The Journal

Why book rehearsal dinner photography?

Planning a wedding can feel overwhelming enough without also considering the addition of a rehearsal dinner or day-after brunch for your guests! At some point, you might ask yourself (or your spouse to be) if you really need to have a rehearsal dinner. After all, you’re putting a ton of energy and time into preparing for the “main event” (your wedding day), so why add more elements to what is sure to be a busy weekend already?!

We’re here to tell you that there are plenty of great reasons for having a rehearsal dinner (and booking rehearsal dinner photography!). While the decision is ultimately yours, consider the ways a rehearsal dinner can enhance and set the tone for your wedding weekend, plus provide more time to mingle with your guests!


NOTE: we’re using the terms ‘rehearsal dinner’ and ‘welcome reception’ interchangeably here; for weddings that require your friends and family to travel, you might consider hosting something like a welcome reception. A ‘welcome reception’ is kinda like a bigger version of your rehearsal dinner (which is typically just for your wedding party and immediate families), and a welcome reception doesn’t necessarily require you to provide dinner for everyone — we’ve seen cocktail receptions as a perfect way to welcome your entire guest list to your wedding destination, so it’s not as formal (or as expensive) as a sit-down dinner party.


You get more chances to interact with your guests.

We genuinely hate to break this to you, but you might have little to no time to interact with many of your guests on your wedding day. The big day itself is so packed with choreographed moments and photo ops (the ceremony, family photos, toasts, oh my!), there’s not an excess of opportunities for you to catch up with old friends or greet extended family members. Even if you decide to do a first look in order to make it to your own cocktail hour, you still won’t get a chance to chat with everyone (especially if your guest count is on the high side). A welcome reception, on the other hand, tends to have a much more flexible schedule and more “free time” for you to interact with your guests. You’ll feel so much better going into your wedding day knowing you were able to connect with many of your guests, and a day-after brunch is another great add-on for one last opportunity to have meaningful interactions with your loved ones before they head home from your celebration.


Should we have a photographer for rehearsal dinner

Erica + Jesse hosted their rehearsal dinner at Pepper Tree Ranch

Your guests get more chances to interact with each other.

This might not be as obvious, since YOU already know all the guests who will be invited to your wedding. But do they know each other? The rehearsal dinner might be the first opportunity that some of your VIP guests (parents, siblings, bridesmaids, and groomsmen) have the chance to meet. And even if the two sides of your families and wedding parties have met previously, we’re betting they haven’t spent a ton of quality time with each other (and frankly, even if they have, they’re probably happy to have more opportunities to hang out together!). The rehearsal dinner (or welcome reception) is a great introduction to the wedding weekend, so that at the wedding the next day, your guests will greet each other like old friends.


Say “thank you” to out-of-town travelers.

If coming to your wedding means getting on an airplane (or even sitting in the car for more than an hour), your guests are investing in celebrating you! Show them your appreciation by inviting them to multiple events during the weekend. Not only is it the polite thing to do (Martha Stewart etiquette says so), but we’ll refer you back to the first reason we suggest having a rehearsal dinner in the first place: spend more time with your loved ones!

Why have a rehearsal dinner

Amy + Justin’s welcome reception at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum

So… should we have a photographer at our rehearsal dinner, too?

Now that we’ve shown you why a rehearsal dinner is important in the first place, we’re also here to share that it’s an excellent idea to add professional photography coverage. At first consideration, you might be tempted to say “eh, we’ll get plenty of photos at the wedding — no need to ask our photographer to cover the rehearsal dinner, too.”


You’ll get to spend more time (and thus get more comfortable) with your photographer.

Even if you’ve done an engagement session with the photographer who will be capturing your wedding, more time together only enhances your wedding day experience. It’s a great refresher for seeing her again before you’re able to step into your wedding dress the next day (!!), and, perhaps just as importantly, you’re families and wedding party get to meet the photographer, too! It’s incredible the amount of rapport and trust we’re able to establish with parents, bridesmaids, and groomsmen just by being present at the rehearsal dinner. Just like with your guests who haven’t met before, we’re able to greet each other like old friends when we arrive to photograph the wedding the next day! Everyone feels more comfortable in front of the camera and it’s truly just an overall good-vibe feeling (not to mention the abundance of additional photos, but we’ll get to that…) to have your photographer as part of your entire weekend.

Do we have to have a rehearsal dinner

Katherine + Scott’s rehearsal dinner in Santa Barbara

Get more photos of your guests.

Just like you’ll be running around with little time to chat with guests on the wedding day, the same goes for your photographer. We typically have a second shooter with us so that he/she can be capturing candids at cocktail hour, but sometimes the wedding day schedule doesn’t permit this opportunity, or we don’t have the ability to get a portrait of every single guest. One of our goals when photographing a welcome reception or rehearsal dinner is to get a photo of every single person in attendance, which isn’t always possible on the wedding day itself.


Capture moments that are special to the rehearsal dinner.

There are often parents or wedding party attendants who give toasts at the rehearsal dinner who then don’t speak during the wedding reception. Having photography (and videography!) coverage at the rehearsal dinner ensures you’re capturing more special memories that aren’t happening at the wedding itself. It also means you (and your mom) can put down your phones and enjoy the moment in real time, knowing your photography team has you covered.


Take some professional photos in that gorgeous outfit you planned for your rehearsal dinner.

We’ve seen couples dressed almost as dapper as on their wedding day when they hit their rehearsal dinner venue. Um, hi, let us take your picture. Thanks.

Santa Ynez rehearsal dinner photos

Rachel LOVED her welcome reception dress (and the dinner table details!)

Get pro photos of the details, too.

Just like whatever killer ensembles you’re wearing, we’re guessing you also have at least a couple pretty details planned for the rehearsal dinner (even if it’s just a fun venue or a signature cocktail!). We believe that capturing the ephemeral details of your wedding are an important element of telling your story, and the same is true for the rehearsal dinner.


The verdict: hire a photographer for your rehearsal dinner.

It’s just a great way to get a wider diversity of photos to commemorate your wedding weekend, remember your loved ones in attendance, and spend more time getting comfortable with your photographer.

The Knot I
The Knot II

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