post, I featured a few rustic wedding venues in both Connecticut and New York. Taking the rustic theme up a notch, I am focusing this post on three of my favorite barn wedding venues in Connecticut. Barns are a great choice for your wedding. They are wide-open, blank canvases that you can custom tailor to your liking making for a one of a kind experience. I think barns are incredibly romantic too. So much so, I proposed to my wife in a barn!

I love barns for their social significance. They remind me of a time when entire communities would gather together to pitch in and help each other out. Not too dis-similar to loved ones gathering together for a wedding. I also love their simplicity and their utility. Barns are built for a purpose. They are built strong because they are meant to last. Barns remind me of a good relationship – strong, purposeful, and permanent. They also look really good all lit up with garden lights!

If you are looking for a truly unique place to have your wedding, and you fancy a rustic, country style, then consider these Connecticut barn wedding venues. I think ya’ll are gonna like ’em!


The Webb Barn

Photo of the Webb Barn wedding venue in Wethersfield, CT

The Webb Barn is a wonderfully intimate barn wedding venue in Wethersfield, CT. Built in 1821, the barn was actually burned to the ground – thought to be the work of some rather unsavory locals. Thankfully, it was rebuilt by its owner, Martin Wells, in 1840 and retains much of its original historic ambiance and rustic charm. The grounds of the Webb Barn feature a large tree-lined lawn and an immaculately maintained garden. It’s the perfect setting for an outdoor ceremony. The barn accommodates up to 130 guests and makes for a cozy reception dinner. The barn can also accommodate an indoor or outdoor dance party. So, if its rustic charm and versatility you are looking for, Webb Barn just may be your perfect barn wedding venue.

 The Barns at Wesleyan Hills

Photo of the Barns at Wesleyan Hills barn wedding venue in Middletown, CT

The Barns at Wesleyan Hills is an innovation in the Connecticut wedding venue landscape. Run by The CT Wedding Group, The Barns (as its often referred to) is a renovated barn that features modern amenities, like heat and air conditioning 🙂 As such, it’s a facility that can hold weddings year round. While set in a suburban area, once you step inside the main barn reception area you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the country. It’s THAT authentic. The grounds of The Barns are great for photos with its’ gorgeous lawns, ponds, trees, and bridges. It’s a photographer’s paradise. Couples can also put their own stamp on their reception with one of the available lighting and decor packages making The Barns a custom country dream!

 Golden Lamb Buttery

Photo of the Golden Lamb Buttery barn wedding venue in Brooklyn, CT

Most people probably know The Golden Lamb for its food. Every year, The Golden Lamb is recognized by food critics and publications as one of the best restaurants in the state. So, if you decide to have your wedding at The Golden Lamb, you will be guaranteed an amazing meal! You will also get a one of a kind experience. Their property is HUGE! The Golden Lamb is quietly secluded off the main road in Brooklyn, CT and surrounded by acres and acres of open pastures. You won’t have to worry about waking the neighbors! Complete with stonewalls and grazing farm animals, It’s an idyllic country setting that will charm the pants off any bride and groom looking for a rustic barn venue.