Burlington & Oakville Wedding Guide

You’re planning your Burlington or Oakville wedding, that’s awesome! Updated every year and full of my best insight and information on vendors who make your planning and day the best possible. Here’s my constantly updated Burlington & Oakville Wedding Guide.

Planning Tips your Burlington & Oakville Wedding

Planning out your day is the first step and possibly the most important one to ensuring your day feels more like a celebration and less like a hectic mess. In general, weddings fall into three major categories: determined by ceremony time, determined by reception (dinner) time, and no set times. 

If your venue is going to dictate your ceremony time-frame, look to work forwards and backwards from this time. If the reception-dinner is a fixed time, keep your ceremony location close or leave ample travel time in between. However, if you are having a backyard wedding and can control the ceremony time, I highly encourage everyone to consider having the ceremony later in the day to accommodate a lower sun for better photographs, and the perfect segue into the best possible light for your family and personal portraits. 

Timelines

 

Timeline Example (8 hours):

1pm – Start of Coverage
2:15pm – First Look / Portraits / Wedding Party
4:30pm – Ceremony
5pm – Cocktail Hour / Family Portraits
6pm – Reception/Dinner Start
7:30pm  – Sunset Portraits
8:30pm – Dancing Starts
9pm – End of Coverage

Timeline Example (10 hours):

12pm – Start of Coverage
1:30pm – First Look / Portraits / Wedding Party
3pm – Ceremony
5pm – Cocktail Hour / Family Portraits
6pm – Reception/Dinner Start
8:30pm  – Sunset Portraits
9:30pm – Dancing Starts
10pm – End of Coverage

Getting ready on your wedding day

Once your schedule is set, the day should be a breeze from breakfast to late night pizza delivery.  I prefer to start an hour before the first partner is getting ready so that I can be there for the tiny, personal moments with family and friends as you get dressed. I have 8/10 and 12 hour packages that fit this part of your day perfectly.

Before heading to your ceremony on your wedding day, some couples choose to see each other, also called a First Look.

The first look on your wedding day

A first look is personal to each couple, so take some time to discuss if you would like to do one. A first look is when the couple see each other fully dresses shortly before the ceremony. This can be very casual and/or involve all your friends and family if you want!

As a bonus, seeing each other before the wedding means we can take a few portraits of you both and offer variety in the formal portraits you get!

Here’s a few tips for a first look: 

  • Depending on the weekend, Oakville could be busy: pick a halfway point between where you’re getting ready and the ceremony.
  • Try to keep it yourselves! A first look is meant to be a private moment between you and your partner. I recommend this, but if you feel the moment will be even more special with close family and friends present, please let’s do so!
  • Consider sharing something small. A letter or a funny small gift is lovely.
  • Bring snacks! If this will be your last chance before the ceremony to eat, do it now. 🙂
  • Alternatively, keep the wedding party on standby around the corner so we can do your party photographs after. Bonus tip: Bringing everyone together before the wedding only adds to the release of stress and keeps it casual!

The ceremony

I love the ceremony, and most hiccups to them only occur before and after. Here is a few things to consider:

If your wedding is all in one location, you will not need to worry about arriving early, however, if you are getting ready away from the venue, plean to be at the ceremony location 20-30 minutes beforehand for the first partners, and 10-15 minutes beforehand for the second partner. Not only does this give a nice cushion incase of traffic, but allows everyone to take a moment to settle into the ceremony. 

If we did any of your family photographs before the ceremony, this would be a perfect time to finish the remainders up. If not, here’s a whole breakdown of making sure your family portraits and your own are the best they possibly can be. 

The best tips for your wedding ceremony:

  • Where possible, leave enough room for your wedding party so nobody is crunched together. 
  • Ask guests not to crowd the aisle way during procession or recession
  • My favourite: As you process for your recession after being newly married, stop half-way for a quick kiss. It makes for a lovely photograph. 

Family Portraits

Without a doubt, your family portraits are going to be among some of the most revisited photographs in your collection. They’re important. They show generations of family in one place. 

If you have a ceremony away from your reception, the best place to finish your family photographs is outside the ceremony. For example, most churches have beautifully manicured lawns, and so do parks. If that doesn’t work, we can always scoot over to a lovely spot at the reception to complete these. 

How to create a list of family photographs:

  • Start with your immediate family, and work outwards. I advise, usually for time sensitivity, to draw up a list of family you want a photograph with in your immediate family. Since most receptions have lots of time to socialize, we can plan to take photographs with them as the night progresses.

Please note that in 90% of the day I love to work freely and photograph as the day unfolds, but for family portraits I will need a list. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you with that:

  • Write it all out on a word doc you can send me
  • Start with your immediate family, and work outwards. I advise, usually for time sensitivity, to draw up a list of family you want a photograph with in your immediate family. 
  • Since most receptions have lots of time to socialize, we can plan to take photographs with them as the night progresses.

This is the most efficient and effective way to write out your family list so that we can ensure everyone is photographed. From here, your family can peel away to the reception and/or cocktail hour awaiting them. 

Wedding Portraits

Depending on how your wedding day’s schedule breaks down, and where you are getting married, I have a few different types of tips! 

The best time to take wedding portraits are the following: 

  • 1.5 hours to 30 minutes before sunset: This is when the light is soft, and the sun has lowered enough to avoid harsh shadows that ruin the atmosphere
  • Mid-day summer in shade: If we cannot take portraits close to sunet, that’s ok too. Shade is the perfect replacement and allows us to have those beautifully bright portraits without anyone needing to squint.

Wedding Portraits in Summer

Most weddings are planned for the summer and rightfully so. Not only is it warmer, but the sun is out longer and creates a natural feel-good energy. Because the sun stays out longer, any portraits not taken before sunset will be in beautiful open shade. This keeps the heat and sun off you, and gives the type of images that do not cast unwanted shadows on your person. 

Wedding Portraits in Winter

The sun sets very early in the winter, sometimes before 4:30pm. Make considerations for your family and portraits happening before this. Alternative arrangements can be made with my lights, but I prefer to use the sunlight to cast natural light over your family portraits. 

Oakville Portrait Locations

If we have time to jump to a location for portraits, I compiled a list of my favourites that always deliver lovely backdrops and unique photographs:

  • Lakeside Park
  • Bronte Creek Park
  • Gairloch Gardens
  • Mt. Nemo Conservation
  • Bronte Harbour
  • Water’s Edge Park
  • Coronation Park

All of these locations look beautiful at, or close to sunset.

Bonus: These are all also a great place to bring your wedding party pre-ceremony for wedding party photographs or even after, depending on where your reception is. 

Burlington Portrait Locations

  • Cootes Paradise Sanctuary
  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Hidden Valley Park
  • LaSalle Park
  • Paletta Lakefront Park

Reception

Lighting

Lighting at a reception is the most undervalued atmosphere creator there is. In a lot of reception venues, you will get to choose the type of lighting and location of the lighting itself. 

For low-key, intimate receptions, look for warmer lighting, close to candle light colour for any lighting, especially out doors. Go cooler when the location is modern, and snazzy.

Tips for lighting your reception:

  • Warm candles and/or lights that mimic the colour of candlelight are best. They’re warm and cozy and really give off an atmosphere that is great for a reception. With that said, if your vibe, theme, or location calls for something else, absolutely do that! 
  • Purple, green and blue are lovely colours, and may look lovely to the human eye, but it causes quite the problem for cameras when it hits skin. Look to avoid purple and blue uplighting near people, and keep it near backwalls that don’t splash onto guests. 
  • Candles on tables can be a really lovely accent, but please be careful and ensure they’re enclosed where possible (kids, and even adults can knock them over!)

Boehmer Wedding Photos

Table Layouts

My best tip for table layouts is this: Don’t place anything large directly in front, or anywhere in a 45 degree angle of you. Having a clear line of sight to your speech-giver and for myself and your videographer capture clear reactions of both of you is the best way to some of your favourite photographs. Consider smaller, or space out big table pieces that don’t obstruct your view.

For the head table, consider a long table with space for both of you at the ‘head’ of the table when possible for a grandeur feeling. Round tables make things more intimate and can be great for candid photographs.

Speeches

Speech areas are often thrown in wherever without much thought. Over the years, it is clear to me the best speeches and the reactions come when the speech-giver doesn’t have to turn their body too much to present to you and the audience. The less looking around for them and the more likely they will be nailing that hilarious speech. 

Protip: Wireless microphones make life easier for everyone. Heights, speaking styles and even performances can make the entire speech for your guest so much easier. 

Sneak away

As mentioned earlier in this Oakville wedding guide, in most summer weddings there is a sunset occurring and I love sneaking you out after dessert to grab a few of those dreamy, low key last light photographs. 

The first dance:

Here are my top tips for first dances:

  • Avoid spinning coloured strobes for the first dance. Often used by DJs for the party end of the night, they create unique problems for cameras and often cause misfires and mis-focused images.
  • Please give me a heads up if you plan anything unique or special, so I can ensure I’m in the right place at the right time to capture it best. 

Dancing

I love a good party, and dancing too. I bring one camera onto the dancefloor to capture the best moves and organized dance sessions. The photographs that come out of dancing can be some of my favourite, especially if you have a talented dancer on the guest list. 

Wedding Vendors

Wedding Planners

These rockstars can handle anything, and then some. You will love them!

INLY Events
Vivian Lyttle Events

Burlington & Oakville Wedding Venues

The venues below are loved and famed across Hamilton and southern Ontario. For every season and every decor:

Hamilton Hair/Make-Up

Do a trial run before your wedding to make sure you love your look!
Hair and makeup is personal, so here is a comprehensive list of artists and stylists we think are awesome.

Face It I’m Pretty
Candice Jones Hairstyling
Dawn Grant Artistry
Nikyla Hladio
Eduardo Mella  

 Local Dress & Suits

The Bride’s Project
David’s Bridal
Bella Mia Bridal
Coppley

Favourite Officiants

The Wedding Faerie
Finding Joy

Videographers

Down-to-earth, creative, fun and most importantly, masters of their craft.

Henjo Films

Hamilton Florists

Quill + Oak Floral Design
Billie Flower Co.
Flora & Farfalla
Thuya Studio

DJ

These DJs will keep your slow-dances slow, and your party electric. Spinning mixes of classics and modern tracks with just the right amount of class.

DJ Donna Lovejoy
Down2Earth Entertainment

Caterers

These foodies know how to excite your senses, and as a massive foodie, I can never recommend them more.

Bitten on Locke
Blend Catering

Cake/Food Trucks/Desserts/Treats

The Salted Pig
The Little Cheesecake Company
The Dessert Room 

Burlington & Oakville Hotels

  • Holiday Inn Oakville
  • HIlton Garden Inn
  • Courtyard by Marriott
  • Days Inn by Wyndham 
  • Waterfront Hotel Burlington
  • Multiple Air BnB’s are available as well

Things To Do in Oakville & Burlington

This city has so much to offer, and the surrounding region too. Here are a few places your friends and family from out of town can check out before or after your wedding.

  • Royal Botanical Gardens
  • Bronte Creek
  • Burlington Art Gallery
  • Dundurn Castle
  • Hamilton’s 50+ waterfalls to explore
  • Niagara Falls & Niagara-on-the-Lake aren’t too far away either!

 What To Do When It Rains

Rain is essential for the planet, and sometimes it rains on a wedding day. Haven’t you heard that rain on your wedding day is good luck? Don’t let a little rain add stress to your day; we’ve photographed lots of weddings where it rained and we will make sure your wedding day is still amazing.

You should make a back-up plan for your ceremony and keep it in your back-pocket (and a few umbrellas in a car close by!). We recommend see-through umbrellas with big ‘J’ handles which will be beautiful for photographs. If you have a rainy wedding day, the rain will add beautifully creative element to your wedding day.

If you’re planning a wedding and also considering Hamilton, check out my guide for Hamilton, here. 

About Me

Hi. I’m Niv. I am a husband and father. Dreamer & artist.

A lover of photographs that capture you in a time and place with only the most important moments and reactions of your day. I cherish the family, the relationships and most importantly, the love that the two of you share in every image created. Every time I go out to shoot a wedding, I’m all in. Shooting a wedding for me is like permission to enter two families for one special day. Collecting memories for them to have and cherish in the years to come while they are becoming one family is my favourite part of this role I have as your wedding photographer.

I may be a local Hamilton Wedding Photographer, but I travel across southern Ontario and into the Niagara region for a truly great party.