The wedding day and events leading up can be a stressful experience, but there is something I’ve learned to mention to my brides in the planning process that creates monumental differences in the outcome and mood surrounding the entire day. One of the first things I discuss with my brides when we start the planning process is the first look or some designated time for creative photographs before the ceremony. I personally am a huge advocate of the first look, however, some of my brides do like to keep tradition and I can certainly respect that. This day is about you, your first day of starting your new life together, so it is certainly not my job to tell you ultimately to see your groom or not. I am a professional however, and what I can tell you is that it will make for a different kind of intimate and special experience on the wedding day and will add priceless benefits to the outcome of your photos. I’m here to tell you of the elements it can add, for you to personally weigh the pros and cons.

When I look back at my wedding day in its entirety, having a timeline of photographs from the entire day is very special to my memory. It’s a time capsule, all you have left to look back on the feelings you felt and the people surrounding you. Despite that though, the photos that are most special to me are the ones that I can see the emotion between Preston and I. The ones that are professionally stylized, yet are photos where we had time to be ourselves and get creative with our friends and family before the wedding. These are the ones I could print to hang on my wall as a piece of art. And what I found wasn’t at all that this took away from my wedding day, but instead, added a whole new element to it. We got to spend time with each other, close friends, and family before the ceremony and had styled photographs, as opposed to posed traditional indoors photographs, with those special people who were nearest and dearest.

Regardless of whether you decide to do a first look, I think setting some time aside in the wedding day timeline for creativity has great benefit. Here are my outlined reasons for feeling so strongly about it:

1. Having more time for photographs beforehand equates 100% to less stress during the entire wedding day. It allows the stress to be taken off of my brides and their families and their trust placed in me to do my job as it should be. It allows them to breath a sigh of relief before the ceremony and not have to focus on ANY sort of to-do list during the reception. Let’s be honest, you’ve probably paid a pretty penny for 3-5 hours of reception celebration and I think you should enjoy every minute of that with your guests. You’ve worried and planned for this moment to be perfect for months, now it’s time to enjoy it.

2. Arranging time for creative photographs means you have MORE time for photographs and more final photos. As a photographer, it is my job to tell you what scenarios will create the best photographic outcome. Hands down, time for an outdoors location and photo styling before the ceremony will create the best outcome. It allows for more photographs of the bride and groom, jazzed up family photos, and more time for creativity across the board. It allows you to get the most bang for your buck and utilize my creative expertise that made you want to hire me in the first place.

3. It allows for a calm, intimate moment with your future spouse before the hustle and bustle of the day gets your head spinning. You get that private moment with one another — this does not happen after the ceremony is over.

Not all of my brides opt for a first look. Chelsey and Kaleb did not in these photographs. While Chelsey didn’t want to see Kaleb before the wedding, she wanted creative, posed photographs with Kaleb, her wedding party, and family. We planned out her wedding day accordingly and had ample time for photographs. This made for a fabulous outcome. It allowed us to scope out all areas of the plantation and utilize the most beautiful spots for leisurely creative photographs. Chelsey and I collaborated based on the creative outcome she wanted and we created a photo situation perfectly catered to her desires. For her, a spin on tradition worked perfectly.

So, I encourage you to be open-minded. I encourage you to trust the professionals you hire for the creative mind and professionalism that made you hire them. I encourage you to collaborate, voice your desires, and listen to their suggestions. When all of these things mesh, the photographic outcome of your wedding day creates a end result more perfectly catered to you than you ever could have imagined. Trust me. (;