First Look: Yay or Nay?

Planning your day for optimal photography time means taking many things into consideration.. One of them being if you want to see your future spouse before walking down the aisle and saying ‘I Do’.

Okay! I’m finally hitting the ground running on my ‘Wedding Day Education’ blog posting series and I promise to pack these with as much information as I can to help YOU better organize and plan YOUR day. So first things first.. What is a first look and is it right for you?

A first look is the first moment that you see your future spouse on the wedding day. It’s an incredibly intimate moment that can capture so much emotion and sweet moments between the two of you. I’ve photographed so many first looks and I can tell you, when it’s limited to the two of you, your photographer (s), and videographer (if applicable), the reactions and the emotions are simply beautiful. I’ll admit, on occasion my eyes have welled up behind my camera.. You guys, it’s that powerful! There are many reasons to decide to do a first look and this is one of them. Having a few quiet few moments with your other half before family and friends arrive can really help to settle the nerves and take the pressure off the remaining part of the day. It can also allow for the perfect amount of time for your photography and videography team to capture and document not only your entire wedding party, but the two of you on your most special day. A first look is usually guided by your photographer and set in a way that captures every reaction and detail. Then, we step back and allow you to be by yourselves, while we capture it all.

Typically, if a couple decides to do a first look, here’s how an example timeline would flow from the first look to the reception (Please note this is for a first look, ceremony and reception all held at the same location):

Sample Timeline- First Look Included

3:00pm-3:45pm: First look, Bride and Groom images only

3:45pm-4:30pm: Wedding party images with Bride and Groom, including individuals with Bride and each Bridesmaid, Groom and each Groomsman, Bride and Bridesmaid group images, Groom and Groomsmen group images, full wedding party images.

4:30pm-5:00pm: Photography break for wedding party; Bride and Groom are hidden from guests arriving and photographer(s) prepare for ceremony.

5:00pm-6:00pm: Ceremony

6:00pm: Cocktail Hour begins.

6:00pm-6:10pm: Marriage license signing

6:10pm-6:40pm: Family Formals

7:00pm: Grand Entrance (Time to partay…!)

I never encourage my couples to do a first look if it’s something that they are dead-set against for personal reasons (i.e.: religion, tradition, etc.), but it’s my duty as their storyteller to inform them of how their photography and videography time will be limited if they don’t properly plan their day in advance. For example, what if a couple already sets their ceremony, cocktail hour and grand entrance time prior to speaking with their photographer about their day? This happens. How would the above timeline allow for any beautiful portraits of the Bride and Groom, let alone the entire wedding party with them? If you would like to stick with tradition, I’m all for that. I want you to do what makes you happy, comfortable and relaxed on your day. I’m just along for the ride. However, you paid for epic photography and your expectation is epic photography.. So I have to tell you what I need as a visual artist to make that happen. If a first look isn’t an option, your ceremony and reception time gap has to be much larger to accommodate family formals, wedding party images and Bride and Groom portraits before your grand entrance.

Please note: If you have a wedding planner, all of this will be addressed with them when you meet with them. For those of you who are not investing in this service, these are important things to think about.

Here are some things to think about when structuring your day:

  • Are we comfortable with doing a first look? Does this go against our wishes for our day or our values?

  • How big is our wedding party? (Larger wedding parties take more time to photograph, especially if one photographer is photographing everyone).

  • Does my collection have one photographer or two? (This is a whole other topic of conversation and will be featured in another ‘Wedding Day Education’ installment! 🙂 ).

  • How long are we comfortable making our guests wait in between our ceremony ending and our cocktail hour starting? Are we okay with a multi-hour break?

  • Where do we want to take photos? (If your ceremony and reception are in different locations, you may want to travel to different locations for photography. Keep in mind that your travel time is going to be added into your break between ceremony and reception if you’re not doing a first look).

  • What is most important to us? (This seems like a no-brainer question, but if the portraits of you and your future spouse are everything to you, then you need to allow for time to create them).

I find that I wear many hats in my role as a photographer, but I think one of the most important hats is the one of client educator and expectation-setter (I totally just made up the term ‘expectation-setter’). For many clients, this is their first time planning a wedding. If they don’t have a wedding planner, it can seem daunting, overwhelming and scary. But it doesn’t have to be! This day should be the least-stressful thing you’ll ever do. Think about that for a moment… I stand behind that statement for the most obvious reason; You are marrying your soulmate and that’s the least stressful thing ever. We all just make it so much harder than it needs to be.

One of my goals as your storyteller is and has always been to educate as much as possible and to then set expectations for the time that has been allotted to tell your story. I find when people know what to expect, they take action to meet those exceptions and everything falls into place. As someone once told me, success in anything always lies in the details.

I hope that this has been helpful! As always, each and every one of my clients knows my ‘Open Door Policy’. If you have a question, need to talk logistics, are unsure and need some advice- I’m just a phone call or an email away.

Take care and next time I’ll give you all the deets on one photographer vs. two.


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