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Hope Taylor is a photographer specializing in senior portraits serving both Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.


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Creating a Photography-Friendly Wedding Day Part 3: Portrait Time & Cocktail Hour

For Brides


I am in the middle of a series for my brides all about creating a photography-friendly wedding day! But, before we dive into part 3, I want to preface this series by saying this: your photographer should be able to capture beautiful images on your wedding day no matter WHAT the situation or circumstance! They should be able to work well in any lighting situation and any timeline crunch no matter what! These tips and tricks are simply little changes that can be made and things to think about when planning your wedding day to create IDEAL situations for natural light photographers!! You can find part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE! Here are some things you should keep in mind when planning your portrait time & cocktail hour:


On your wedding day, portrait time is typically broken up into three different parts: the family formals, bridal party and bride  & groom portraits. The amount of time we need for these things will depend on a few things: whether or not you decided on a first look (read part 2 for more on that!), the number of family formals you’d like and whether or not we’re driving from a ceremony location to a different reception location. We will talk about the portrait part of the day as if you did NOT have a first look (since we covered so much about first looks in the last post!) So, if you did NOT do a first look, the portraits following the ceremony would go in the order listed above: family, bridal party and then bride & groom. Here are some tips for preparing that part of the day:

-Send a list of family formals to your photographer BEFORE the wedding day! Include family member title and names in the list (ex: Mom (Amy) + Dad (Chris) + Bride + Groom). This allows things to flow easily and go FAST on the wedding day! Your photographer may have a place for this on their pre-wedding questionnaire (I do!!)
-Make sure to tell the family that will be in the photos WHEN and WHERE to meet for these photos! The number one problem during family formals is having to send someone to hunt down a family member at cocktail hour. We want to get these done as quickly and efficiently as possible so your family can go party and enjoy themselves!

-Let your bridal party know where to be for these photos as well! Make sure they know to stick around after the ceremony for portraits-and try to avoid getting snacks or drinks until this part is done! It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes!! 🙂 Tell your bridesmaids to bring lipstick and other touchups with them if they’re worried about how they’ll look in the photos!

-For bride & groom portraits: this is the time of day to RELAX and love each other!! Try to focus on your new husband and let the other stresses of the day melt away for a little bit. These will be some of your FAVORITE photos from your wedding day-you deserve to enjoy them!!

-Let your photographer take the lead with locations and lighting! Some locations may look beautiful and ideal for photos…but the light may be horrible and unflattering. Make sure you TRUST your photographer during this part of the day-they’re going to shoot everything in the most beautiful, flattering light possible!! 🙂 Even if the location seems a little weird…try to trust!!! Some of my favorite portraits have come from “odd” locations…like rocks that were illegal to climb on and the side of parking garages!!

Cocktail Hour:

-I don’t have TONS of tips for cocktail hour, but the biggest tip is to ensure you’re giving your photographer the right amount of time to capture all of the portraits you need. Be sure to ASK your photographer beforehand how much time they’ll need based on the rest of your wedding day timeline and plan accordingly. You want this part of the day to be relaxed and enjoyable-not rushed and stressful! Your guests will totally understand…just make sure there’s lots of snacks and drinks for them to enjoy in the meantime 🙂

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I hope this was helpful!! Next week we’ll be finishing up the series by talking about receptions and considering sunset portraits…I can’t wait!

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hi, y'all!

I'm Hope Taylor, an international Senior Portrait and Wedding Photographer based in Charleston, SC. I'm also an educator, international speaker, and the host of multiple sold-out workshops each year!



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