New England Wedding Photographer

First Look versus Traditional Timeline

Wedding First Look or Traditional

A big decision when planning your wedding day timeline is in regards if you want to do a first look or keep it traditional.

So what is exactly a first look? On a traditional wedding, the groom sees the bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle. This actually comes from the very old days of arranged marriages. The groom would not be allowed to see the bride before the ceremony in case he would  not find her attractive risking change his mind calling off the wedding and creating great shame & bad luck for the bride in finding a new suitor… also, back then, couples were very traditional and not lived together before getting married. So traditions and superstitions aside. Nowadays couples make the decision of when to see each other on the wedding day based on how they want they wedding day to unfold.

A very current trend is for the bride and groom see each other prior to the ceremony, called the first look. This is obviously planned in advance during our wedding day timeline meeting. Choosing the best time and place for the first look, the bride and groom will see each other after the getting ready and prior to the ceremony.

Selecting to do a first look or not is a very personal decision for each couple and it is advised that you take time to consider both options envisioning each scenario with open minds as your day will flow very differently depending on what you choose. There is no right or wrong… read thru and make an informed decision in what is right for you!

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Advantages of a Wedding First Look

We recommend that the first look to be a moment with the couple only. Away from family and bridal party, this is actually the only way that you get to spend quality time together on your wedding day. We normally set the bride or groom looking away and then turn towards each other. Some brides like the idea of having the groom turn before, as she is walking towards him, so he will have the full effect of the walking and embracing. This moment is photographed from far away with our long telephoto lenses, so the bride and groom have total privacy. Some couples cry, some embrace and say something private & special. What makes the first look very special is the opportunity to actually look each other in the eyes and whisper love words to each other without the formalities of the ceremony and 150 people staring at you. After you have your few minutes totally unscripted we will start our photo session for the bride and groom portraits.

Other advantages:

When you are alone, there is a bigger chance that your reactions will be more authentic, this is specially true for grooms that would embarrassed to show emotion in front of all the guests in the ceremony.

Your photos as bride and groom will be a priority being first on the list of events of the day, instead of the squeezed time at the end of cocktail hour by doing it the traditional way.

Hair and Makeup are fresh, perfect for photos! Also there will be time for touch ups prior to ceremony.

Typically we plan a longer session, so you will have a lot more photos as bride and groom, sometimes even utilizing different locations if desired.

Some couples like for the bridal party and immediate family (the VIPs) to join us after 30-45 minutes of your session, so we can get those photos done as well. The VIPs will love this because they will be able to enjoy cocktail hour and mingle with family.

More relax time in front of the camera provides for better photos and a fun time for everybody.

Because most or all of your photos will be done prior to the ceremony, you will be able to enjoy cocktail hour.

Open opportunities for other photos during cocktail hour: Possibility to photograph a sunset mini session later or other group photos, like cousins, college friends, etc

We stop the photo time 30 minutes prior to ceremony. Ample time for bride to be tucked away and freshen up for ceremony. Also, this brake away from one another builds up the anticipation again.

Disadvantage of a First Look

Some people will not see this as a disadvantage, but your day will start about 2-1.5 hours earlier to accommodate the first look.


Keeping it Traditional

If you believe the best option is to keep it traditional, then you also might want to consider the following tips:

Most cocktail hours are 1 hour long, and this is when we will photograph immediate family, bridal party and bride and groom. It is a very tight and rushed schedule and very hard for couples to enjoy picture time. There are 2 ways around this problem:

1- If your ceremony and reception are at the same venue, we recommend to have your cocktail hour be 1.5 hours. By extend a bit you will be able to accommodate all your family/ bridal party groupings and a good 20-30 minutes session for the bride and groom. Possibly time to spare depending on the size of your bridal party and family photos.

2- If your ceremony and reception are at different venues, we recommend that you delay a bit your start time for cocktail hour, giving a bit of a gap (1 hour is good). Make sure to reserve this time for photos only, travel times should be considered separately.

Example: Your ceremony ends at 4pm and travel to the reception venue is 30 minutes: Have your cocktail hour from 5:30-6:30pm. Guests like this because they can enjoy themselves and not rush to the cocktail hour. This is most likely to allow plenty of time for photos and to enjoy the cocktail hour.


The best Wedding Day Timeline

As I mentioned above, there is not a formula that works for all couples. You must choose the best wedding day timeline for “you”. Take in consideration your wants for photos and lets craft a timeline that balances photo time, quality time with your loved ones and time for you to enjoy your party.


Next article shows a sample of a First Look timeline. You can read all tips for Wedding Timeline Planning