Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
If you’re engaged and planning your wedding, it’s most likely the first wedding you’ve ever planned, but it certainly isn’t ours! Over the years we’ve worked on dozens of weddings, and have learned exactly how long each aspect of a wedding day takes – from getting ready photos to your husband and wife sunset portraits. We’ve also learned a lot about when things should happen, and in what order, and ways to make them go as efficiently as possible.
This summer, we’ll be spilling all our secrets and giving out a bunch of advice to help you build your perfect wedding photography timeline! This week, we’re tackling one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of planning a robust wedding photography timeline: the First Look.
In case you aren’t familiar with the “First Look”, it’s a moment that’s become common to wedding days in recent years where the bride and groom see each other in a quiet and intimate moment before the ceremony. It’s a sort of “big reveal” just a few hours before they meet again at the end of the aisle. The bride often walks up behind her groom, then taps him on the shoulder, at which point he turns around and beholds his bride in all her splendor. We love this moment for a lot of reasons, and the first is its intimacy and privacy.
You may not have thought about it yet, but on your wedding day, you’ll spend the first half of the day apart, usually getting ready with your respective wedding parties. Then, from the ceremony until the send-off at the end of the reception, you’ll be the center of attention – every single one of your 50 or 100 or 200 guests will have their eyes on you. Even your husband and wife portraits, the only time that some couples are alone with their photographers on their wedding day, has an agenda: take great photos!
But the First Look is different; at Hunter and I’s weddings, we reserve that moment for our couple and us exclusively – no family, no friends – and there’s no agenda at all. It’s often the only unscripted moment that our couples share together during the entire day without anyone else present.
It’s not uncommon for our bride or our groom (or both) to cry when they first see each other. There’s always some very warm embraces, lots of kisses, and lots of “Oh my gosh you look STUNNING!”. And we know our couples are always happy to have this moment together, alone. We’ve even had couples read private letters to each other, or exchange their hand-written wedding vows during this quiet moment together before the ceremony, which left not only the two of them, but also Hunter and I as well with tears in our eyes.
Another reason we love the First Look is because it helps immensely for our couples when they’re nervous. Week after week as we capture First Looks, we literally watch as nerves melt away in front of us. When our bride and groom are finally in each other’s arms, they seem to relax for the first time all day (usually in the form of huge sighs of relief and relaxed shoulders for the first time in hours).
We know for a lot of our couples, their soon-to-be-spouse is their rock or their Constant in an uncertain world, and just being in the presence of the other has a profoundly calming effect. We’ve watched brides go from “I think I’m going to throw up” to cool-as-a-cucumber within just a few minutes, thanks to a First Look.
If you or your partner struggles with a touch of anxiety or nerves at times, or hates being the center of attention (which you will be, especially during your ceremony), then the First Look might be a huge asset to you both on your wedding day. Plus, if your wedding day makes you nervous, wouldn’t you enjoy it 10X more if you got to share more of it with your partner?!
When Hunter and I got married back in 2017, we hadn’t photographed very many First Looks. Up to that point in our career, most of our couples had kept the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony. We have VERY few regrets from our wedding day, but not doing a First Look is one of them.
When our couples ask us why, Hunter usually tells them about standing at the end of the aisle, watching me slowly escorted down the aisle by my dad. He tells of how his first reaction was to run down the aisle and pick me up off my feet in a big, spinning hug. We wanted to hug, to kiss, to embrace, to ask how the morning had been and how the other was feeling. He wanted to tell me how beautiful I looked and that I was right about the choice of ceremony site.
But… we were in the middle of our wedding ceremony. Instead of the 360-degree bear hug, Hunter stood, hand-over-hand, next to the Pastor and his groomsmen, and he gave me a smile. Then we continued the ceremony.
We know from the testimony of our couples that the wedding ceremony doesn’t lose any of its specialness with a First Look timeline. In fact, we’ve seen grooms break down in tears during the ceremony just hours after their first look! But we missed that intimate and private moment that we’ve since been able to capture for so many of our couples. As we reflect on our decision to skip the First Look, we always wonder why we did. Sure, tradition is important in any culture, but that’s not a very good reason to keep tradition for tradition’s sake, especially if we have to give up something so incredibly special in exchange for it.
The thing is, we just didn’t know about the First Look and all of its benefits. But now we do. And that’s why we always recommend it to each one of our couples. If all of these reasons we’ve mentioned still aren’t enough, keep in mind that since you and your special someone have seen each other before the ceremony, it allows for some really cool manipulations to your wedding photography timeline. But we’ll get to that in the weeks to come 😊
The fundamental reason we speak to all of our couples about the First Look is because we don’t expect them to understand the ins and outs of planning a wedding photography timeline, or the pros and cons of each aspect. It’s your first wedding, after all! It is, however, certainly not ours.
That’s why we build a custom Recommended Wedding Photography Timeline for each and every one of our couples the moment they book with us. Even if it’s April and their wedding isn’t until October the following year, we look at their venue and it’s rules, the sunset on their wedding day, and their personal desires and vision for the day (like whether or not they want a First Look, for example), and build them a Recommended Wedding Photography Timeline.
Even if it’s 18 months before their wedding they already have a great start on their timeline! And it isn’t one they randomly found on Pinterest or worked for their friend’s wedding – it’s a professional created time by us, their own photographers, informed by all their preferences and our years of wedding photography experience. Plus, it communicates to them how long we know each aspect of their wedding day will take, and we’ll have enough time to get the images that they hired us for. It’s a real win-win for everyone!
If you’d like to chat with us about your own wedding day, or learn more about our Wedding Photography services, click here!