Why You Should do a First Look at Your Wedding

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DID YOU KNOW that the superstitious tradition of a bride and groom not seeing each other before the wedding originated in a time of arranged marriages? There was fear that if they saw each other before the wedding, they would have a chance to change their mind and back out of the arranged marriage. Nothing sentimental about that! I talk about first looks to all of our couples. I think a first look is the absolute best idea no matter what your wedding day schedule looks like. Most of our 2014 couples had a first look and because of that, we were able to get stunning portraits of them at each of those weddings.

Here are four reasons a first look is the best way to go:

1. It takes the stress out of getting photos after the ceremony, allowing you to spend more time with friends and family, and most importantly to all grooms, attend cocktail hour.

2. It gives the two of you intimate moments together in a day that passes quickly. This is especially important considering that you will feel the need to spend time with each of your guests. You wouldn’t believe how much this can relax the both of you. Every one of our couples who has ever done a first look have said they were SO glad they did.

3. In recent years we’ve noticed that wedding timelines have begun cutting photos out of the equation. I did that at my own wedding and it was such a mistake. We literally have one portrait of the two of us that we like because we didn’t allow our photographer enough time, and we regret it so much. A first look allows for as much time as you want to get the most beautiful and relaxed photos of the two of you.

4. It doesn’t in any way take away from the excitement of walking down the aisle. In fact, many couples have said it makes them even more excited for the walk down the aisle!

Here are some of our couples who had a first look

Mike and Jessica were married at my favorite venue in Central NY, Owera Vineyards, and had the perfect spot for a first look among the vineyard. We had such a fabulous time taking photos and we were able to take some really stunning photos of them because they chose to do a first look. Their reactions at seeing each other were beautiful and emotional, both during the first look and during her walk down the aisle.

Leasa and Eng were married at a venue that does 2 weddings a day, leaving a very tight timeline for it’s couples. Their first look was so beautiful and Eng cried while Leasa walked down the aisle.

Sarah and Sxon married at a stunning location with an orchid garden that we wanted to take full advantage of. The first look photos were stunning and Sarah and Sxon also left plenty of time for photos after the ceremony so we could take advantage of the wonderful sunset and beautiful grounds. It wouldn’t have been possible to take advantage of the entire location if photos had only been on one side of the ceremony. If you choose a location you’re in love with and that has several spots, it’s a must to schedule time both before the ceremony and to schedule the ceremony so there will be time for sunset photos afterwards.

Debi and Jeff chose to do their first look on the Spanish Steps in Washington DC on a rainy autumn afternoon. They were married in front of the Jefferson Memorial in the midst of a lot of tourists, so not the most romantic setting for a walk down the aisle. The Spanish Steps were gorgeously romantic and Debi was a vision of beauty walking down the steps for the first time. We drove around DC to take photos at different important sites and would not have been able to do that after the ceremony because it was a very intimate wedding and the short reception was in a restaurant, so it was not ideal to keep guests waiting.

Layne and Brett were married in Mexico with a small gathering of family and friends. To take full advantage of the beautiful surroundings, a first look was absolutely necessary since they were getting married at sunset and the light faded quickly after their ceremony. 

How To Plan Your Wedding Timeline

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Let’s talk about your wedding timeline. This is the bedrock of your wedding day, and without it nothing will happen like it’s supposed to and everyone will be confused. Of course as a bride or groom, it’s hard to know where to begin with this since you most likely haven’t planned a wedding before. We help all of our couples come up with a timeline that will be as stress free and smooth as possible. Sometimes venues will come up with a timeline, but we find that they are often extremely tight and leave no room for error (things like someone in the wedding party moving more slowly than the others which happens ALL the time) and also tend to cut photo time too short which can make things rushed and stressful. If you have a wedding planner, they are experienced in coming up with good timelines as well, but we still like to have input since we are the experts on making your photo experience as relaxed as possible.

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The first thing we always like to talk about is considering a first look. If you haven’t thought about it yet (or even if you have), read my post about it here. A first look will provide us with all the time we need to capture the beautiful, heartfelt portraits of the two of you that we focus our wedding work around without being rushed or pulled in different directions by all of the people wanting to talk to you. It also gives us the opportunity to photograph you in your most real, beautifully emotional state of seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day, something that is impossible to capture in the same way while we are trying to stay out of the way on the ceremony aisle and deal with guests jumping in the aisle in front of us. But I’ll let the first look post do all the talking, so read that before you continue on!

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We ask all of our couples to give us a minimum of 1.5- to 2 hours of time for portraits including the family group photos, bridal party photos and the photos of the two of you. This allows us to take the time we need to create beautiful portraits that aren’t rushed and that are authentic. Early on in our business we photographed a lot of weddings with rushed timelines that left hardly any time for photos, and we found that over and over again that the portraits of our couples could have been so much more authentic if the couple were not so stressed by the timeline. We rushed our timeline at our own wedding as I THOUGHT I “only wanted candids”. Boy was that a mistake. I immediately regretted not letting the photographer take more photos of us when we got our photos back and there was only 1 posed photo of the two of us that I liked, and it wasn’t even a full length photo.

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Photos taken at Kurt Boomer Workshops | Styling by Joy Proctor | Dress from Shop Gossamer | Hair and Makeup by Jess Wilcox | Flowers by Amy Osaba | Venue Sunstone Villa

If you choose not to do a first look, make sure your cocktail hour is planned accordingly and there is plenty for guests to entertain themselves with during the 1.5 to 2 hours you will take for photos. If you are holding the reception in the same venue as the ceremony this will be even more difficult, and we don’t recommend not doing a first look. Here are 2 different sample timelines that we give our clients. Best times for photos will vary greatly depending on the season, so please keep that in mind when choosing a time for your ceremony and ask us if you are unsure. This is a timeline that would be ideal in the summer when the sun sets around 9:00pm.

Timeline including first look

3:00pm Getting ready photos of bride and groom with their wedding party

3:45pm First look with bride and groom only

4:15pm Bridal party join bride and groom for photos

4:45pm Family photos

5:30pm Bridal party and bride and groom are relaxing inside waiting for the ceremony to start, guests begin arriving

6:00pm Ceremony

6:30pm Ceremony end

6:30pm or 7:00pm A few more photos of bride and groom (time depending on travel)

7:00 or 7:30pm Entrance into reception

If your location has a spectacular sunset spot, plan for another 15 minutes around sunset time which we can advise you on. These are not photos that are able to be taken at most weddings and if you have the location to do them, you will not want to miss it.

Timeline without first look

4:00pm Getting ready photos of bride and groom with their wedding party

4:30pm Bridal party and bride and groom are relaxing inside waiting for the ceremony to start, guests begin arriving

5:00pm Ceremony

5:30pm Ceremony end,  family photos first followed by bridal party photos and then bride and groom photos

7:15pm-7:45pm Entrance into reception (If travel between locations is needed, 2 hours should be the minimum amount of time allowed for photos)