The Reception

From First Dance to Last Call

Elegant wedding tent interior with string lights, wooden chairs, and tables set for a wedding celebration.
Bride in heart-shaped sunglasses at the head table with a backdrop that reads "Together is a beautiful place to be."
Reception setup inside an art gallery with vibrant paintings and tables adorned with charger plates and wine glasses.

You're nearing the finish line! At this point, your unforgettable day is either winding down or just getting started. During the reception, I'll take a step back and let the celebration unfold, stepping in only to ensure we stay on track or to remind you of the golden hour for those sunset photos.


If you're wondering where to seat me during dinner, I don't really have a preference! I've been seated at the head table before, in with guests and some venues will seat me at the bar. As long as I'm in the same room as you and eating at the same time as you, that's all that matters. The reason I'll ask your venue to feed me at the same time as you is so I don't miss any key moments that will unfold as the reception takes off.


Grand Entrances


Let's talk about grand entrances! This kicks off your reception where your DJ/MC will announce any notable guests, your wedding party, and then the newlyweds (that's you!). I'll coordinate with you and your DJ/MC to get a proper understanding of exactly where you'll be entering from, what you'll be doing, and where you'll end up. Some couples hit the dance floor and do a routine, and some go immediately to their table and sit down. I like knowing exactly what the plan is so I can determine where the best spot to position myself is.


If possible, I don't recommend sending in everyone all at once, unless you don't consider these photos a high priority. By sending in either couples or very small groups, it allows them space to make their entrance and highlights their role in helping to make your day possible.

Bouquet toss at a wedding reception with a joyous bridesmaid ready to throw and guests watching eagerly.
Groom giving his laughing bride a piggyback ride during the wedding reception with amused guests around.

Speeches


An effective MC or a DJ who can double as an MC is invaluable; they'll help maintain the evening's flow, announcing events and speeches to keep everything moving smoothly. To avoid delays, setting speech time limits is wise, as I've once experienced an unexpected 30-minute speech from the mother of the bride. If you're looking for suggestions, check out the ones I love to work with in my VENDOR list.


Regarding speeches, interspersing them between courses rather than grouping them all before or after dinner tends to work well. It gives guests a chance to eat and it entertains them as your venue or catering staff preps the next course.


Tip: If you're going this route, allow your guests to start eating before beginning a speech, so when I pan to the audience for reactions, they don't have a piece of steak or chicken in their mouth that's visible when they laugh. Don't forget that I'll also need a quick moment to eat as well!


If you're doing a buffet, you can stagger some speeches before dinner is ready to be served and some afterward. The reason I suggest to staggering them is that in my experience, your guests will be visibly tired of sitting and listening for too long and it shows in your photos.


Oh and don't forget to have tissues handy for those speeches!

Man with microphone giving a speech at a wedding, standing in front of a rustic wood-paneled wall.
Bride and groom laughing at head table, groom in Canadian military uniform, fireplace and fairy lights in background.
Smiling man giving a speech at a podium, rustic wooden background at Bean Town Ranch.

Sunset Photos


The timing of our sunset session will depend on the season and sunset. We call it golden hour, it's the last hour before sunset when the sun is at a low angle, which creates long shadows and a warm, golden color in the light. I'll whisk you and your partner away briefly during dessert or as the evening shifts to dancing. These moments are often my favorite; the relaxed vibe post-dinner, perhaps with a bit of a buzz, makes these cuddly photos under the soft, warm glow of sunset uniquely romantic. I'll keep it quick, ensuring you return to your celebration without missing a beat.

Bride and groom sharing a sunset moment, the golden light framing their embrace outside a charming venue.
A joyful dance; the bride and groom twirl, caught in a moment of elation against a backdrop of dusk skies and trees.
The setting sun casts a golden glow on a tender moment, as the bride and groom share a close embrace on a quiet path.
A tender moment under a chandelier's glow, as the couple stands close, wrapped in the warmth of the golden hour.

First Dances


Kicking off with your grand entrance, it's common for the first dance to follow immediately. Think of it as ripping off a band-aid – getting it done early not only captures the moment in the best light but also lets your partner relax sooner, without the anticipation of a pending first dance. The traditional parent dances will follow later, helping to transition everyone onto the dance floor.


When you're figuring out what to do for your dance, consider adding some movement to spice up your photos, such as twirls and dips. This adds some variety to your photos instead of just swaying around in a circle. I've also had couples completely choreograph their first dance as a surprise for their guests!

Joyful bride and groom dancing spiritedly with guests watching in a warmly lit, rustic reception hall.
Captured in a dance, the couple shares a joyful, intimate moment, surrounded by the soft light at Sidedoor Restaurant.
A joyful dance moment at a wedding, with the bride and a guest sharing a lively moment at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.

The Final Exit


Many couples choose to cap their celebration with a sparkler exit! Or if you're getting married at Bean Town Ranch, they light these wonderful fireworks (as pictured below). While you're not really ending your wedding day, this charming tradition serves as a picturesque finale for your photo album. I recommend opting for longer sparklers for guests to create a dazzling send-off. Alternatively, arranging for twinkling string lights or Edison bulbs outdoors can set the stage for a final, private first dance under the stars - with just the two of you (and, of course, me capturing the moment).


If you're going the sparkler route, you'll want to purchase the extra-long ones. They have a longer burn time and should get you through most of your first dance song. And don't forget about lighters!

Bride and groom sharing a kiss in a dip under sparklers and string lights at dusk at Strathmere, The Farmhouse.
Fireworks illuminate the sky above the bride and groom standing on an island during a first dance at Bean Town Ranch.

Getting the Party Started!


And the very last part of your wedding day is the dancing! I love hitting the dance floor with my couple to kick off the party. What makes for great dancing photos? Lights actually! Anything from string lights to chandeliers that are very dimly lit, to traditional DJ lights, I can move those lights and they make for amazing partying photos.


If you're looking for just a few dancing photos, I recommend keeping me for just 30 minutes into the dancing portion. That's plenty of time for me to capture the action, allowing you to enjoy the rest of the night with your wonderful guests.

One of the most unique additions on a wedding day that I saw during my 2023 wedding season was when my couple hired The Merry Dairy to come serve ice cream to their guests, it was a complete surprise and an absolute hit with their guests!

Newlyweds share a joyful moment with ice cream cones by "The Merry Dairy" truck at their wedding.

And there you have it!


That wraps up all you need to know about your wedding day from a photography perspective. The next section will dive into everything about engagement sessions. But, if there's anything you feel is missing, if you have questions, or even suggestions to improve this guide, I'm all ears. I aim to offer nothing but the best for my couples.


If you've made it through this entire guide in one day, treat yourself to something special tonight – you've earned it, fiancé!

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