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Wedding ‘first look photo’ – Tips from a wedding photographer

By October 8, 2014 No Comments

Wedding ‘first look photo’ – Tips from a wedding photographer

Is it really bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the church? A new trend, the ‘first look photo’ says it’s not.

Tradition in Ireland and many countries tells us it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding before they meet at the top of the aisle in the church. But where does this tradition come from and why is it still so widely adhered to today?

Gougane Barra and Kenmare Bay Wedding by Cork Wedding Photographer Darren Forde

Well, believe it or not, it comes from the fact that marriages were traditionally more of a transaction between two families, arrangements between the two fathers and often the father of the groom or bride did not want their son or daughter to see their newlywed before it was too late to back out, for fear the ‘deal’ would be called off. So no wonder they said it was ‘bad luck’. But we’re nothing if not traditional here in Ireland and this is one that still persists, though these days more for the excitement factor than anything else.

Despite it’s not so altruistic roots, it remains an important part of many wedding ceremonies today but many weddings these days are not so traditional or even catholic. Many couples are looking to break with the norm, if even just a little bit, and try new and unique ways to make their day special to them.

One of the ways that has become hugely popular in modern days is the ‘first look photo’. It’s something that emerged across the pond in America, and has been taken up by many couples here. There are many benefits to staging the ‘first look photo’ for the couple from settling the nerves, to spending a few intimate moments together for a meditation or prayer and remembering that this is a special day for the two of you as well as all your friends and family. From a wedding photographer’s point of view it offers a huge opportunity to get creative and try out some funky ideas.

Staging a first look photo, doesn’t preclude you from observing other traditions, like being walked up the aisle and given away by your dad or someone close, and your priest will have no objections either as the tradition’s roots are not religious. In fact, for civil, alternative or outdoor weddings, it is a great way to capture that special moment when you come together for the first time on what should be the most special day of your lives.

So, how do you plan it and where to get some ideas? The first thing you should do is talk to your wedding photographer and tell them you are thinking of doing a ‘first look photo’. They should be all for it and a good wedding photographer will go away and think about it and come back to you with some good ideas, discuss them with you and decide on one that fits in with your plans for the day. It’s not something that should take a very long time to do and ideally, if it is well planned, should fit right in to the schedule of your day.

Decide on whether you want it to be something just between yourselves or if you want the bridal party to be there with you, for moral support or just to lighten the moment. It really is a matter of preference this and there are merits in both. Go it alone, with just the two of you and it can be a really intimate moment where emotions run deep and shedding a tear or two is not uncommon. It is important that you ask your wedding photographer to try to capture this emotion in their pictures as it likely will never happen again. Alternatively, if the nerves are getting the better of you, get the girls and guys around you and turn it in to a joyful moment shared between friends. It’s a great way to set the tone for the day and bring you all together to start the fun.

Don’t be afraid to use some props or things that have some meaning for the both of you. Ask yourself how you met, where did you meet, was it is a far flung part of the world, a café or did he propose in some special way? Do you have already kids? Try to incorporate this in to your photo to make it more memorable and unique to you. Tell your wedding photographer and ask them for some ideas. They will often be able to advise you on what is practical on the day in terms of light, timing and logistics. For example if he proposed to you while walking in the woods, it may not be practical to go back to that woods for a photo shoot but all you may need is a tree and good direction from your wedding photographer for a wonderful set of shots.

Gougane Barra and Kenmare Bay Wedding by Cork Wedding Photographer Darren FordeIt is generally best to do it just before the ceremony so as not to upset the timing of the day too much. Even though it is a staged shot in some respects, it is best to keep it as genuine as possible in order to capture the very real and intimate emotion of the moment for both of you. You could do it outside the church but you run the risk of having all the guests gathered round for their version of the photo and unless this is what you want it rather takes from the intimacy of it. It is best to have somewhere planned in advance, possibly en-route to the church for both of you, or have the groom come to where you are getting ready and leave again before you.

Either way, what is really important is that you get your wedding photographer in on the act from the beginning and ensure that they are fully aware of whats happening. It is a growing trend and one I believe can be a really magical moment shared between you, and when the party’s over, your back from honeymoon and the album arrives it will be a treasured memory of your day that will last a lifetime.

Have you any ideas for your ‘first look photo’? Do you know anyone who who did it well or had a disaster? Share you thoughts in the comments below.


Check the availability of your date by calling me on 083 1680847 or email [email protected] or click here to submit your details and I will get back to you pronto!

Thank you, 😀


Darren Forde is a Irish wedding photographer based in Cork. He works all over Ireland as well as overseas for destination wedding photography and elopement wedding photography. His sharp eye for detail and creative use of light combine with meticulous planning to deliver a range of images from your wedding that tell the unique story of your day and capture all the little details in between. His images give you the feeling that each moment just happened – never too posed or contrived – capturing the feelings and emotions of the day just as they unfold. He is a regular guest blogger on several popular wedding websites and his images have been globally recognised for their creative direction and use of natural light. You can email Darren on [email protected] or follow him on Instagran @darrenfordeweddingphotography or on Twitter @darrenforde

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