First Look Wedding

April 19, 2012

bride and groom against red barn

Today I wanted to re-visit a topic I blogged about a few years ago – the first look! If you don’t remember it you can CLICK HERE to re-read the post- I’ll also be excerpting the main points below. Those of you who read my blog regularly during wedding season know that I’m a huge fan of doing most of the photos before the wedding.

I find it works well for many reasons…..

ENJOY THE MOMENT: Most couples have their ceremony and reception back to back which means once it starts it doesn’t stop until the end! What happened after our ceremony is a bit of a blur to me, but the time I spent with Jeff and the bridal party doing pictures beforehand is all crystal (and happily!) clear. When you see your intended (!) beforehand you really get a chance to fully experience the moment and savor it instead of launching right into the ceremony and greeting your guests. Speaking from experience it is an incredibly intimate and powerful moment.

TIMING – For me this is the biggest (and most practical) reason for seeing each other beforehand. Most couples who take all the photos after the ceremony don’t attend their cocktail hour. Some people don’t mind this, but others really want the time to be with their guests. Basically the more you do before the ceremony, the less there is to do after! I find that once the ceremony is over people really get impatient and often decide it’s not worth the time to do the photos that they’ve requested because they’d rather be hanging out with their friends and family. The other thing I’ve noticed is that when we do photos after, we get through all the bridal party and family portraits and then the bride and groom are just done with photos and want to be with their guests meaning that the quality and diversity of couple pictures tends to not be as strong.

RELAX – There is so much anticipation associated with a wedding that it can be nerve wracking. Before my wedding I was secretly petrified that I would faint out cold during my ceremony (I had a few “incidents” of public fainting in high school). Thankfully I didn’t (but I did have smelling salts on hand just in case!!) but one of the main reasons was when it was time to walk down the aisle I was feeling relaxed – for the last hour I’d been around the one person who always knows how to calm me down and make me happy and I was just excited – it was time to get hitched!

ENJOY YOUR GUESTS – Your family and friends have gathered from near and far to be with you and instead you’re hanging out with me 🙂 By doing the photos beforehand I’m not taking you both away from time with your guests – this is HUGE for me.

LOCATION – Doing the photos beforehand (or between with an extended break) allows you the flexibility of photographing at multiple locations. For example at Jeremy & Meghan’s wedding in 2009 their ceremony was at Fairfield University so we started with portraits of both them and the bridal party there, then we went to the beach where they used to live, then to their favorite bar for a quick refresh (it was 95 out and we had the extra time!!), and finally we ended at the Inn at Longshore where their reception was happening and finished up there with a few more bridal party photos and also family photos….it was great!

DETAILS – Most couples create beautiful details for their ceremony and reception. Typically with a first look we aim to finish up with photos half an hour before the ceremony starts. This allows the bride and groom a short break to freshen up and relax and also allows me to capture the details of your ceremony and reception (if it is at the same place) before your guests arrive and disturb them. It also allows me to create beautiful candid photos of your guests arriving and greeting each other.

LIGHT – For people who are getting married in New England in the fall after the clocks turns back or the winter before the clocks move forward the time of sunset can be a huge factor in deciding whether to do a first look or not. Even in September and early October the days are starting to get shorter so be sure and Google what time the sun will set on your wedding day and then work around that with your timeline. You can’t beat natural light for creating beautiful portraits so I always recommend doing the pictures in daylight!

I’d love to share some testimonials from a few of last year’s couples who decided to do a first look…….

bride and groom against red barn

Chris & Emily: The first look was one of the best decisions we made for our wedding day. When I first read about this option, I was immediately intrigued, after being in weddings where the bride and groom (and the wedding party) missed the post-ceremony cocktail hour because of photos.  It really came down to us not wanting to miss anything on the day that we’d spent months planning. We went ahead with it and it ended up BETTER than we’d imagined. Our first look was maybe even more special than “that moment” at the aisle, because it was just us (and Amanda ;). Any residual nerves or tension immediately went away when Chris and I were able to see one another and talk before the ceremony. Amanda did an amazing job getting pictures of just us then us with our families and the wedding party, all with plenty of time left over to go inside for a few minutes and take a breath before the ceremony. When it came time to walk down the aisle, I was relaxed and so was Chris. After the ceremony, we got to enjoy every single minute of our cocktail hour and reception!  We were able to spend time with our family and friends. One of my absolute favorite pictures of the day is of us during the cocktail hour; where we were so happy and totally at ease. I really feel that the first look allowed us to create the perfect timeline for our day and I can’t recommend it enough!

stonover farm wedding couple

Brett & Amy: Brett and I had several key reasons for wanting to do a First Look rather than the more traditional after the ceremony approach. First, we thought it would be nice (and calming in case we were nervous) to have some time for ourselves before the actual ceremony began and the event began to fly by. Second, we really wanted our family and closest friends to be able to enjoy the cocktail hour and to spend time with their friends and family rather than having to take formal portraits. Third, we were able to take more photos in different locations around our beautiful venue since only our immediate family and wedding party were on site at that time. Fourth, it allowed us to spend some quiet and special time with our family and closest friends. We never questioned doing a First Look, and I am so glad that we did. Everyone was relaxed and having fun, which I think made for perfect pictures. We weren’t rushing through the photos to get to the cocktail hour, which allowed for lots of wonderful photos – both posed and candid, including several of my husband chasing the chickens that decided they wanted to be part of our photo shoot! Finally, we got to enjoy the entire cocktail hour, which was such fun and nice way to see as many of our guests as possible.

first look stowe wedding

Jon & Ali: Jon and I were originally on the fence about having a first look. We’re not particularly traditional, but thought that it may take away from the romance to see each other before the ceremony. Once we weighed the benefits of the ‘first look’ (more time to spend with our guests, comfort that our portraits were already taken) we both agreed that it was the best choice. However, what we didn’t consider was the intimate opportunity it gave us to have a quiet moment to ourselves on a day filled with lots of noise and excitement. Weddings have a way of slipping by, but the first look forces you to stop and appreciate who and what you’re celebrating. We’re so glad Amanda shared her first look experience and that of others, it helped us make the right decision.

shelburne farms wedding

Katie & James: We were both on the fence about doing a First Look, right up until our wedding day! But surprisingly, we were both much more nervous on the big day than we thought we’d be, and were SO relieved to know we’d have a special, private moment to see each other and calm our nerves before standing in front of hundreds of people! We had a special chance to laugh, cry, hug, and reassure each other that felt so much more like “us” than trying to hold it together in public. And I can say that it wasn’t any less special to see my future husband waiting for me at the altar. We would do it again in a heartbeat!

wedding first look

Laura & Zack: Like a lot of little girls, I grew up imagining and longing for the whole walk-down-the-aisle-and-see-each-other-for-the-first time scenario and I had a difficult time imagining it any other way. But as soon as we started to sketch out the logistics of our wedding timeline, our thinking changed, and having a “first look” really became a no-brainer. We knew the night was going to fly by and we wanted to get all of the “business” out of the way before we exchanged vows, so that we could enjoy every moment of our first night as husband and wife. While this decision stemmed out of a logistical need, in the end it served a much bigger purpose. The morning of our wedding, we were separately a bit overwhelmed, anxious and nervous – but all of our worries slipped away when we put our arms around each other and exchanged some comforting words (I mean, there is a reason I married this guy – he puts me at ease)! After our first look, we really began to enjoy the day and it allowed us to relax and take our time posing for photos as a couple and with our families and wedding party. I think we would have felt much more “under the gun” if we planned to take photos after the ceremony – it would have been difficult to know that our guests were at the cocktail party toasting two people who hadn’t yet made it there!


I hope you’ve found this post helpful – I’d be happy to chat with any of my couples who are thinking about a first look and help them come up with a timeline!


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