Cocktail Hour & Formal Portraits

From Cocktails to Candid Moments

A joyful groom in a blue suit converses with guests at an Ottawa wedding reception, holding a drink.
Violinist playing at an Ottawa wedding venue with stone ruins and pool in the background.
Two children smiling at the camera, seated at a bar with colorful drinks, with adults chatting in the background.

Formal portraits are usually scheduled during cocktail hour. This timing allows us to capture these essential group photos while guests enjoy the beginning of the reception. However, should you prefer a different arrangement, these portraits can also be taken before the ceremony. This option might suit couples looking to join their cocktail hour or desiring a more relaxed timeline. Additionally, if you decide against formal portraits, we can adjust our focus to candid moments and other aspects of your day, ensuring your photography experience is tailored to your preferences.


Family & Friends Portraits


The family and friends' portrait session is typically structured and normally lasts around 30 minutes, likely being the most orchestrated part of your day. These formal shots are often favorites for framing, especially by parents. It's best to schedule these portraits right after the ceremony to ensure everyone is present, minimizing the chance of missing family members who might be late or otherwise occupied before the ceremony. If you have more time available prior to your ceremony and you do a first look, you can also dive right into these photos then so you have more time with your guests during cocktail hour.


Assigning someone familiar with your family and friends to help organize and gather people for photos can greatly streamline the process. I have a pretty booming voice but it gets a bit distracting to have someone yelling out names as your guests are trying to enjoy cocktail hour.

One thing that will be mandatory prior to your wedding day is for you to provide me with a shot list of the specific photos you want to be taken during the formal picture part of your wedding day. I love seeing specific names so that I know how to properly address your family and guests. Don't worry, I'll send you a reminder closer to your wedding date!


If any young kids are included in the formal images, I recommend prioritizing them at the beginning. Kids don't usually want to stand around for photos so it's best to get those done and then release them.


For photos, you can budget 2-3 minutes per individual photo. For example, 10 photo groupings will take between 20-30 minutes. That being said if we're taking photos right next to cocktail hour and everyone knows ahead of time that they'll part of the photos, we can get through many more in that 30 minute period.

The image shows a photo shot list with handwritten headings, detailing names and grouping for planned photographs.

If you have a bridal party, do not include those photos in the section above unless you want images outside of bridal party photos (i.e. bride and bridesmaids, full bridal party photos, etc.), they'll automatically be planned out by me (but do let me know if you need anything specific!)


Tip: If you're crunched for time, consider just sticking to your immediate family during cocktail hour and getting photographs of your extended family and friends during the reception.


Below is a sample shot list to give you an idea of the usual family photo groupings:

  • You with each parent separately
  • You with your parents and your partner with theirs
  • Your entire immediate family
  • Your family plus your partner
  • Add significant others of siblings
  • Include grandparents for a grand family photo
  • A special shot with just the grandparents


And then repeat this for your partner's side!

A joyful group with a child, sharing a laugh in a sunlit forest setting.
Bride with bridesmaids laughing in blue dresses under a tree on a sunny Ottawa day.
Family portrait at a wedding, with bride and groom laughing, flanked by relatives in front of a brick archway.

Wedding Party Portraits


This is your chance to enjoy some fun moments with your closest friends before sharing intimate moments with your partner during the bride and groom portraits. While I'll be guiding you and your bridal party throughout, offering posing tips and cracking jokes to keep things light, here are a few pre-day pointers for everyone:


The one essential rule: Groomsmen, please keep cell phones, keys, and wallets either in your back pockets or leave them at the head table. Objects in front pockets can be distracting and it ends up extending your turnaround time for your album since it takes a good amount of time to edit out those objects from every single photo.


That's really the main rule, but I do have a couple more tips:

  1. Consider bringing clear umbrellas, just in case we encounter rain (see more on this below)
  2. Ladies, opt for shoes that you'll be comfortable walking in, you can always switch between pairs

Below is a sample shot list to give you an idea of the usual photo groupings for wedding parties:


  1. Entire Wedding Party
  2. Standing Shots
  3. Walking Shots
  4. Celebratory Shots
  5. Couple with Groomsmen
  6. Groom with Groomsmen
  7. Standing Shots
  8. Walking Shots
  9. Celebratory Shots
  10. Couple with Bridesmaids
  11. Bride with Bridesmaids
  12. Standing Shots
  13. Walking Shots
  14. Celebratory Shots


If your wedding party is fairly large and you want to take individual photos with each person on your side of the wedding party you may need to factor in additional time.

Bride and bridesmaids in gold dresses joyfully raising bouquets against an autumn backdrop at Brookstreet Hotel, Kanata
Wedding group in a forest with fall colors, bride and groom centered, with bridesmaids in maroon and groomsmen in blue.
Bride with bridesmaids in purple dresses, sharing a joyous moment beside a rustic barn wall.
Joyful bridal party dancing around the couple in front of a rustic barn, celebrating with bouquets in the air.

Bridal Portraits


Now is the moment for the two of you, amid the whirl of your wedding day, to pause and simply be together. Bridal portraits are all about capturing the love and connection you share, just as you embark on life's greatest adventure. As your photographer, I'll be right there with you, guiding you into natural poses that reflect your bond and bringing out genuine smiles with a touch of humor.


Let your joy and laughter flow freely. I'm serious about this – really embrace the moment and each other during this part of portraits. Don't hold back or hide your feelings. I'm looking to capture the genuine emotions, like the way you look at each other with unrestrained happiness. These candid, joyful moments often turn into the most cherished images.


During this portrait time, I'll capture some photos of you both together and separately. If you see any inspiration photos that you'd love to share with me to fuel my creativity, send them my way!


And as the day turns to evening, I'll steal away for a brief sunset session, offering one last chance to capture the magic between you as newlyweds. Just the two of you, and the beautiful twilight glow; it's a moment to look forward to, marking a beautiful conclusion to the whole day.

The Rain Plan


I know that this isn't what you want to even think about on your wedding day, but we must talk about it. I'd love to guarantee sunny skies for your wedding day, but sadly, I don't have the weather-controlling powers of Pudge the fish from Lilo and Stitch. You can use sites like Dropory to see historical data and plan ahead if there's a chance of rain on your day.


Not every venue offers perfect indoor locations for photography, and I know the thought of rain can be quite stressful for couples planning their special day. It's so important to me that we have a solid backup plan in place if there's the smallest possibility of rain on your wedding day. Here are some suggestions for rainy-day locations around Ottawa. It's worth noting that the policies and fees for each of these locations are subject to change.

Free Locations


National Gallery of Canada

National Art Centre

Ottawa Art Gallery

Confederation Tunnel

Algonquin College

Carleton University

University of Ottawa

Paid Locations


War Museum

Museum of Nature

Museum of History

Rockcliffe Park Pavilion

Various studios across the city



If there isn't an indoor space available to do these photos, I honestly suggest to just embrace the rain (unless it's a downpour) and make the most of it. I always monitor the weather and if I see that there's a chance of rain, I usually carry a couple of clear umbrellas on me, but do stock up on some. You can always return them if they're unused or sell them in one of the various Facebook wedding groups. And maybe grab some cute rainboots at the same time!


Check with your venue what their rain plan is, it's always best to be extra prepared rather than scrambling to find a solution.

Couple strolling under clear umbrella, autumn leaves in background, bride lifting dress slightly.
Bridesmaids in gold dresses sharing an umbrella, colorful autumn trees, and elegant architecture in the backdrop.
Joyful bride and groom walk under a clear umbrella, with vibrant fall foliage along the roadside.
Wedding party with clear umbrellas, bridesmaids in purple dresses, and joyous couple sharing a laugh.
Groomsmen in gray suits with purple ties, laughing under transparent umbrellas, outdoor festive mood.

Farrah Sanjari Photography // Ottawa Wedding, Engagement & Portrait Photographer