Formal Portraits BEFORE the Ceremony

I know, I know, usually the Blog is booming around this time of year with my typical Color of the Year post, or sometimes my Trends of the Year post, but this year it’s been a tad quieter than normal. Well, the quietness on the blog is because I’ve had a pleasantly busy Spring booking new brides, and working with my adorable husband on the photography side of the wedding world. The hubby and I recently attended a fabulous workshop on wedding photography lighting hosted by our friends at the Raleigh Wedding Portrait Society and had a blast learning about new ways to approach shooting weddings and portraits.

The workshop got me to thinking about different subjects I could write about and share with you all here on my blog. I realized that since I’ve started second shooting more weddings and events with my better half, I have formed some pretty decent opinions on wedding photography and the approaches that can be taken to making this part of the wedding day a little easier on everyone involved.

One of the opinions that I’ve recently formed is about the timing of the formal portraits. Ryan and I have had the opportunity to work multiple weddings together; We have worked weddings where we photographed the wedding party and formal family portraits BEFORE the ceremony, as well as weddings during which we photographed these portraits AFTER the ceremony. Can you guess which one I’m going to say that I prefer? If you guessed before the ceremony, you got it right and here’s why:

Hair, makeup, and outfits are all at their freshest

For those couples hosting early evening weddings, and especially for those hosting an afternoon or morning wedding, the hair, makeup, and yes even tuxes and dresses are all going to look much neater and cleaner before the entire day of wedding activities ensue. While some brides will have a coordinator to remind them that they should take a few moments to touch up their hair and makeup immediately following the ceremony to ensure that they are looking their best for photos, some brides may not have hired a coordinator. Or, some coordinators might not even think to suggest this! This is why taking time to get those pictures done first thing can certainly make a difference in the photos later. And, let’s face it everyone, the photographer can only do so much photoshopping to help your images.


Time of Day and Lighting

This one is multi-fold, and goes hand in hand with my first reason. Couples hosting outdoor ceremonies in the summer are usually smart enough to schedule them for first thing in the morning before the heat of the hot summer day has taken over. If you’re hosting an earlier ceremony outside in order to avoid the hottest part of the day, you more than likely should try to get at least some of your formal portraits done ahead of that heat too! Especially if your plan was to have beautiful outdoor portraits. Trust me, your wedding party and family members may complain about showing up early at first, but they will be forever grateful later on when they realize that you did not force them to stand still and smile over and over in front of a camera in that hot summer heat for their own benefit. Plus, they are less likely to have mascara and sweat running down their faces when the temperatures are more reasonable first thing in the morning, then they are later after the ceremony.

First Looks or First Touches

Now, this is not for every couple, and I know this because most of the brides that I’ve coordinated weddings for have not really given the idea a second thought. That being said, this is one of my favorite new trends that is popping up all over the wedding industry. My Husband and I got married last October, as I’m sure some of my readers are aware, and we elected to do a “First Touch” photo session before our ceremony. This incredibly intimate moment allowed us to be together briefly before our ceremony and to touch base with one another after an already really long morning of getting ready. We blindfolded Ryan so we could keep in tradition with the groom not seeing the bride before the ceremony, and boy did we get some really sweet images of this whole interaction. We got this idea from another couple we had worked with previously and just loved their images.
The First Look picture is also a really adorable and intimate moment for the couple to see each other before anyone at the wedding sees them. It can be really nice to have these few minutes together if you are anything like my husband and I. We are a couple that just works better together, and we realized this on our wedding day after both feeling somewhat helpless without one another those few hours at the beginning of our day.


More time for the couple, Less time spent cramming

When you get a good chunk of your formal portraits done before the ceremony, you now have more time during that cocktail hour to use for some intimate photo time with your newly wedded significant other! Or, if you have a relatively small family and wedding party and you manage to accomplish all of your formal portraits before the ceremony, you might actually have time to attend your own cocktail hour and do some socializing with guests.

If you do not take any of your photos before the ceremony, you will end up having to cram your formal family portraits, wedding party portraits, and any one on one couple portraits all into the one hour designated for the cocktail hour. Oh, and remember how I mentioned that you should consider getting your hair and makeup touched up before you do these photos? You also have to cram that into your one hour of photo time. Granted, a good photographer and coordinator will remind you that this is still your day and you can take as much time as you want. But, you still don’t want to make your guests wait too long for you. Because whether you prearranged for passed hors d’oeuvres or not, those will only hold your family and friends over for so long.

I am sure I could probably come up with a few other reasons, but I think I’ve made my point. As a professional photographer and as a coordinator, I really do prefer for my clients to take at least some of their formal portraits before their ceremonies. As a photographer, I feel more confident with the images I am taking knowing that the bride and groom are feeling the most fresh and clean before the ceremony. And as a coordinator, I am confident that my clients will have more time and less stress getting through their wedding day once they have gotten their formal portraits out of the way.

Did you do a first look or first touch before your wedding ceremony? If so, please share your experience with the Get-Christine team. We’d love to hear how it went, see your photos, and hear about your ideas for your upcoming wedding!




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