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.
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