Wedding Day Tip: Have Dinner during Cocktail Hour

hermitage museum and gardens wedding norfolk virginia private dinner bride and groom

I am chomping at the bits to share all of my wedding day tips for you all after planning our own wedding for over a year and being a bride myself! I thought I already had a great understanding how my brides were feeling, what they were thinking, etc. but now I realized so many small things that I just would not have known until being a bride as well.

I know now, even more than before, the importance as a wedding photographer to slow down the day as much as I can for the bride and groom. The moments they have together, just the two of them, are few and far in-between! I realized just how much the flow of a wedding day goes is extremely important and how if that goes smoothly it allows me to fill small pockets of the day for just the two of them. One of the best things that we did for several reasons was have a private dinner, just the two of us, before going into our reception. I wish that I could take credit for this idea but in reality my matron-of-honor, Nicole, did this at her wedding in March first and I thought it was the best idea! Her wedding planner is the genius Missy, from Antonia Christianson Events, and it turns out that she recommends this to her brides.

When I told my wedding planner, Jamie Leigh Events, that I wanted to do this she jumped at it and insisted we still make it special. It was all her idea to have our first dinner as husband and wife in the rose garden at the Hermitage Museum! She took charge and ordered more linens from Waterford Event Rentals and table and chairs from Distinctive Event Rentals and also let our caterer, Montero’s, know what we were planning.

As a wedding photographer myself I want to put a disclaimer out there that we were only able to do this because we had already done a first look before our ceremony, our family formals were done quickly after our ceremony, and then we spent about twenty-five more minutes for bridal party and a few more bride and groom portraits. That is what I was talking about making sure the flow of the entire day is going smoothly. We also knew that during everyone else’s dinner we were going to take about a ten minute break from going table-to-table to greet our guests for a few more portriats. A combination of all of that time we used before allowed time to eat our dinner privately.

We ate our dinner during cocktail hour for a couple of other reasons. In addition to getting portraits done already we wanted to be able to actually eat our dinner on our Wedding Day. We also wanted to ensure that during our reception we could go table-to-table and chat with all of our guests. After all, they cleared there schedules to celebrate US and OUR marriage! Some even traveled from states away, so we wanted to make the effort to see them!  When I photograph weddings I notice that a lot of the times the brides and grooms are still greeting all of their guests at the beginning of the reception. Then I also notice their plate of food on their sweetheart table that goes untouched and gets cold. Your wedding day is a very long but extremely joyous day! You are running on pure love, happiness and adrenaline, but I also know that you need to eat something!  Especially if you are enjoying a few craft beers or glasses of wine!

Cory, my husband, (I am still getting use to saying that) is also a foodie! He was the one in charge of narrowing down caterers, setting up our tasting meeting with Montero’s and selecting most of the food on our wedding day menu. We had to make sure that we got to eat what he worked hard on planning for our wedding day!

If I am being honest with you, for a moment I thought we did not have time to eat during cocktail hour and I tried to talk Cory into just skipping it, but he was against that! I am so glad that he insisted because even if we were cutting it close to when we were suppose to enter our reception I am very thankful that we slowed down for a few minutes, that we sat and ate and that we did a quick toast with just the two of us.

It was probably the quickest dinner that we will ever eat together but we went into our reception fed, we had a few moments truly alone together and we were ready to celebrate and socialize with all of our wedding guests because we weren’t starving right after our first dance. Your dinner does not have to be fancy or in a rose garden, my Matron of Honor had her’s on her wedding day in another conference room of their hotel reception.

The main points to eating during your cocktail hour are to: 1- Make sure that you do actually eat on your wedding day! 2- That you go into your reception fed, energized and ready to socialize with your guests. 3- So that you can visit with all of your family and friends, table to table, and not worry about cutting into your time to eat or your time to dance once dinner ends.  4- Then for the sentimental part of it, you have your first dinner as husband and wife, just the two of you. This was truly the only time we had alone together until our reception was over. Our first look was us and our photographers of course, but this moment, after her quick picture of us when we sat down, we had these moments to ourselves. And in those moments, we stuffed our faces and toasted to us being married. We marveled in the fact that it was not raining and that we were in fact eating outside, in the rose garden, when two days before it was 80% chance for rain all day long! We were able to look at each other, which may or may not sound silly to you. But for me, I wanted to take in and memorize every laugh line of his and his crystal blue eyes in that moment.

You can see more of our wedding day by going here: Our Wedding Day. Photographs all taken by our wedding photographer: Erika Mills