Why I’m Doing a First Look

Last week I shared something I feel is super important to brides since I know it can be SO overwhelming…planning the timeline for your wedding day. In that post I shared two different timelines; one for a wedding day that includes a First Look, and one that is the more traditional layout for the day. As a photographer, I hear about the “First Look” constantly, so it’s SO easy for me to forget that not everyone knows what that is! So today I wanted to take a step back and share a little more about what a first look is and why Dustin and I will be doing one on our wedding day in September.

A “First Look” is similar to what it sounds – seeing one another before the ceremony, but in a private place. That means, yes, your groom will have seen you by the time you are walking down the aisle. Some couples shy away from the idea because it’s so opposite of tradition, but there are several reasons why they are so beneficial. However, they are definitely not for everyone and it’s more than okay! It’s simply a more modern option with many benefits for both you, your fiance, and the flow of the day. Also, you may see in these images that a few friends and family were watching this couple from the second story of the barn. That’s not typical, but this couple was really into that and the friends and family were extremely respectful and never said a word.

I knew from the beginning that this is something Dustin and I would be doing on our wedding day. I wasn’t sure what he would think, but he’s so go-with-the-flow that his response was basically, “Okay, honey. Whatever makes you happy.” Now as it’s getting closer and I’ve shown him pictures to help him understand how it works, he’s so excited. Not all grooms are that nonchalant about it, though, so it’s a decision that you have to make together as a couple.

Here’s why we’re doing a first look:

1. Nerves! This is the biggest thing for me. I know I’m going to be so excited that my nerves will take over and ruin the joy of walking down the aisle. I really don’t like being in front of large crowds or being the center of attention, so it’s against my nature to have somewhere around 150 eyes all on me. I want to be able to enjoy that moment…to soak in that all of my friends and family are there and they’re all supporting this new chapter in our lives. I want to look at my handsome fiance and be overwhelmed with joy, not nervousness. I know that seeing Dustin beforehand will calm these nerves. He’s my rock, and being able to have a few minutes alone with him to share in the excitement of the day will help the rest of the day be so much more enjoyable for us.

2. Privacy! Like I mentioned – I really don’t like being the center of attention. So it’s absolutely perfect to get some private time with the person I love most in the world, the person who this whole day is centered around for me. We get to experience something so powerful and emotional together, alone, and without the “noise” of people around us. He gets to see me as a bride for the first time and not have to worry about letting his emotions go. They just can. We can hug and be close to one another and literally just feel the presence of us and nothing else. 

3. Additional portraits, and the power of the moment on camera. Typically for a first look, your photographers are present, but they put on their long lenses and stand back so that the couple so that they have privacy and feel alone. This is SUCH a powerful moment – one that you definitely want to remember in pictures. Grooms cry. Brides cry. The emotion is so raw, real, and genuine. I can’t wait to see Dustin’s uninhibited response to seeing me as a bride. I can’t wait to tell him how handsome he looks as a groom. Also, we get to soak in this awesome feeling alone for a bit longer after we initially see each other, since our photographer will spend 15-20 minutes getting some additional pre-ceremony portraits of us. Portraits are important to me, so this additional time to get these “oh my gosh we’re about to be married” feelings on camera – so awesome!

4. Scheduling! Having a first look allows you to get wedding party and immediate family portraits out of the way before the ceremony. Know what that means? You’re getting to the party sooner! Why keep your guests waiting? Why prolong the CELEBRATION! By having a first look, there’s very little fuss over portraits after the ceremony, if at all, and you get to either have a few more “just married” portraits, or head right on to cocktail hour to mingle with some of your guests before your grand entrance. Win-win! Also – if you are planning a sunset ceremony, that means there will be NO light after your ceremony, which means family formals will have to be shot with flash. And your portraits! Talk about blah. I’m primarily a natural light photographer and all of the portraits you see on my website are shot in natural light, so you won’t be getting what I’m truly best at. I try to only break out the flash when I have to for the reception. So any opportunity we have to shoot in natural light is a good thing, and in this case, a first look solves this big scheduling problem!

5. Just the two of us. Think about it. This is literally some of the ONLY time on your entire wedding day that you get to just be together. Just the two of you. The wedding day FLIES by. Why not take advantage of some time to just be present with one another?

5. Back to the walk down the aisle… This feeling isn’t ruined. After the first look, we go our separate ways for a half hour or an hour and the anticipation builds again. There is nothing that can replace seeing each other at the end of the aisle. The gravity of the moment is unlike anything else, so we have zero fear of losing that feeling. Except now the nerves that consumed you before have now transformed into an awareness that lets you soak in everyone around you and their love and support for your new marriage.

Here are two of my favorite blog posts other photographers have written on First Looks, complete with the grooms perspective. They can be found here and here.

Interested in more helpful information just for brides and grooms? I have a special “Tips for Clients” section on my blog!

Britney & Jimmy

Last weekend was another great weekend spent back at home in Maryland, so this week I have so many pretty faces to share 🙂 First are Britney and Jimmy. They’re getting married next year and I’m so excited for their wedding because, obviously, they are incredibly beautiful together and so easy going. We started their engagement session at the home of a generous friend of Britney’s family and I literally could have shot there the entire time. From the gorgeous hill overlooking the creek, to the sailboat so perfectly anchored out, and of course the gorgeous light…it was perfect. But then it got even better, because we spent the last part of the evening soaking up the warmest most perfect sunset along the Patuxent River. Enjoy some of my favorites from Britney and Jimmy’s Solomons Island engagement session! 🙂


St. Simon’s Island Engagement: Jessica & Joe

St. Simon’s Island, a part of the Golden Isles of Georgia, is one of the most beautiful and charming places I’ve ever been in my life. I feel like it’s Georgia’s best kept secret, but probably just because I didn’t grow up around here and it’s new to me. I absolutely love any excuse to get down that way, so when Jessica emailed me about shooting her and Joe’s wedding there this fall, I was so excited. And then twice as excited when she decided to have their engagement session there, rather than Atlanta where they currently live. No offense to you Atlanta, because you’re fun too, but SSI is incredible!

Jessica and Joe were so fun to spend the evening with! Jessica was SO excited, and despite a couple of hiccups in her plans before and during the session, we just rolled along and had a good time 🙂 She and Joe are so funny together…very goofy and themselves, which I love. Jessica wanted to start shooting right in the same area they will say their I Do’s at later this year, so we rocked out her cute little styled setup, and then took in the sunset along the water. Enjoy some of my favorites from their gorgeous evening on St. Simon’s Island!

They included their dog Brody, which of course I was all about! He is the cutest and we were definitely BFF’s from the very beginning.

This is where Jessica and Joe will be getting married in October, and also where they got engaged, so Jessica requested a few silly “re-enactment” photos, which I thought was fun 🙂 Joe totally milked it haha.

Backyard Savannah Wedding : Allie & Tom

There is no sweeter wedding than one rooted in family and tradition. Allie and Thomas chose to be married in a small town just outside of Savannah, in the same church her parents and grandparents were married, and they celebrated their reception in the front yard of a home that has been in Allie’s family for generations. This is the same yard Allie played in as a kid with her cousins (some of whom stood by her side as bridesmaids), so this small town in Georgia has so much significance to not one family but now two, as both families came from near and far to celebrate this marriage on Saturday. And what could make for a better celebration than such a beautiful event planned under the oaks?

I loved every second of being a part of Allie and Thomas’ wedding and know that they have found the perfect fit in one another, and I am so excited to share these images…filled with so much love and joy!

Planning, Coordination and Design: Carlson’s Premiere Events | Florals: Joann’s Florist | Ceremony: Jerusalem Lutheran Church | Reception Venue: Private family home | Bride’s Dress: Sottero and Midgely purchased from Bellisima Bride of Deerfield Beach | Bride’s Shoes: Toms| Bride’s Jewelry: Family pieces| Veil: Heirloom, worn by the mother of the bride | Bridesmaid Dresses: J. Crew | Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse| Makeup: 30 Volume Salon | Ceremony & Cocktail Hour Music: Chris Dooley  | Reception Music: All About You Entertainment | Catering: Savannah Event Catering | Cakes: Savannah’s Hall of Cakes | Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas | Videographer: Still Co.

The full gallery is available for viewing and ordering here.

Belle Terra Wedding : Casie and Matt

There is so much to be said about Casie and Matt’s wedding day but I will try to keep it short and sweet. The most obvious component that comes to mind is how incredibly in love and happy these two are. Their attraction is magnetic and can be felt by everyone around them, and their wedding day was no exception. Matt absolutely adores his bride and you can tell Casie feels like the luckiest girl in the world to be Matt’s wife. They had the most gorgeous weather for their outdoor wedding at Belle Terra in Rome, Georgia, and Casie’s beautiful orange and grey details came together perfectly. I loved that they chose to do a First Look because it gave us so much extra time for fun wedding party portraits and lots of portrait time…which means tons of one-on-one time for the two of them, and the chance to include their dog Mufasa! What a magical way to celebrate the beginning of forever with all of your loved ones 🙂 Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Classey!