classic storybrook farm wedding jonesborough tn (9)I’m so sad this is the last post of the Wedding Day Timeline series!! I hope you guys have enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them! If you need to catch up on previous posts you can click HERE. Today’s post is about wedding receptions and mock exits. You spent the morning getting ready with your closest friends, saw your groom for the first time in a special and emotional first look, took all your bridal party and family photos, said your vows in your ceremony and now it’s time to dance the night away!

My most popular wedding package comes with 8 hours. It’s so popular we’ve never booked a wedding that needed more than those 8 hours. At some of our weddings though the 8 hours ends up coming to an end before the reception is fully over. This is understandable as most receptions with dancing can last for a few hours. Photographers don’t really need to be there to cover 2-3 hours of dancing. After about 30 minutes of photographing open dance floors the photos can all start to look the same. So instead of purchasing an extra few hours of coverage just for the dancing save that money to spend on an album instead! I promise it’ll be one of the best decisions you make! 🙂

Here’s a sample reception timeline :

7:00 pm Introduction of Bride and Groom

7:05 pm Bless food / Meal Served

7:35 pm Bride and Groom sneak off for 10 minutes of sunset portraits

7:45 pm Toasts

8:00 pm First Dance followed by Mother/Son and Father/Daughter Dances

8:15 pm Cake Cutting

8:25 pm Bouquet / Garter Toss

8:35 pm Sparkler Exit

8:50 pm Open Dance Floor

9:30 pm Photography coverage ends

11:00 pm Reception Ends

You’ll notice we schedule all the main events at the beginning of the reception. This is so that if your photography coverage ends before your reception ends you still have photos of everything!

Meal Served

As photographers we ask that we are served the same hot meal the guests receive at the same time the bride and groom receive their meal. This isn’t because we think we’re special or because we’re divas. It’s because we haven’t had a chance to eat since before we arrived. With an 8 hour day (especially in the hot summer months!! and since we’ve literally been going non-stop since we arrived) we need just a few minutes to sit down and refuel so that we’re still on top of our game during the fast paced reception events. I love all of my brides for this because I never have to feel awkward and ask for the meal on the wedding day. Our couples arrange for our meal to be ready for us at every wedding and we’re so, so thankful for that!! I’ve had some photographer friends who haven’t been as lucky and who have gotten light headed and almost fainted before the end of the night because they weren’t given a chance to sit down and refuel. I’ve also had photographer friends who have been given a “vendor meal” (a meal different from the guests’) that’s often a sandwich that’s been made a few days in advance and have gotten food poisoning! Yikes!! So needless to say Usbec and I are beyond thankful for our awesome couples for letting the caterers and planners know to give us a chance to eat a hot meal!

Sunset Portraits

This is just 10-15 minutes of portraits of the bride and groom. We sneak away and get these done very quickly but they’re usually the favorite images from the entire day! Not to mention, if you did a first look these are your first photos as husband and wife!! 🙂


I always recommend if you’re having toasts at all to limit them to just the Maid of Honor and Best Man. Toasts are something that can quickly consume an hour or longer of your time if you open it up to anyone.

Cutting the Cake

Read this post for tips on how to cut that beautiful but large cake! Tip – don’t forget to hire or ask someone to cut it for your guests!

Formal Exit 

If you’re having an open dance floor at your reception we ALWAYS recommend having a mock exit – having the exit earlier than at the end of the night. There are 2 ways to do this. One is when you sneak off with just your bridal party and immediate family. Some couples choose this so that the colors remain consistent for their album (the bridesmaids and groomsmen are in the wedding colors). Some also prefer to do it this way if they’re having sparklers instead of bubbles or rice because it’s a lot safer and a smaller crowd is so much easier to manage!  I’ve heard horror stories that I won’t scare you with but the point is, having just a small group can make it a lot safer! Also some couples just prefer to have their exit with those they’re closest to!

The second option is to include all of your guests! Either way we always recommend having a mock exit when the reception will most likely last longer than your photography coverage so we can still get photos of the exit before we leave. But I think my favorite part about mock exits is that it kicks off the open dance floor/after party and lets your guests know that all of the main events are over and the rest of the night will be spent dancing! This is great because guests with little ones who need to get to bed or guests who have work early the next morning or just need to leave for some reason can do so without feeling guilty that they’re missing something.

One last option is to have the exit as you’re leaving your ceremony before you head to the reception. You could do rice, bubbles, streamers, etc.Pink and Navy Wedding Coopers Cove at Heritage Park (23)

Open Dance Floor

Once the formal exit is over you and all the guests who would like to can go back to dance the night away! There are no more formal photos, no more formal events, and everyone can just relax and have fun! We usually spend about 30 minutes photographing this before the coverage ends. It’s always a fun time for everyone!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Wedding Day Timeline Series!! If you have any recommendations for other blog posts or a new series let me know in the comments!! I love writing content that’s helpful to you and the best way to do that is to know what you’d like to read about! 🙂


Want to catch up on other Wedding Day Timeline Posts? You can read them all right here :

No. 1 The Wedding Day Timeline

No. 2 The Bridal Details

No. 3 Groomsmen Prep

No. 4 Bridal Prep

No. 5 Ceremony Start Time

No. 6 How First Looks Create More Time

No. 7 Post Ceremony When There’s No First Look

No. 8 Why Your Photographer Needs 45 Minutes for Venue Photos

No. 9 Family Formals

No. 10 Wedding Receptions and Mock Exits




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