Sarah and Dan were married on a beautiful October day, with a ceremony and reception at the Gallaher Mansion in Norwalk, CT.
I love it when couples choose unique venues like the Gallaher because it speaks to their personality and their desire to have a memorable experience for friends, family, and guests. Both Sarah and Dan are teachers in Philadelphia and have an appreciation for history—what’s more, Dan worked at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. So it’s no wonder they chose the historic Mansion for their wedding.
The day of the wedding was absolutely beautiful and perfectly matched the gorgeous setting—the Tudor-style architecture was the best backdrop for a quintessential New England fall wedding, and the expansive lawn was perfect for shots of the bride and groom. In fact, one of my favorite images of the day is the black and white image of Sarah and Dan on the terrace at night. The setting and the moment combined to give the whole thing a warm, romantic, nostalgic edge—like something out of The Great Gatsby.
The intimate ceremony was held in a secluded garden, and then we all headed to a lively cocktail hour on the terrace. Then, it was on to the reception, where they had a cupcake tower instead of a traditional wedding cake.
And dancing. Boy, was there dancing! This was the first time I’ve ever seen the mother of the bride dance on top of a table! Sarah’s family and friends totally stole the show on the dance floor. Of course, I should have seen this coming given the fact that the bride’s family are the playful and spirited minds behind the comic strip, Hi & Lois !
Sarah and Dan, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your day. You were a blast to work with. I loved our Philadelphia engagement session, and I loved having the opportunity to capture your wedding at such a unique and historic location. Cheers to you both!
Keeler Tavern Wedding // A Historic Landmark
Keeler Tavern is one of my favorite wedding venues in the state of Connecticut. Why? Well, I have a thing for history. My mother was a Latin teacher and an avid antique collector. My dad was an Ivy League scholar who himself was a military and sports history buff.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time in old, historic places. I grew up in Wilmington, DE which is a stone’s throw from Washington’s winter headquarters at Valley Forge and where he crossed the Delaware in Bucks County, PA. Wilmington is also home to the DuPont Family estates which were popular with school field trips.
It didn’t stop there. As the son of an Ivy League grad, I spent so much time on the campus of Dartmouth College (my Dad’s alma mater) that I was mistaken as the son of a faculty member. My dad was a very active Dartmouth alum which meant we went to any and all local Big Green sporting events – Princeton football and hockey games, Penn lacrosse games … this list goes on.
Growing up with all that history, I quickly grew an affinity for ‘old stuff’. I loved staying in historic Inns when we traveled. I loved walking on the campuses of those historic universities. I even found myself enjoying the antique shops my mom would drag me too!
So, it’s no surprise why I would love photographing weddings at a historic site that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And Keeler Tavern is one such place.
Intimate Garden Wedding and Lively Reception
Emily and Doug had an intimate ceremony in Keeler Tavern’s back garden surrounded by their closest friends and family. It was the perfect setting for a summer New England wedding. I love outdoor ceremonies. The carefree, open-air vibe makes for such a relaxed atmosphere. One that makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome.
The ceremony wasn’t the only event hosted in the garden. Cocktail hour was held outside in the garden as well. For me, there is nothing more fun than sipping a gin n tonic al fresco on your wedding day. Talk about a relaxed atmosphere! Everyone enjoyed themselves, especially Emily and Doug who were mingling, laughing, and catching up with old friends and close family.
The day ended in a rather lively fashion. Little did I know that this quiet, cozy, and intimate wedding would end up erupting into a raucous dance party. Man! I’ve seen some lively receptions in my day, but this reception is firmly enshrined in the hall of fame. I literally thought the floor would cave in during ‘Turn down for what!’ Wonder what Benjamin Hoyt (one of Keeler’s early owners) would say about that today!
It was all good though. Everyone emerged unscathed and got to the after-party fully intact.
Emily and Doug, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your wedding day. You threw one heck of a party! Definitely “one for the history books” (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
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!
Sharing is caring 🙂