to look or not to look?

Mary Dougherty

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ABOUT mary

I'm a fine art film photographer living in the mountains and traveling to tell beautiful stories





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The schedule of a wedding day is one of the hardest things to determine. The events, transitions and times you will and won’t be with your guests effects how everyone experiences and remembers the day. Now on my 83rd wedding (I made that number up, but I think I’m close) I’ve seen things done a myriad of ways and come away with a new perspective and insight on the topic of seeing each other before the wedding. Currently around half of the couples I work with choose to do a first look and the number is growing. Many couples are choosing to have weddings that focus on their guests – eliminating long waits between the ceremony and reception, and choosing to enjoy the party they have worked so hard planning. Often times this means they are doing a first look and taking pictures before the ceremony, but that is not always the case.

I didn’t see Matt before I we were married, but I didn’t really know what a first look was or understand the benefits. After photographing first looks and seeing what they do for people I have a completely different perspective on them now. I completely understand the desire to keep the tradition of not seeing each other… however, I truly think they add to a wedding day. I like to explain to couples the benefits of choosing to include one so unlike me they can make an educated decision about what to do.

Of course, photographers in particular have been talking about this for a few years now, and I don’t to think you need to feel pressured to abandon tradition just for the sake of everyone else doing it. I think you need to make the decision that is right for you, and so tomorrow I’ll be posting a few different real wedding timelines – some with first looks and some without – and share a few tips on how to have a great wedding day schedule – with and without a first look.

Until then, take a look at some of the benefits of doing a first look, the ways in which they affect the wedding day and reasons why people have chosen to include one.

This part I love. While the walk down the aisle is in front of all of your guests, a first look is a private moment. I’m on the outside shooting in as you see each other for the first time, marvel and the arrival of the wedding day and the beauty of the one you love.

The nerves melted away after Megan and Brian saw each other. For those people who aren’t sure how they will react there is nothing as reassuring as seeing your soon to be husband or wife and taking time to relax, enjoy the moments together before you will be in the spotlight.

Leslie and Mike had an early evening wedding, but in November that meant the light would be gone after the ceremony. Being able to shoot in the perfect light (I highly recommend this) allowed them to get the pictures they wanted.

First looks happen right after you have tied the last lace, buttoned up all of the buttons, and your hair and makeup is a fresh as possible. Taking pictures when you look your best helps you… look your best.

Traveling to a location before the ceremony eliminates the extra time afterwards while your guests are waiting. You are able to choose the best location for your photos rather than the one that is most convenient.

Of course, there is more time to enjoy with guests that have traveled near and far when you take your pictures beforehand. You can only be a part of your wedding day once.

I hope that was helpful, and look for tomorrow’s post on real wedding timelines – with and without first looks for more ideas on how to plan your day.


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