Wedding season is coming up FAST. This means it's time to start making wedding day timeline decisions - decisions that will impact your day-of flow & experience, and resulting gallery.
Before you read this article, I want you to know one thing: there are no right or wrong answers, and no right or wrong traditions to embrace or skip on your wedding day. You should always go with your gut and make decisions that make you feel good when it comes to this special occasion.
[Also, you should also always consult with your own wedding vendors to see how they work, and what their opinions are on these scenarios, as every wedding & vendor has their own flow. All of the below opinions are just that - opinions, based on my experiences as a photographer and bride in Upstate New York. Factors like other vendors, season, timing, day structure, guests, and any other variable can affect results. There is also a disclaimer at the bottom of this article if you are interested.]
Now, let's get to it.
I hear it all the time - "we're not sure". Not sure if we're doing an intimate "first look" vs. a traditional "down the aisle" grand entrance. How do we choose!?
What if I told you that there are even more options for your wedding day?
I know, I know. Adding more options into the mix isn't helping you decide between the two, but it may help give you clarity on how each moment goes down and which fits best with your event and with you as a couple.
Let's break it down:
Down the Aisle: traditional & romantic
This is the moment you see in every movie wedding: both partners are totally primed and prepped in their wedding glam and are led individually to their spots at the ceremony site. The first time they see each other is down the aisle as a grand reveal. It is such a sweet, emotionally built-up moment, and often results in some tears from either partner and guests (and um, me. I cry at my clients' weddings.). With this type of reveal, the group family shots, wedding party shots, and couples portraits are taken after the ceremony either before or during the cocktail hour - depending on the structure of the day.
couples who really want that traditional, grand reveal
couples who are having church weddings
couples who don't mind missing some or all of their cocktail hour (or who are having a longer cocktail hour)
seeing your partner down the aisle for the first time is such a special feeling, and it's a great experience to share with your guests!
if the traditional down the aisle first look is your dream, you'll be living it!
depending on your ceremony time, your formal group photos and couples may be taking place during golden hour, meaning great soft light for all images
if you are having an early church wedding and a later cocktail hour and reception, you might have a built-in pocket of time to get all of your desired shots done before the "party" part of the day starts (aka, no missing cocktail hour!)
if you aren't having a church wedding with a considerable gap of time between the ceremony and the cocktail hour / reception, you may miss some or all of your cocktail hour, and you might not have a ton of time for your formal groups and couples photos
if you are having a winter wedding, depending on the time of your ceremony your formals and couples photos might have to take place after the sun has set. Night photos are GORGEOUS, but if your dream is bright outdoor photos, you may want to reconsider your ceremony timing.
First Look: intimate & practical
A First Look is a modern take on the traditional wedding day wherein the couple sees each other before the ceremony. Typically, this is done in a private setting where one partner is led to the other and they get to see each other all dolled up in their special wedding attire. This is an emotional moment that also serves as a great photo op; since the couple is not at an altar at this time, they are able to chat a bit, hug, kiss, and just have a little time to reflect on the day to come. Typically, the first look is followed by couples portraits, wedding party portraits, and family portraits - all before the ceremony, allowing for a seamless transition into party time once the couple says "I do".
couples who want to get those pre-aisle nerves diffused before the big moment
couples who appreciate this modern take on the wedding day
couples who want to attend their cocktail hour
couples who have big family photo lists
couples who want more creative portrait time
you'll get to see each other for the first time privately, diffuse the tension, and get to chat and hug and kiss and laugh together (as opposed to having to go straight into the ceremony if you do a Down the Aisle)
you'll get all of your group shots out of the way before the ceremony, so once you say "I do" and kiss, you get to transition strait into party/cocktail mode. Speaking of:
you'll get to attend and enjoy your cocktail hour that you paid for
more portrait time (in theory)
you'll have to be ready a little earlier in the day than if you were going straight from your glam-session to the ceremony
if you've always admired the traditional "down the aisle" first look and want that to be your experience, this might not be your jam!
Those are the main decisions, but if you're still on the fence or looking for a little something extra, consider these other options as alternatives or additions:
First Touch: spiritual & private
Definitely not into the First Look concept, but still looking for a pre-ceremony private calming moment? Perhaps the First Touch (or First Prayer) is for you. In this scenario, the couple is ceremony-ready but are separately brought to a place (typically a doorway, corner, or open walled area) where they can read notes, speak, and pray privately but together. They can hold hands, but they can't see each other. This makes for a very sweet and spiritual moment that results in beautiful photos and mental calm before the wheels of the wedding day are set in motion officially.
Finishing Touches: intimate & unique
Sometimes, a couple chooses to get ready together. How fun is that!? While some people love the idea of preparing your wedding day 'fit separately, helping each other with the finishing touches of is a really sweet, emotional, and lower-pressure way to begin the rest of your lives.
Pro tip: this option is great for an intimate wedding day or elopement. You can still have your cute detail shots just like a First Look or Down the Aisle wedding, just gather those special details and have them ready for your photographer to take away when they arrive!
First Look with dad / mom / grandparents / special guests
Many brides opt into having a little first look with their fathers, but this is a reveal style that can apply to any important figure in a person's life. We are not limited to just brides and their dads, it can be either partner, with anyone from a parent, to grandparent, sibling, niece/nephew... we are unlimited in our options for these types of reveals!
Just like the bridesmaid first look, this is a reveal type that is versatile: it can be as simple as letting your dad into your hotel room for a private moment, or as grand as setting it up in an outside, formal setting.
First Look with bridesmaids:
A bridesmaid (or groomsman) first look is a great addition to any wedding day. Relatively easy to set up and not super time-consuming, this is such a cute way to reveal your full wedding getup to the whole squad and get some awesome photos of everyone hyping you up. It's also a great confidence boost... I mean, 12 people looking at you adoringly!? Hell yeah.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong decision. Your wedding day is uniquely you, and whatever you choose will be wonderful. Base your decision on your gut instinct and desires, not what your sister did, what your parents think, what your vendors try to nudge you into doing... we are here to work with your vision to construct the best day possible.
GOOD LUCK BBS <3
this blog post is based on my own opinions and experiences, and is in no way suggesting one action over another. While informative, this is not factual advice. Hannah Lux Photography (and Hannah Kuznia) and associates cannot be held responsible for any misadventures in planning, misadventures on the wedding day, poor planning, missed shots, or unhappy wedding day experiences based on actions taken from reading this article. Not all scenarios will fit a wedding day, as timing, weather, sunlight, and other factors will cause a wedding day's results to vary. CONSULT WITH YOUR OWN WEDDING VENDORS before making any solid plans.