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Hope Taylor is a photographer specializing in senior portraits serving both Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.


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Creating a Photography-Friendly Wedding Day Part 2: First Looks and Ceremonies



I am in the middle of a series for my brides all about creating a photography-friendly wedding day! But, before we dive into part 2, I want to preface this series by saying this: your photographer should be able to capture beautiful images on your wedding day no matter WHAT the situation or circumstance! They should be able to work well in any lighting situation and any timeline crunch no matter what! These tips and tricks are simply little changes that can be made and things to think about when planning your wedding day to create IDEAL situations for natural light photographers!! You can find part 1 HERE! Here are some things you should keep in mind when planning the first look & ceremony for your wedding day:

First Look:

As a photographer, I have SO many thoughts on first looks vs. seeing each other for the first time at the altar! I could do an ENTIRE blog post on first looks (and I probably will!!) but, for now, here’s just a few things to consider:

-For those that don’t know, a first look is when you see your groom for the first time BEFORE the ceremony. You share a private, intimate, emotional moment TOGETHER instead of in front of everyone at your ceremony.

-Doing a first look allows for more than DOUBLE the portrait time on your wedding day! If portraits (of you and your hubby, your bridal party and your family) are of high importance to you, a first look is a GREAT option to better your timeline and create tons of extra portrait time! My brides that do a first look easily receive 50-60% more portraits than my brides who don’t!

-First looks allow the moment to be PRIVATE and less nerve-racking. Instead of spending the entire day just waiting to see your husband-to-be…you get to see him FIRST and share the moment privately! It takes the pressure off of your man to have everyone staring and expecting a crazy reaction when you walk down the aisle, too.

-You get to spend more TIME with your groom!!! On wedding days, I always joke that the bride will probably spend more time with me as the photographer than with her groom! But it’s actually TRUE! If you wait to see him until after you walk down the aisle…you’re not seeing him until halfway through the day or later. But, if you see him beforehand, you get more hours by his side and more time to love on each other during your big day!

-And just a side note: he will probably still have a reaction when you walk down the aisle! Most brides don’t like the idea of a first look because they think it will make the ceremony less emotional…but that’s just not true in my experience!! When you walk down the aisle towards your groom, whether you have seen him already or not, it is still the first moment that it will sink in that you are about to be his WIFE!!! That is always emotional no matter what!!

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-The #1 think you want to keep in mind when planning your ceremony is the TIME because it will affect the LIGHT. If you are having an indoor ceremony…this one doesn’t matter quite as much!! But, if you are having an outdoor ceremony, you will want to plan as best you can to ensure it fits with the rest of your timeline! For example: if you are doing a first look, your photographer can get all of your portraits done BEFORE the ceremony. So, you could plan your ceremony at sunset because there’s not much left to do afterwards. But, if you are dead set on not seeing your groom until you walk down the aisle…make sure you leave enough time for all of the portraits AFTERWARDS before the sun sets!!

-Consider having an UNPLUGGED ceremony! An unplugged ceremony means that you ask your guests to leave their phones and cameras away during the ceremony. You can do this a few ways: have a sign set up at the ceremony space, as your officiant to announce it or place it somewhere in your invitation suite. The WORST thing to experience during the ceremony is when I am standing in the right spot to catch an important moment (like his reaction when he sees you, exchanging rings, your KISS, etc.) and a guest jumps up in their chair or leans into the middle of the aisle with their camera and blocks my shot! AH!! It has happened far too many times and is SO sad because the last thing you want in your ceremony images is a guests iPhone reaching out into the middle of the aisle!! It’s not an inconvenience to me that they are taking photos (they can bring their cameras out during the reception as much as they’d like!!) but I would hate for my brides to have iPhones and cameras interrupting the memories of their ceremony photos!

-Pay attention to the LIGHTING! The BEST lighting situation for a ceremony is for the bride, groom and entire bridal party to be in the SHADE or to have the sun coming from BEHIND them. If you can help it, try to ensure that everyone standing at the alter is in the same lighting situation (i.e. you don’t want the bride in direct sun and the groom in the shade!). And, even better, see if you can set the ceremony up in a location where the sun is coming from BEHIND the alter instead of directly on it! Again, your photographer should be able to rock this in ANY lighting situation!!! This is just the most ideal 🙂

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Next week we’ll be talking about portraits and cocktail hours!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also love:

Creating a Photography-Friendly Wedding Day: Part 1

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hi, y'all!

I'm Hope Taylor, an international Senior Portrait and Wedding Photographer based in Charleston, SC. I'm also an educator, international speaker, and the host of multiple sold-out workshops each year!



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