Where should we sit at our wedding reception? 8 tips for better wedding pictures during toasts!

The easy answer to this question is, "Anywhere you like! It's your wedding!"

However if the question is "Where should we sit at our wedding reception for the best pictures?" then I'm here to help! I posted a couple of tips on my facebook page about this very topic and I had a couple of emails asking questions about it afterwards so I thought I'd prepare a helpful little blog post.

1. Talk to your photographer/filmmaker about where to sit. 
I'm always more than happy to take a quick look at your seating plan and suggest a couple of options for you to consider. Usually I'm looking for seats that will allow me to photograph you/the person toasting without blocking the view of your guests. Most venue coordinators will let you sit where you want to (repeat: it's your wedding!) but some of them will insist you sit in a corner/against a back wall. Having a blank wall behind you makes any pictures of your reactions during the toasts look kind of sterile.

In an ideal world your photographer will have a clear line of sight to the two of you, your parents and the person toasting. I like to have my second photographer quietly moving around the room to get guest reactions.

Often my couples will send over a copy of their floor plan and I'm always happy to suggest seats! Here's a copy of a Toby & Jesse's ballroom wedding seating chart with my nifty colored seating suggestions. Note that although I'd initially suggested the parents sit in the green seats, on the wedding evening we found a tall centerpiece (see tip #3!) blocking the view so the parents moved to the blue seats and just turned their chairs around to face the dance floor:

And here's Toby & Jesse during the toasts:

Here's another seating chart - this time a tent wedding for Sara & Jason:

And here's a picture of Sara and Jason at their table:

2. Try to have depth behind you. 
Do a google search for "politician campaign speech" and you'll see that rarely are politicians photographed with a blank stage/wall behind them. Nope, they bring in hoards of happy, smiling people to stand behind them for depth. Having people/centerpieces/candles behind you gives context to the picture, it shows that your wedding reception was filled Ask not what you can do for your wedding guests, but what your wedding guests can do for you ;)

If you're seated on a larger table with other guests against a wall/tent wall consider sitting on the other side of the table and turning your seats 180 degrees during the toasts. Now you have depth behind you and we can't see any dirty plates! Melissa and Morris turned their chairs 180 degrees to face the dance floor at their Mandarin Oriental wedding (bonus points for holding hands!):

Depth doesn't have to be just guests! At Courtney & Mike's amazing Red Lion Inn wedding last fall, their sweetheart table was carefully placed with stairs/flowers/guests behind them. Much better than a wooden wall.

3. Have a VERY low centerpiece in front of you. 
Once you decide on your table/seats then let your florist know that it's important for you to get good reaction pictures during the toasts and you don't want any height directly in front of you. No tall centerpiece, no tall votives, no tall vase with your bouquet. Frankly nothing higher than maybe 6 inches would be good! If you're alternating tall/short centerpieces then also consider putting the low centerpieces on the tables with your parents so we can try to get good reaction shots of them also.

If there had been a tall centerpiece in front of Lauren & James I couldn't have got this picture:

4. Seat flexible/easy going people directly opposite you (or even consider leaving a space). 
Think about TV sitcoms or films, whenever there's a scene with people sitting at the table they all sit around in a U-shape with an open side of the table for the camera! Ideally you'll have good friends or siblings opposite you who will be super happy to just scoot their chairs over by a foot or so to allow for a clear view across the table.

Obviously a sweetheart table removes the issue of people directly opposite you blocking the camera but still consider placing your table next to the dancefloor with tables behind you vs. in a corner of the room.

5. Don't eat!
This is a tough one, you're hungry and a delicious looking salad or appetizer is put in front of you while your Maid of Honor or Best Man is speaking. If you eat through the toasts there won't be any reaction images, I don't photograph people when they're eating as no one looks good with a mouth full of food!

6. Smoosh those chairs close together. 
If you're at a sweetheart table your chairs are often placed at an angle to the table and there can be a good foot or two of room inbetween you. Good for eating so you're not bashing elbows but not good for pictures during toasts. Don't be shy - you're married now! Scoot those chairs close together, hold hands, enjoy the toasts together.

Chris not only moved his chair close to Amara but he also held on tight for the toasts:

7. Make sure there's going to be room for your photographer/filmmaker to get pictures.
One of my favorites weddings last year was Kristen & Jon's wedding at Tupper Manor. I love this picture of them below during the toasts but I think I was pretty much sitting in the lap of the best man to get this shot. I don't like to block the view of friends and family during toasts, they want to be able to see the couple's reactions too!

8. Enjoy yourself!
Your closest friends and family are saying lovely things about you!
Here's Katherine and Greg at their Boston Public Library wedding. Let's work down the list - they have "depth" behind them in the form of their lovely guests, no tall centerpieces blocking them, no guests opposite blocking them, they're sitting nice and close together and having a pretty great time! Check! 

In summary:
- chat to your photographer about your seating chart
- try to avoid sitting with a blank wall/tent wall directly behind you
- consider sitting on the opposite side of a large table and just turning your seats around for the toasts
- consider locating your sweetheart table on the edge of the dancefloor with tables behind you
- seat relaxed friends opposite you who'll be cool shifting their seats slightly to the side
- sit nice and close together
- try to eat before or after the toasts to avoid mouth-full-of-food pictures
- avoid any tall centerpieces/candles directly in front of you
- enjoy!

Coming up next week I have some awesome engagement pictures for you followed by Amara & Chris's wedding at Wellesley Country Club and then it'll be time for Toby & Jesse's wedding at Taj Boston. Have a wonderful weekend!!!

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