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Should I do a first look? Things to consider for your DC wedding day-of schedule | helpful hints series

Many of my couples are the alternative, DIY-spirited type, and so I often find myself working directly with with the bride and groom to take a hand in shaping their wedding day-of schedule. I love that spirit! But since the vast majority of my couples are planning a wedding for the first time, they usually have lots of questions about how to plan out their day. From a photography standpoint, there are two big up-front considerations that usually dictate what the day will look like:

  • Do you as a couple want to do a first look, or do you want to wait until after the ceremony to do portraits?
  • What time is sunset, and are sunset pictures important to you?

A first look is when a couple see each other before the wedding ceremony. This is done alone, away from your wedding party, and it is a moment shared by just the two of you.

Whether or not to do a first look is a highly personal, emotional decision for my couples. No matter what they choose, I fully support their decision and commit to taking the absolute most stunning pictures of their day!

There are a couple of reasons my couple choose not  to do a first look, and that's wonderful:

  • It's tradition. And let's face it, tradition is sometimes really important. The number one reason my couples tell me they're going without a first look is they don't want to spoil the "walking down the aisle moment". 
  • Some of us just aren't morning people. A first look generally front-loads the day a little bit more -- you'll need to be ready earlier in the day so that you can take photos before the ceremony. If you're doing other photos before the ceremony, that's probably not such a big deal. But if you're just not a morning person, saving all of your portraits until after the ceremony lets you get a little extra zzzz's for your big day.

On the other side of the coin, there are several reasons more and more of my couples seem to be choosing first looks:

  • You want to savor the emotion and enjoy alone time before the ceremony. I hear it from my couples over and over again: their wedding day was a blur. A happy, amazing blur spent with all of their family and friends. But how much time do you otherwise get to spend just with your amazing partner? Traditionally, not much.  But with a first look, you are alone and it's private. This means you can embrace each other. You can cry without worrying about your makeup running down your face. You can laugh. You can kiss. You can actually talk to each other and tell one another how excited you are to get married. You can do whatever feels right. Without 30-300 other people around. And no couple of mine has ever expressed to me that seeing each other before made the walking-down-the-aisle moment any less spectacular.
  • You can get all of your portraits out of the way before the ceremony. Usually, wedding party and family portraits follow a first look in a wedding day-of schedule. Want to wrap up photos before the ceremony and the just kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride? A first look is probably for you.
  • You want to kill your nerves.  My couples tell me over and over again that their first look helped calm their nerves and settle their stomachs before walking down the aisle. So if you're a big mess of nervous energy, a first look might be for you. :)
  • You want to be at cocktail hour. By holding a first look, you clear up a solid 30-45 minutes of portrait time that would otherwise need to happen during cocktail hour... so you can grab a drink and spend more time with your guests. Bonus!
  • More flexibility, less stress. God forbid things be running behind schedule (grandma had trouble finding the venue, an errant groomsman forgot his shoes (it's happened!), scheduling more photos before the ceremony gives us flexibility that, if need be, we can step out from cocktail hour and do those photos we missed earlier. Built in buffer time!

And finally...

  • Sunset. Sunlight: it's valuable stuff. Especially if your wedding isn't during high summer, you'll likely want to do a quick check of when sunset is on your wedding day, and plan accordingly. How do we get the dreamy, warm photos that are my calling card? By scheduling 15-20 minutes of couple's portraits for the time just before sunset. And ideally, you'll want to make sure all formal group shots are taken in daylight -- grandma and Aunt Dottie may not look their best in flash photography. :)
sunset wedding kiss DC wedding photographer

Whatever you choose -- to do a first look or not -- any self-respecting photographer will celebrate and document beautifully. It's really a matter of personal choice!  Beyond these considerations, all of my wedding clients receive a sample day-of timeline and quick list of timing considerations during our consultation to help make planning easier.  Have questions I didn't answer here about whether a first look is right for you and your partner?  Contact me, and I'd love to help you figure it out!

More to read in the helpful hints series

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