It's a question I get asked during wedding consults in many varied forms; "We have no idea what time everything on our day should be!", "When's the best time to do our portraits?"...and my first answer is usually to do it your way because it is your big day & it should flow in a way that suits you both!
I also always educate my clients on the option of a first look timeline too. Some have heard of it before, others have no idea there was such a choice ;-) A first look wedding is where you see each other before the ceremony & do your bridal party portraits. It veers away from the tradition of seeing your bride for the first time when she walks down the aisle, but at the same time it offers a number of benefits.
As a wedding photographer I have no preference towards first looks. Approximately a third of my couples do them, but either way my couples are so relaxed & fun-loving it doesn't matter how they structure their days, they are always fabulous! However had I known about the idea of first looks when we got married I would have chosen this sort of timeline for ourselves. Below I list some of the benefits of a first look...
MORE TIME WITH YOUR GUESTS - Perhaps the most obvious advantage is that you are able to spend more time with your guests on your wedding day. Because your portraits are taken before the ceremony, you don't have to go anywhere after the ceremony. You can stay with your guests and begin the celebrations! The portraits portion of your day generally takes between 1.5 - 2 hours, this is a reasonable amount of time to have to leave your guests between the ceremony & reception. This is one reason many choose the first look option, especially when some guests are travelling in from further away.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET SOME TIME ALONE TOGETHER - A wedding day is such a busy, fun-filled day that flies by! It's very rare on a wedding day to get much time alone together. Just an intimate five minutes even - to celebrate this day that after all is about the two of you & the love you share. When you do a first look you get that time to have a peaceful, intimate moment together. And when you see each other for the first time it is a more unguarded moment because there isn't all your guests looking on.
YOU'RE NOT AS NERVOUS - When you do walk down the aisle to the man of your dreams you aren't as nervous anymore. You've seen him, you've been having fun all morning with your bridal party getting portraits and you're ready to make this official! Likewise the groom can stand up the front without sweaty palms because he's seen his girl, she's gorgeous and he can't wait to marry her. I remember, like it was yesterday, how nervous I was walking down the aisle towards Matt, with all our guests looking at me.
MORE TIME FOR PHOTOS - Having a first look can allow more time for your portraits, and a very relaxed vibe because you're not worrying about rushing to get back to the reception. I suggest using locations for your wedding photos that mean something to you. If you both love spending time at the beach, let's use the beach for photos. If you're farming people, let's get photos on the farm. And a lot of couples will even choose a special spot for their first look too; Sam & Kate chose to see each other under a blossom tree which had a very special meaning to them!
A LATER CEREMONY - Because you don't have to allow time between the ceremony & reception to go away for photos, you can choose to have a later ceremony if you wanted. And although it's not common in NZ, in the States a lot of couples have their ceremony late in the afternoon, even sometimes just before sunset because that is when the light is most beautiful & romantic! I guess then you can get straight into party mode afterwards too!
First look timelines aren't for every couple & I understand. What's most important is that you plan your day as a true reflection of you both. There is no right or wrong way to structure a wedding day, just stay true to yourselves. Make sure you allow yourselves time to breathe & ensure you have a fun, relaxed day!
If you are planning your wedding timeline & have questions please feel free to ask me, I'm always happy to help & lend an ear for any ideas you have :) x