We know one of the most challenging parts of your wedding day is planning the timeline and considering a First Look. Luckily for you we have a lot of experience in this department and we like to share! We’ve been shooting weddings off and on for several years, and over the last five years decided to work on turning our passion into our full time career. And we’ve learned A LOT. Most questions that we get from our couples are about their wedding day timeline and how it’s all supposed to work. “How do we maximize our time on our day and ensure that everything goes smoothly?” We are going to share our personal experiences and a few ideas for you to consider, we hope you find it helpful!
When we got married 14 years ago (before we knew that we would one day become wedding photographers ourselves), our photographer had no advice to give us on whether or not we should do a first look or what that even was, its not an option we considered because we didn’t even know it existed. So we didn’t see each other before our ceremony with no information given to us about what another options would mean for us and for our day and the memories we would make. This was one of our biggest regrets of our wedding day, for us. Our couples portrait session on our own wedding day was tired, because we were tired. It was the end of the day, the sun was almost down, our guests were leaving and all of our emotional charge was already spent. Honestly we were just thinking about what to grab for dinner because we didn’t get a chance to eat hardly anything all day long, plus I really couldn’t breath in my dress much less eat, lol! But looking back, we had very little to no time together, for us, on our wedding day. We wish our photographer would’ve told us the benefits in seeing each other first. So we just want to at least put some information out there, and then you can choose what is best for you.
Here are three options that directly effect your wedding day timeline that we think everyone should consider:
In case you don’t already know, a first look means that you and your fiancé see each other shortly before the ceremony. It is also an added special moment in the day for just the two of you. So much of your wedding day, that was designed with your relationship in mind is spent with and for other people. Which is great, because these are the people who support, encourage and influence your relationship. But it’s also nice to be able to carve out some memorable moments for just the two of you on this most important day in your history together. Doing a first look is such a sweet candid moment to have documented, these raw emotions are not something most people ever get to witness in their own relationship unless its photographed and/or filmed. Many couples have also opted to use this time to privately read letters they’ve written to each other or say a prayer together.
Many people dismiss this first look option simply because it doesn’t hold true to the tradition of not seeing each other before ceremony. But consider this: Seeing each other for the first time before the ceremony does not take away from that sweet moment that you may be anticipating. You’ve been dreaming of seeing each other from across an aisle covered in rose petals. With a first look you still have that same exact moment with all the same emotions coursing in your veins, it just means that it will be a more private experience. During your vows the expectation is to stand still and be quiet for the ceremony, but at a first look you can talk to each other and touch and hold each other without dozens or even hundreds of onlookers. Every single one of our couples that has opted for a first look has told us that it calmed their nervousness before the ceremony and that they were more able to enjoy the ceremony time itself without the presence of overwhelming nerves.
This option also lends itself to a more relaxed timeline for you and your guests. Opting for a first look means that couples portraits can take place earlier in the day which means less down time for your guests between ceremony and reception. And you can get to your reception and dance the night away with your guests sooner. Generally speaking, wedding guests don’t love the time between ceremony and reception if it carries on for hours due to photos being taken. From their viewpoint, they’re just waiting on your return to carry on with the festivities. We typically take and hour or less after the ceremony for family portraits and a few golden hour shots. We love to wisp our couples away for just a few minutes during that dreamy golden hour light to get that ooey gooey romantic stuff…because gold.
If you do want a first look, we advise holding your ceremony about 2 to 2.5 hours before sunset (depending on ceremony length). Check what time the sun is supposed to go down on your wedding date before you set this in stone. We use wolframalpha to get a good general idea of when sunset will occur on your day, just type “sunset on day/month/year plus the location”.) Holding your ceremony at this time in the day is great because it allows for a more relaxed pace for you and all your guests throughout the whole day.
When thinking about skipping a first look, consider this: No first look means that you will need to budget into your wedding day timeline about an hour for couples portraits after your ceremony on top of the 30-45 minutes already needed for formal family and bridal party portraits. This means you should communicate with your guests and vendors that you won’t be turning up to your reception for about an hour and a half or sometimes 2 hours after your ceremony, if there are many combinations of formal family photos. Cocktail hour(s) with hors d’oeuvres, games and music to entertain is definitely suggested to get your guests to stick around and enjoy themselves. This also means an earlier ceremony time to allow for all the photos that will be taken after the ceremony but before the sun goes down, (we recommend planning a ceremony with no first look about 3 hours before sunset and avoiding noon for an outdoor ceremony time, as it is the least flattering light of any given day). If you’re still feeling tied to tradition and skipping a first look is the right decision for you, that is great and we fully respect that. We have shot many beautiful weddings with no first look and will provide the same quality of photos that you love us for. We just want you to keep these things in mind so that you don’t end up planning for a later ceremony only to run out of light and time before you ever even get your couples portraits taken.
If choosing when to take couples portraits on your wedding day sounds too rushed and complicated to fit into your day, you could always opt out all together. Hear us out. Enjoy your entire wedding day and everyone in it while we shoot more candidly with very minimal time dedicated for couples photos. Just book your couples wedding portraits with us for another day all together! (This option is an add on and is exclusively for clients who have already booked us for their wedding day photography.) The benefits here are: no added stress to your timeline, a slower more relaxed pace to your already busy wedding day, and you can take these photos Where. Ever. You. Want. Couldn’t book that big fancy venue you’ve always dreamed of? Lets instead hike to the most beautiful spot you could desire. Or even better, lets take your wedding photos destination style on your honeymoon, where you are the most relaxed you’ll likely be in your entire life surrounded by picturesque vistas and the love of your life. We can arrange for a few quick shoots throughout the duration of your honeymoon so as not to intrude on your time together. I mean, when else are you going to take photos like that? All you have to do is slip into that gorgeous gown once more, but we’re pretty sure no bride ever was upset about that.
Every wedding day is different and we still learn something new at every single wedding and things still come up that haven’t before. These are approximate time frames that may vary from wedding to wedding. And keep in mind that a timeline isn’t a guarantee to the client or the photographer, but more of a planned guideline to help make your day run smoothly. There will always be things that pop up or people who run late, or weather that changes the plan entirely. Always expect the unexpected and roll with it! We always like to remind our clients, that no matter what you choose, or if there are hiccups to the timeline, The most important thing is that you’re marrying your best friend and the rest of it is just part of your story.
Share in the comments below if you have any thoughts or questions on this subject. Or share about your own experience if you’re already married. Did you do a first look? Did you know what a first look is? Are you still happy with that decision? We’re not trying to tell anyone they are right or wrong, you have to make your plans based on whats in your heart. We’re simply providing the information we wish we had back then. If you have any questions feel free to send us a message on our Contact Us. Happy Planning!
Take a look at several weddings that had a first look:
Adam & Priscilla
For more helpful tips check out this blog on: Best Man Tips