As a wedding photographer, capturing the perfect wedding recessional is crucial. It’s the moment when the newlyweds exit the ceremony together, often to a rousing round of applause and cheers from their guests. It’s a moment that captures the emotions of not only the couple, but also their family and friends. To help you capture this key moment in the best possible way, we’ve put together a Photographer’s Guide to Capturing the Perfect Wedding Recessional.
Preparing for the Wedding Recessional
One of the most important things when photographing a wedding recessional is to be prepared. Before the ceremony begins, it’s important to communicate with the couple, wedding planner, wedding videographer and the wedding officiant to know the details of the recessional. Find out and make note of the following information:
- The duration of the wedding ceremony
- What events happen right before the wedding recessional
- Where the videographer will be
- What will the couple do during the recessional
- Whether or not the guests will be tossing anything during the recessional
- Where the couple will be going after the ceremony
Understanding these factors will ensure that you’re in the right position to capture the recessional.
Choosing the Right Gear and Camera Settings
The right gear and camera settings are essential for capturing great wedding recessional photos. Consider the following:
We recommend a medium to wide zoom lens with a wide aperture for capturing the wedding recessional. A lens like a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens will allow you to capture the motion and excitement of the recessional, even in low light situations. If you’re stuck on a long range zoom lens, such as a 70-200mm lens, you may not be able to capture the action as it moves towards you.
Photo © Mauricio Ureña (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at La Casa de la Ruina in Santa Rosa, Antigua Guatemala
Photo © Kristin Cheatwood (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Bellevue, ID
Try to keep your shutter speed above 1/200th to ensure that there isn’t any motion blur as the couple walks towards the lens. Slower shutters speeds may still work, especially if you’re using flash, but it’s best to play it safe.
Photo © Party of Two (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Whitehead Manor in Charlotte, NC
Focusing during the wedding recessional is one of the biggest challenges, since the newlyweds are walking towards the camera and there might be items being tossed in front, behind and all around them. To ensure that you get a set of good wedding recessional photos, ensure that face tracking is on if your camera has that feature. Also, choose the focusing mode that you’re used to using and that has been successful for you in the past based on your shooting style and your camera model, whether that be AI servo, one shot, or other.
Photo © Jindrich Nejedly (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Obelisk Winery in Valtice, Czech Republic
Photo © Natasha Lamalle (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Woodend Sanctuary & Mansion in Chevy Chase, MD
Capturing the Compositions for the Wedding Recessional
There are a variety of angles and perspectives that can be used to capture the wedding recessional. Some photographers prefer to stand at the end of the aisle, while others choose to walk backwards in front of the couple. The most important factor is to coordinate with the videographer. If he or she is up close to the couple, you’ll have to do the same. If there the videographer is going to be at the end of the aisle, then you’ll also have to do the same so that you’re not in the entire wedding recessional clip.
Photo © Zack Bradley (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Hi-Wire Brewing in Asheville, NC
Be Ready for Action and Emotion
The recessional is one of the most happy and emotional moments of the wedding day, so anticipate and stay ready for these moments as they unfold. This includes the moment when the couple first exits the ceremony, as well as any spontaneous moments that may happen right after the recessional. Don’t be afraid to take multiple shots of the same moment, as this will give you more options to choose from later.
Advise the Couple Beforehand
Wedding recessionals should unfold naturally, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do everything in your power to make sure you get great shots. This may include providing some advice to the couple prior to the wedding ceremony. Here are some tips for your couples.
Photo © JCM Photography (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC
Ask Them to Walk Slowly and Enjoy the Moment
Left on their own, some couples, especially those who don’t love the spotlight, might walk very fast with their heads down as they exit. Remind them to walk slow, make eye contact with their guests, and really soak in the moment.
Photo © Roddy Chung (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Environmental Service Building in University Place, WA
Photo © SMJ Photography (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Riverdale Manor in Lancaster, PA
Ask Them to Kiss or Dip at the End of the Aisle
Dips, lifts, carries and kisses at the end of the aisle are a beautiful way to add action to the moment. Ask your couple to plan ahead and coordinate something fun and appropriate.
Photo © Kristina Corbett (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at The Historic Davenport in Spokane, WA
Photo © Andreas Pollok (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Heckers in Gründau, Germany
Ask them to consider Toss items for Their Guests
To make this moment even more special, many couples opt for a playful addition to their recessional, such as tossing flowers, rice, or bubbles into the air. These simple yet charming touches can add a dynamic element to the recessional, making it an exciting and unforgettable moment.
Photo © Kivus and Camera (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at family home in Partlow, VA
The act of tossing items such as flowers, rice, or bubbles into the air can be traced back to various traditions and cultures. For example, in some cultures, rice is a symbol of fertility and is thrown to bless the couple with a fruitful marriage. In other cultures, the couple is showered with flower petals to symbolize happiness and good fortune. Regardless of the tradition, these items add a magical touch to the ceremony, creating an ethereal and dreamy atmosphere.
Photo ©Jay Cassario (Website | Wedding Maps Profile)at Hotel Du Village in New Hope, PA
Furthermore, the use of these playful items adds a sense of joy and lightheartedness to the ceremony. As the newlyweds make their way down the aisle, their loved ones are encouraged to toss the flowers, rice, or bubbles into the air, creating a beautiful and dynamic visual display. This not only captures the couple’s excitement and joy but also allows their guests to feel included in the celebration.
Photo © Andy Sidders Photography (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Shendish Manor in Hertfordshire, UK
In addition to adding a playful element, these items also provide a unique opportunity for photographers to capture stunning images of the newlyweds. The floating flowers or bubbles create a dreamy and romantic backdrop, while the rice can create a dramatic effect when captured mid-air. These photos can serve as cherished memories of the couple’s special day for years to come.
Photo © David Conaty (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Quiraing in Isle of Skye, Scotland
Photo © Jason Vinson (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Backyard wedding in Joplin, MO
Incorporate Traditions in Wedding Recessional Photos
Incorporating traditions into your wedding recessional photography can add a whole new level of depth and meaning to your work. Military formations, cultural attire, and other traditions can not only make the moment more interesting but also connect the couple to their families and heritage.
Photo © Larsen Photo Co (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Sunrise Amphitheater in Boulder, CO
Including these traditions in your photography allows you to capture the beauty and history of the moment in a unique and personal way. It provides an opportunity to showcase the couple’s background and culture, and adds an extra layer of significance to their special day.
Photo © Kivus and Camera (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church in Swannanoa, NC
From a photography perspective, these traditions make for excellent photo opportunities. Whether it’s capturing the groomsmen in uniform, or a bride wearing a traditional cultural dress, these photos add an extra element of visual interest to your portfolio. Additionally, these photos often serve as cherished memories for the couple and their families, making them all the more meaningful.
Kids and Family in Wedding Recessional Photos
Including sons and daughters in the wedding recessional captures the love and connection between the family, as they send the newlyweds off on their journey together. It’s a beautiful symbol of the family’s support and love for the couple, and can add an extra layer of emotion to the ceremony.
Photo © Shirleen Burnett (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Tunnel Mountain in Banff, Alberta, Canada
From a photography perspective, including the children in the recessional provides a great opportunity to capture the love and joy of the family. Whether it’s the newlyweds walking hand in hand with their children, or the children holding onto their parents’ hands as they walk down the aisle, these photos are sure to become cherished memories for years to come.
Photo © Belinda Philleo (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Westminster, CA
More Wedding Recessional Inspiration
Here’s more wedding recessional inspiration for your next wedding!
Photo © Jeroen Savelkouls (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Klooster Bethlehem in Haren, The Netherlands
Photo © Jeroen Savelkouls (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Landgoed Brakkesteyn in Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Photo © Sean Thurston (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Fairfax Hall in Waynesboro, VA
Photo © Creando Fotos (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Stoney Ridge Villa in Azle, TX
Photo © Lets Make a Memory (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Sierra La Verne in La Verne, CA
Photo © Afonso Godinho (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Igreja dos Clérigos in Porto, Portugal
Photo © 4 Eyes Photography (Website | Wedding Maps Profile) at Grazers Zoo in Calgary, Alberta Canada
Capturing the perfect wedding recessional is a key moment for wedding photographers. By being prepared, having the right gear and camera settings, and capturing the perfect shots, you can create beautiful memories for the newlyweds to cherish for years to come. Remember to stay flexible, anticipate moments, and have fun capturing the emotions of this special day.