Top 5 Secrets to a Memorable Wedding Reception


April 21, 2022

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After photographing over 100 weddings as a Virginia wedding photographer, I’ve spent more than my fair share of nights partying the night away at incredible wedding receptions. Along the way, I’ve learned some tips and tricks for you to not only have beautiful photos but the best possible experience on your wedding day. (We all want to feel like guests at our own wedding, right?)

Almost all of my couples mention that creating a memorable experience for their nearest and dearest is a huge priority on their wedding day. Throwing a killer reception will not only help your guests enjoy themselves, but it’s important to have a great reception for you and your partners’ sake, too! Below I’ve compiled five things that my couples have prioritized that made for a truly memorable evening for all.

Bride dances with flower girl at Market at Grelen wedding reception

Don’t: Forget to Dance!

Aside from traditional dances such as the first dance and dancing with a parent, it can be easy to get caught up with everything going on, so be sure you get some time on the floor with your best friends, your parents, and of course your new spouse so that I can capture everyone gettin’ down! (You know what they say – Dancing is not only good for the soul, it’s also great for your photos!)

As your photographer, I want to be able to capture the feeling of being in the room as well as all of the individual personalities of your guests and the best way to make that happen organically is to be having a main character moment out there on the dance floor with your family and friends. 

Do: a Dramatic Outfit Change

The Aquarius in me truly thrives when my couples do an outfit change! Many dress-wearing souls plan an outfit change to something more relaxed for their receptions, but I’d argue that both partners deserve a dramatic outfit change!

Whether your style is big and bold or you’re just looking for a more comfortable option, suit changes, jumpsuits, and a shoe swaps have all been climbing in popularity lately. Plus, re-entering the reception in your new ‘fit is sure to be one of your favorite memories of the evening!

Pro tip: Zara, Anthropologie and ASOS offer affordable, funky options for all genders and sizes!

bride with live band in Virginia wedding

Don’t: Skimp on Entertainment

Both for the reception quality and for the sake of fun photos: invest in your entertainment! A killer DJ or a rocking live band can inspire a lot more of your guests to bust a move on the dance floor. I also love a good photo of the couple dancing and singing along on stage!

Do: Consider a Lounge Area

For those guests who aren’t as inclined to dance, or for older relatives, it could be a great idea to create a lounge area at your reception. This offers not only a place for guests to relax, but you can also get some awesome Vogue-inspired portraits in a luxe-looking lounge area. 

Tresca on 8th Bride and groom dancing

Don’t: Forgo Lighting

While you won’t have to worry about the lighting for your photos (I’ll be bringing my own lighting to take care of reception photos in any situation!) the lighting style that you choose for your reception can really set the tone for your guests’ experience. Candlelight and string lights make for a romantic and intimate ambiance, whereas colorful DJ lighting is more fun and energetic to keep people up and moving. A special request from your photographer: make sure there is enough lighting to safely move around during your reception!

Are you looking for more planning advice for a stress-free wedding day? Check out my wedding planning resources HERE!

Kyra Gustwick is a Virginia Wedding Photographer specializing in weddings, engagements, couples’ portraits and empowering boudoir experiences.

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