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If there's anything you should be afraid of, it's NOT your own wedding! I have talked to SO many brides who are just stressed out of their minds. The blogs tell them how to have a wedding. Their family tells them. Their friends who got married last year tell them. Even random strangers have opinions on how they should get married.
So as someone who's been around a LOT of weddings, let me give you a few tips on how to keep your wedding planning happy and stress free. ;)
Pick Your Top 3
Unless you have an unlimited budget, you simply can't have it all. But that is NOT a bad thing! When you can't have everything, you're forced to decide what's truly important to you. Then what you are able to really focus your money and energies on, you appreciate so much more.
Before you start buying, reserving, and booking, sit down and decide what the top three aspects of your wedding are. For me personally, it was the photographer (yeah, shocker I know!), the dress, and the flowers. My budget went in that order too. Anything outside of that, I made sure was the more budget option, DIY-ed or just skipped.
On your wedding day, you should not be the point person for anything. I repeat, NO ONE SHOULD BRING ANY PROBLEMS TO YOU ON YOUR WEDDING DAY! Your only job is being blissfully happy and enjoying every moment. So whether it's a bridesmaid, mother, friend, or hired coordinator, you need to have a person that knows everything (you can even give them a binder with the info from all your vendors) so that any questions or problems that may come up are directed to them and not you. Seriously. Just get some help. ;)
It's Literally About You
The whole point of a wedding is to celebrate 2 people coming together in marriage for the rest of their lives. So if a celebration to you and your fiance feels like an elegant, candlelit dinner for 30 of your closest friends and family, do that. If it's fun food trucks and dancing under the stars with 300 people, then do that! If it's just the two of you eloping in the jungles of Puerto Rico, do that (and take me with you!)
Use Inspiration Sparingly
There are so many articles on wedding blogs telling you everything that you NEED to have, that everything is crucial to your wedding, but they have to. Their advertisers sell everything wedding related under the sun and they won't be too happy if the blog suddenly tells brides that all they need to get married is a marriage license. So while blogs, pinterest, instagram, magazines, etc. can be super helpful at finding inspiration for your own priorities, don't let it shift them or make you suddenly feel unhappy that you can't have a gigantic wall of peonies, an elopement to Iceland or a celebrity DJ at your reception. Use inspiration, don't let it use you.
When did we suddenly start a wedding competition? If comparison is the thief of joy, then it has NO place at our weddings! There are so many unique people and circumstances around each wedding that there is no possible reason to compare them. What matters is that you are in love and have a beautiful moment promising that love to each other! I've had people ask me what my 'best wedding' was, and I honestly didn't know what to say. Is there some ranking criteria that I'm not aware of? Does whoever get the most instagram likes win? Why on earth would you want to make something as beautiful, and meaningful as a wedding be part of some bizarre popularity contest? Ok, I'm off of my soapbox now. But seriously, guys, it's NOT a competition!
What Really Matters
When my grandparents got married, it was a little bit spur of the moment. My grandpa was about to be deployed during WWII and they decided to get married before he left. My grandma bought a white dress, wore it to a few dances before her wedding (such a little rebel!), and they were married at a friend's home and had cake afterwards. The only photo from their wedding (see below) was actually from their honeymoon. No one took a single photo of their wedding. (Insert all my wedding photographer nightmares here!)
Though they did regret not having any photos, the point is that for a wedding, all you need is to get married. My grandparents' wedding would be almost shocking in modern america, though it was pretty much the norm in their time. They were happily married for over 50 years, so I think that counts as proof that all you need is each other.
As fun and beautiful as all the invitations, decorations, photography, dresses, and flowers are, you don't need them. All you need is love, commitment to your marriage, and to enjoy your wedding day as the exciting start of all that! #DontStressOut
Let me start by saying this is in no way complaining about my clients who chose not to do a first look. Your wedding day is just that, YOURS, and you should do things in exactly the way that feels right to you. This post is more about making sure that you make an educated decision, whatever you choose. So on with the show!
There are lots of strong feeling about whether or not to do a first look. Should the couple see each other before the ceremony or wait until the bride walks down the aisle? I personally am firmly in the first look camp (for reasons I'll explain in a minute) but I totally get why the idea of waiting til the ceremony feels extra magical.
But before you decide that waiting til the ceremony is romantic and first looks are dry and practical, let me show you why having a first look can be one of the best decisions for your whole wedding. Prepare to have your mind BLOWN! ;)
It's Like A Having A Time Machine
When you do a first look, you literally multiply your time. It seems like a small thing but the choice of when to see each other has a snowball effect on the rest of your day. If you wait until the ceremony, you have to fit any photographs that include both the bride and groom into the time between the ceremony and reception. Even with a cocktail hour, you can probably only keep the guests happy for about an hour before you reappear. If you're looking for great full bridal party shots, portraits for both family sides in many different combinations, as well as creative shots of the couple, it's not going to happen in an hour. If you do a first look, you can choose whenever you want photos to be. You could do everything before the wedding and have a quiet moment right after the ceremony, or you could use that time for family photos and make it much easier to get wrangle everyone together.
It's So Romantic
Depending on your personality, meeting your future husband with just the two of you (and a super discreet photographer) can be a lot more romantic than when you're surrounded by a lot of people. I don't know about you, but I'm able to enjoy the moment better when I'm not simultaneously worried about tripping, forgetting my vows, or ugly crying. When it's just the two of you, you can call all the shots and not worry about time or what anyone thinks. So ugly cry all you want because there's plenty of time for makeup touchups, go for a walk together (I might hide in the bushes for pictures), play a special song/read a letter to the other person, or just stand and hug for a really long time. It's totally up to you, and you don't have to worry about Grandma getting photos of you french kissing. ;)
You Get Photos That Are More 'You'
If you do a first look, you're able to be much more relaxed in your portraits. It gives you time to go to another location by yourselves, away from the rest of the craziness of wedding prep, and you don't have to worry about whether or not you're late for anything. And for people that are a little more private about PDA ;), it's a lot easier to be romantic when Aunt Edna isn't standing behind the photographer with her cell phone giving directions. (Believe me, it's happened!) Also when you have that magical extra time, you can get to have more variety in your photos and the walking around, which helps to loosen you up and unfreeze the camera-face-perma-grin back into lovestruck and relaxed.
It Can Beat The Weather
Here in Florida, if we're going to have the weather turn rainy/gray/cloudy/thundering, it's often later in the day. When the couple's portraits are literally the last thing before the reception, you're running a bit of a gamble. Also sun, guys. SUUUUUUNNNN!!! I need it to take beautiful pictures. In fact the word 'photograph' literally means drawing with light. So if the sun sets at 6:20 and your ceremony is done at 5:30, it can be trouble. I have seen too many times where it's been nice all day but the couple's photos have been shortened, uncomfortable or almost non-existent because it was too dark, too wet, or too cold. Even if there's weather earlier in the day, a first look can be moved wherever you need it to be when that bit of sunshine or break in the rain comes. If anything is going to be pushed to the end of the list, I don't want it to be the photos that you'll be hanging on your wall.
It Makes Your Photographer Happy
Let's face it, when you give your photographer more time, you give yourself better photos. When I'm not stressing about how the heck am I going to squeeze in an entire weddings worth of portraits into an hour, I'm able to produce much more creative, emotional work. I really have no problems dealing with whatever challenges come up on a wedding day, but my work is always better when I get more time and less people standing around waiting patiently, or not so patiently, for me to finish.
So yes, I'm biased because doing a first look makes my job WAY easier. Most importantly, though, it's a huge help in making your wedding day go smoothly and helping you to soak up every beautiful minute!
*UPDATE: Since I posted this, I had many comments from brides about this and just wanted to share a couple with you.
"The first look was one of my absolute favorite moments of the entire day! I'm so thankful you encouraged us to do it"
"Ok...I did not expect to be convinced by your argument, but you totally just changed my mind! I want to redo my wedding for MANY reasons, but this adds one more! Ha! It WAS magical seeing my husband for the first time at the end of the aisle, but in hindsight...I think this may be exactly the thing I needed that day."
"Some of my favorite memories from my wedding day were during the photo shoot before the wedding! I loved the first look aspect and I also loved all the extra time hanging out with our bridal party!"
So what do you think? First look or no? Let me know in the comments. :)