Our Super Early "First Look"
In most ways, Dave and I are quite traditional, so naturally, our conservative tendencies flowed over into the wedding...classical and religious ceremonial music only, traditional Presbyterian vows, father walked me down the aisle, large reception, etc, etc. But, surprisingly, there were several areas of wedding planning where we were quite progressive -- a friday night wedding, fun modern touches throughout the reception (that I will discuss soon, but don't want to give away just yet), gorgeous colorful letterpress invitations and programs, and perhaps the most progressive thing we did was take wedding pictures together---in full wedding attire -- a month before the wedding.
Yes, you read that right. We saw each other, in all our wedding "glory", weeks before the actual event. Due to time constraints, convenience or nerves, many brides and grooms see each other a few hours before the wedding. The couples have a "first look" prior to the ceremony and go ahead and take most of their pictures before the wedding which makes everything go much more smoothly and quickly after the ceremony. But, we took it a step further. I was having bridal portriats taken outside and I asked the photographer if Dave could come along too. Our wedding venue was an old restored warehouse in downtown Jackson, and I knew that we wouldn't get many outdoor pictures together on the day of the wedding. Our photographer loved the idea of a joint bridal portriat/pre-wedding picture session.
- It took the pressure off having a "special reaction" from Dave. Although I have no doubt that Dave was excited to marry me, I knew that he was not the type to have an emotional teary moment as I walked down the aisle and he saw me for the first time n front of hundreds of people -- and I certainly wasn't going to try and manipulate that reaction from him. There was no big emotional moment at our pre-wedding shoot and some emotion the day of our wedding during our "first look". However, had we waited to see eachother for the first time as I walked down the aisle, I would have been *HOPING* for a big reaction and dissapointed (because poor boy just looked nervous)
- I wanted some outdoor pictures which differed from my warehouse venue. I loved our venue, but I wanted a few pictures near something green! So if you are having an outdoor reception, but want some downtown pics or vice versa, I suggest you do a pre-wedding shoot to get both backgrounds!
- This gave me more relaxed pics. Some of my favorite pictures are from the pre-wedding shoot because we were relaxed, not rushed and we didn't have other people (wedding party, family) waiting for us.
- I got more pictures to choose from. This gave us two shots at taking lovely pics. If one of us looked funny or red faced during one shoot, it would be okay because we had pictures from two different times.
- I was able to see what needed to change. I got to see these prints before our wedding, so I knew that I needed to hold my arms differently and Dave needed to smile more-- and I also could tell he needed to relax which is why a couple pre-wedding beers helped him out :)
- I got to spend most of my wedding day with Dave. We still had a "first look" that day, but it was early on- and there was less pressure, so I was able to joke around, cuddle, pray with and enjoy being with my soon to be hubby almost ALL day on the day we got married. There was no waiting until 7 pm to see him. In fact, I saw him that morning (pre make up and dress and bridal luncheon) so I feel like we shared the nerves and excitement all day long.
- We had more time to celebrate. Having done nearly all my pictures either one month before or hours before our wedding, we went straight from "I do" to celebrating, mingling and dancing. After all, I planned this party and so many people I knew and loved were there to celebrate with me so I wanted to be with them, not taking an hour's worth of pictures after we said our vows.
I am certainly not advocating that a pre-wedding shoot is the right way to do wedding pictures or the best way, but it was best for us. It took a lot of pressure off us and we got some beautiful shots. I'd encourage other brides and grooms to at least consider a pre-wedding photo shoot....it's a bit less traditional, but I think it has a lot of benefits. My photographer was great- super supportive of the idea and actually admitted she wished more brides and grooms wanted to do a pre-wedding shoot. Think about it, the only person MORE stressed than the BRIDE about a short time window for pictures is the PHOTOGRAPHER.
Although I won't go so far to say it's preferable to do a pre-wedding shoot, I will boldly say I think it is best to have a "first look" and take your pictures pre-ceremony. It relaxes you, give you calm non-rushed pictures, gives you a few private moments alone (probably your only private moments together all day), is considerate of your guests who will be waiting for you to take pictures and arrive at your ceremony and it will allow you to spend more time dancing, eating, drinking and having fun instead of rushing to take pictures.
Concerns about "the walk": I think some people shy away from taking pictures before the ceremony (either earlier on the wedding day or in a pre-wedding shoot) because they are afraid that walking down the aisle will lose its "speical-ness" because you have already seen your groom. This isn't true. Walking down the aisle is emotional and nerve wrecking and sacred, no matter when your pictures are taken. I did a wedding day "first look" (in our case, a second look) where I shared those private moments with Dave. We were able to say many "I love you's" and pray together and rejoice in the fact that we were getting married in a few short hours. THEN, we got a second special moment as I walked down the aisle, tearing up and quietly thanking God for his provision, stopping to hug my mom, having my dad place my hand in Dave's hand, seeing Dave's nervousness and seeing him finally relax when I caught his eye during the sermon and smiled. Those moments are powerful, no matter if the groom has seen the bride's attire or if they have already kissed that day because those are the moments where you vow forever in front of friends and family and let God join you together for all your earthly days.
Don't do a "pre-wedding shoot" if:
- it will upset you not to have a lot of emotion at the shoot! I will willingly admit that our "pre-wedding" photo shoot lacked any big emotions or moments (from Dave and even from me) - although Dave saw me in my dress for the first time and we were taking wedding photos, etc. The reason why is that wasn't our wedding day. Although there was some excitement that this meant our marriage was getting closer, we were just two people in love, dressed in fancy clothes, taking pictures. The shoot made for good pictures, but not "special moments" However, having those pictures already taken enabled us to have a sweet sweet wedding day with a lot less stress, a lot more fun, and plenty of precious moments! If you want or need every moment of the wedding process to be emotional (for you and maybe even your groom), then the "pre-wedding" shoot will dissapoint you. It's practical and helpful and enhances your wedding day, but it doesn't lead to tears or great joy or whisphered "I love you's"
- you are super traditional and will be upset by breaking traditions. I think pre-wedding shoots have a lot of benefits, but if your dream is to not be seen in your dress until your wedding day and you think anything different than the norm will upset you, then do what's best for you!
***Pictures by Christina at Christina Foto