The key to getting good photos of the reception room at a wedding is time. I have to get into the reception room after catering and the florists are done, but before the guests are allowed in. In order to get a great shot of the whole room it needs to be empty. Which is often a lot harder to do than it sounds. There are normally a dozen wait staff running around, filling water glasses, lighting candles; the venue staff checking to make sure everything is ready, and a couple guests trying to get in early to drop off their purses and wraps. While I only need a minute to grab a shot of the room getting everyone out of the way for a minute can be a huge challenge. It also takes time to photograph all the details in the reception room (the centerpieces, escort cards, and any other special items.) These all need to be done before the guests arrive. So my favorite time to do these photos is during cocktail hour. This way the guests are occupied and the room is close to being done. If I tried to get these photos before the ceremony it would still be 2 hours until the reception so nothing would be finished yet. This is one of the reasons I love doing all the family and couple photos before the ceremony. It gives me the time to get into the reception room during cocktail hour to get photos of all the details. A lot of work and thought goes into designing the reception and I love being able to capture that. If these photos are important to you it’s also good to check with your venue to see what their schedule is and to ask them to have the room finished and cleared a few minutes before letting anyone into the reception room so that I can take photos. It’s especially important to talk to them if they have a really fast switch (for example if the ceremony and the reception are taking place in the same room) in that case they only have a hour to set everything up and it might be hard for them to finish in time to get a good room shot. But if you are clear with them from the beginning that this is important they can make sure to budget that minute or two into the schedule.