Wedding season is approaching again–which is hard to believe since it’s currently 20 degrees out with a bitterly cold wind–and I am working with many spring brides to put together and finalize their wedding day timelines. While there are many factors that go into each couple’s timeline, I want to start by showing a sample timeline, which is really my ideal breakdown of a wedding day.
Since 95% of my couples share a First Look on their wedding day, I’ve based my ideal timeline off of being able to do all portraits prior to the ceremony. And while I’ve listed out all the “steps” above in the graphic for the ideal wedding day, I thought I should point out these time totals so you know how much time to expect even if your day won’t look exactly like the timeline shown. (For example, if you are not sharing a First Look and planning on doing all portraits after the ceremony, you’ll want to plan a longer cocktail hour (and a half) for your guests.)
I love First Looks. I love them because, as a bride, I remember spending the morning getting my hair and makeup done, then getting into my gown and feeling so excited; it was my dream gown. I remember sliding into my high heels and buckling the clasps. I remember fastening my veil and touching up my lipstick.
But I also remember feeling unbalanced. Like I was so excited, but my excitement felt lonely because I wasn’t sharing it with my best friend. The moment I saw Kevin though, everything felt so right and beautiful and perfect. The excitement of our wedding day could finally be shared. Because we had our First Look, we were able to relax and spend the majority of the day together as a result.
Now I’m a wedding photographer and the biggest reason I love First Looks is because I remember my own experience. I want my clients to enjoy their wedding day together like we were able to. I want them to be able to shed those jitters and to hang out together. I want them to be able to hug and kiss and tell each other how amazing they look. I want them to spend this wonderful, important day with all of their family and friends, but most importantly, with their best friend, with the person they feel most comfortable with.
So what is a First Look? A First Look is a private moment prior to the ceremony when the bride & groom see each other for the first time. What results is that they can spend the majority of the day together and also complete their portraits ahead of the ceremony, which frees up time afterwards for cocktail hour and the reception. Because of the way a First Look affects their wedding day timeline, my couples who choose the First Look end up getting more time for photos, which wonderfully results in more photos!
Since 95% of my couples share a First Look, I asked some of my past couples to share their experiences.
Andrea: “I didn’t want to do a first look, but I wasn’t totally against it. In my head, I really wanted the first time we saw each other to be when the doors opened and I was walking down the aisle – I was worried that by having a first look it would take away from that moment. We ended up doing a first look because of timing. Our ceremony was later in the afternoon and with how much time we were going to have in between the ceremony and the reception, it was going to cause a lot of rushing around – which was the last thing I wanted. My number one goal for the day was to keep us, our families and our bridal party happy and calm – and rushing around was going to make that hard to accomplish. We ended up moving all family photos to before the ceremony, and before family photos James and I did our first look. It was actually really amazing. I loved that we had some time for just the two of us – because we didn’t have that again until hours later after the reception, when we were tired and ready to crash. It was a perfect time to just talk about all that was coming up in the day, and share how our mornings went. I loved it. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It kept the day moving nicely, gave us a rare private moment, and didn’t take away from the moment I walked down the aisle – it was less nerve wrecking, but still really special.”
Stephanie: “My husband and I didn’t really have to debate on a first look, we just both kinda wanted one. I think it is such a special moment to share with each other. The day is so crazy and hectic (in a good way!) that looking back, this was one of the few moments we had that was just so intimate and raw. Once we saw each other, all the nerves and jitters just melted away. Emily was there capturing the moments, but honestly, there could have been 100 people there and we wouldn’t have noticed anything because were were just so in the moment with each other. The whole day is spent celebrating with family and friends and this is just such an important moment to have between the two of you.”
James: “I thought the first look process was a nice way to spend a bit of one-on-one time with my soon-to-be wife ahead of the ceremony. It allowed us a chance to see each other ahead of the ceremony and certainly made the moment she entered the sanctuary less nerve-wracking (for me, at least). I had supported the idea of the first look and am glad that we ultimately went ahead and did it – I’d certainly do it all over again and would recommend that couples seriously consider it when planning out their big day.”
Emily: “My husband really didn’t want to see me before the ceremony at first. I thought it was romantic that he felt so strongly about it but it also really stressed me out thinking about having to plan for pictures in between the ceremony and the reception. Then we talked to some people who had recently gotten married and they explained that with a first look it can actually be more romantic because it’s such a private moment that the two of you get to share. I’m definitely a more private, reserved person so I loved the sound of that. Eventually I got my husband on board with it too after explaining that to him. We were way less stressed because we didn’t have to worry about the guests waiting and rushing through pictures. The free time we had between the ceremony and reception was then a nice little chance to relax.”
If you’re a bride and groom, I hope you’ll consider sharing a First Look. I have yet to have a couple tell me they regretted spending so much time together on their wedding day.
Wedding albums are something I believe really strongly about. If you doubt me at all, take a look at this entire blog post I dedicated to wedding albums. I think they are absolutely worth the investment to have your wedding day told in a professionally laid out storyboard of images–your images. It is one of the greatest tangible articles you can pass down through your generations. Think for just one moment how much you would treasure your great-grandparent’s wedding album. This is why I place so much value in them.
While I’ve talked about wedding albums a lot, what I’ve written very little about are engagement albums and I think it’s time to shed some light on these beauties as well.
Do I think it’s necessary to have an engagement signing album? Not as much so as a wedding album. However, I do think an engagement album is a stunning way to display your photos (these last professional ones before you are married) and the best kind of signing album you could have at your wedding. The end result is two beautiful albums: one of your engagement photos with well-wishes from your guests and one of your wedding day from start to finish. Together, they are the complete treasure book series of this particular time in your life.
If you are using your engagement album as your signing album at your wedding, I’ll be sure to design the album with lots of white space for people to sign.
These are the beautiful linen colors that you get to choose from your the cover. The album shown above is in “midnight” and I think it complements Liz’s beautiful eyes perfectly!
The Engagement Signing Album is an 8×8 album filled with 20 pages of your session images, designed in a way to leave room for signatures and comments. This album comes wrapped in a beautiful linen cover with the option to have one of your favorite photos inset in the cover.
Everyone tells you to enjoy your wedding day. Soak it in. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy.
And you should!
But then the wedding day is over. You wake up the next morning married to your best friend. Maybe you’re jetting off for your vacation honeymoon right away or maybe you’re putting it off until winter. You’re lying there with thousands of sweet memories floating around in your head as you reminisce about the day before with a smile on your lips.
Now my true job as a storyteller comes into effect. I get the honor of taking the images from your perfect wedding day and putting them into a visual storybook for you. There’s something indescribable about holding a fine art album in your hands and opening the pages to see that fine art album is YOUR wedding day told only in photos.
I have no white walls in my house. Zero. I rented for years before we bought our first home and I was so tired of white that I splashed color everywhere. I have no regrets; I love my walls. I love my dark floors. I love the rich feel of color and warmth in our home.
So when it came to having a white backdrop for photos, I knew I would have to come up with something other than a wall. I saw this brilliant tutorial for a D.I.Y. home studio backdrop, but I didn’t have a space like that available that also had directional window light. The concept stuck with me though and I started looking through our house for another space that could work.
We have a built-in for our TV. It’s not ideal since that puts the TV directly within Henry’s reach (and he is really, really tempted to touch that screen), but it’s there and so that’s that. I realized, however, there’s enough space above that I could rig a roll of white craft paper that would be completely hidden unless I was using it.
I measured the distance across to make sure my wooden dowel and roll of paper weren’t too long for the space. Then I put the roll of paper on the dowel (make sure to buy a dowel that will fit inside your roll), attached 2 key rings to each other, sliding on ring on the dowel and hooking the other ring on the screw hook that I had put into the wall. I got all of my supplies at Hobby Lobby, but you can buy them on Amazon as well or in any other craft store.
Based on the size of this roll of paper and the space I had to work with, I won’t be able to do any large product shoots here, but it is perfect for smaller set ups. If you have a bigger space, get a wider roll of paper and set your hooks up higher!
Here’s what it looks like in use. You can also switch out paper if you want something else (like this or this).
And here’s what it looks like when it’s rolled up. (Enjoy those Halloween-esque fingerprints on the TV, folks. That’s my kid. He particularly loves the peacock logo on NBC.)
Let’s talk about hem weights. You may have never heard of them or, better yet, only heard of them used for curtains.
Hem weights are a brilliant idea for all bridesmaids gowns, but especially so if they are short. Here’s an example of what weighting a dress does when it’s windy.
There are a few options for hem weights:
Individual weights that are sewn into the hem of the skirt like these.
Weighted cord that’s sewn into the entire hem like this.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bridesmaids struggling holding down their skirt, while also carrying their bouquet and trying to smile and not trip down the aisle during outdoor weddings. Even if your wedding ceremony will be inside, most or all of your photos will be outside and those little weights in the hem will be a brilliant save both for modesty and for the final photos.
Also, Duchess Catherine’s dresses (and the Queen’s) have weights sewn into the hems so you know it’s a good idea, paparazzi or not.