I am a marriage & family photographer based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When I'm not editing your photographs, you can find me gardening with my boys or exploring the local hiking trails.
a place for inspiration
More and more engaged couples are considering first looks in lieu of waiting to see each other at the ceremony. With weddings becoming less and less traditional, it seems that people no longer feel like that it’s necessary to wait until the ceremony. As a photographer, I have often encouraged my couples to consider the option because of the benefits that go along with it; calming their nerves, getting them to their cocktail hour, more time and a smoother wedding day. There are many benefits, but that does not mean that it is right for every couple and every wedding day. Let me explain..
Say that your wedding day is going to take place at a church and then at an outside venue. As a result, you’re not able to be at your venue before the ceremony because (1) you do not have enough time to make the trip there before the ceremony or (2) your venue limits the amount of hours you are able to be there before the reception. Chances are that you chose the reception venue for its beauty, so of course you would like your portraits taken there.
If you ask any of my couples, I always recommend that we plan their engagement session for the first or last few hours of sunlight, when light is best. Why then would we choose to do your wedding portraits at solar noon (when the sun is directly overhead) in the middle of the summer? As a professional, I am able to take lovely photographs even then, but why do so when they would be even more magical just a little bit later in the day? This applies even more so if you’re on the fence about the idea and timing after the ceremony is not an issue.
The tradition is important to you. It may make for an easier day (and some sweet moments between you and your new spouse), but you always imagined the first time you saw each other that day would be as you walk down the aisle. You love the idea of him crying his eyes out front of all of your friends and family because he is just. so. blown. away. by your beauty. I am a firm believer that you should always trust your vendors when it comes to decision making regarding timelines and other intricacies of your wedding day, but ultimately it is your wedding day. If you think you would feel a little less magic by doing a first look, don’t do it.
OKAY, now that I may have ruffled a few feathers of those who are pro-first look no matter what, I will explain times that I would recommend a first look and note some things to consider.
My light and soft style is pretty dependent on the available light happening that day and if by the time your ceremony ends it is dark, you are not going to receive photographs that are consistent with my portfolio. I am proficient in nighttime lighting, but it is not my go-to when it comes to couples’ portraits and my guess is that couples don’t hire me if they are looking for that type of style. In this case, I would strongly urge couples to consider the first look.
If you are very uncomfortable being in front of a crowd of people, then a first look might be right for you. When you are in the process of marrying the love of your life, you do not want to be thinking about how nervous you are in front of people. You want to be fully present in the moment and soaking in the fact that your wedding is finally here and happening! A first look could bring with it more clarity when your ceremony actually arrives.
When it comes down to it, 30 minutes to do family photographs can feel like no time at all and if you have a large family (say with steps on both sides and multiple sets of siblings) and 15 minutes for a large party is even more restricted. We take steps together to try to make this section of the day go smoothly, but sometimes it is just hard to control a large group of people. Say someone somehow did not catch the memo to stick around after the ceremony and went to get a drink. Someone had to use the bathroom. The flower girl is having a tantrum. All things combined means we take more than the allotted time and that cuts into the most important photographs.. the ones of the two of you! Time is a precious resource on a wedding day (they FLY by) and a first look can help in having more time to deal with the unknowns that come along with large groups.
Honestly, these are really the only instances where I would push to say that a first look is the right decision for you.
If you have decided on a first look that happens to fall during midday, you can always opt to take 10-15 minutes right around sunset for some additional portraits to ensure you have some with dreamy light. Don’t freak out about your first look either! Any professional should be able to make the most of the light they have. It’s just that the closer to the beginning or end of the day is better and easier to deal with.
Know that with a first look you usually will have more time for portraits. On a day with no first look, we try to take as many photographs as we can before the ceremony, but it still ends up being less time overall. For example, we have total one hour for portraits after the ceremony, which really ends up being 50 minutes since family photographs rarely start as soon as the ceremony ends. So, we have 20 minutes for family photographs, 15 for your bridal party, and 15 for you and your new spouse. That is not much time, but it can be done. Time is a huge factor in why photographers so commonly recommend first looks. Still, you can try to arrange with your venue for more than a one hour cocktail hour if the lack of time concerns you. I usually plan for a full 30 minutes for family, bridal party, and bride & groom portraits for a first look scenario.
Ultimately, I want you to have the best memories of your wedding day possible and decisions like this matter. I would never want one of my couples to feel like they were pushed to make a decision they eventually regretted. Take in the information you are given. Decide what is most important to you. Trust your vendors, but always know that at the end of the day it’s about what you want for your big day (even if that feels uncomfortable to admit!)
June 14, 2018