The Sutherland

Why I Changed My Mind About First Look Photo Sessions

For a bride to have her epic fairy-tale moment, classic literature and romantic comedies tell us that her groom must not see her in her wedding dress until she begins her walk down the aisle, but the emerging popularity of “First Look” photos on Pinterest and online bridal magazines have many couples rethinking this time old tradition.  When recalling my own wedding day, I now realize the only thing I would do differently would be for Jason and me to ignore our traditional wedding preconception by having a First Look session of our own.

Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe

Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe

After watching my clients experience their own First Look Photo moments, I now realize that:

  • By seeing each other one last time before becoming husband and wife, the bride and groom are able to share an intimate connection and sense of anticipation that gets lost in front of an audience;
  • It is an opportunity for them to relish together the excitement that awaits them before they are launched into an emotional whirlwind of nerves, happiness, wonderment and fulfillment as their months of hard work and planning come to fruition;
  • The intimate atmosphere of a First Look photo session allows the photographer to focus on tender glances and affectionate glimpses that result in unbelievably beautiful images; and
  • Once the First Look takes place, the bridal party can take photos prior to the ceremony, too, which allows everyone, including the bride and groom, to attend the cocktail hour before the bar closes.  And who doesn’t want to get their party started as soon as possible?!
Indiana University's Iconic Sample Gates

Indiana University’s Iconic Sample Gates

Since we held our ceremony and reception in the same venue, we did not have the luxury of scheduling a 2-3 hour break between the ceremony and reception.  Instead, Jason and I had approximately 60 seconds to ourselves after the ceremony before we rushed back out to greet all of our guests and begin the 70 minute dash to get all of our bridal party, family and couple photos completed, including a race in my friend’s minivan to have our wedding photos taken at my university’s most picturesque spot.  Now I realize that every time I see the Sample Gates in person or on TV, they would be even more meaningful to me had it been where my soon-to-be husband had first seen me in my wedding dress.  Plus, I so wish we had been able to enjoy even a portion of our cocktail reception with the passed hors d’oeuvres that I’m told were delicious and the incredibly talented jazz band that wowed our guests when they realized it was made up of middle school and high school students.

Do you want to experience the emotions of a First Look photo session but still have your mind set on sticking with tradition?  Wedding photographers have come up with imaginative First Look settings that allow the bride and groom to share a moment together before their ceremony but still have their traditional walk down the aisle.  Among the most popular photos are those of  couples holding hands while standing on either side of a door and, like the photo below, of the bride and groom reading the letters they have written to each other.

Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe

Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe

My personal favorite is this Southern inspired “Romeo & Juliet” photograph taken at The Sutherland by my friends at the Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe.

Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe

Photo Courtesy of Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe

Ultimately, the most important thing to consider is what best suits your personalities.  Will having a First Look session ease your nerves or increase your worry that you’ll stammer your vows? Do you think you’ll miss out on quality time together if you wait for the traditional walk down the aisle, or do you have enough time between your ceremony and reception to fit everything in? Before deciding when you want to first see each other on your wedding day, ask yourselves which scenario will best capture the emotion you want to remember for the rest of your lives, discuss it with your photographer and wedding coordinator, and then go with your heart.

Special Thanks to Melissa Stallman at Wake Forest Portrait Shoppe for providing all of the beautiful First Look photographs featured in this month’s edition of ‘The Corner of Chestnut & Vine.”  Please visit her site to view her online photo gallery. / 919.556.7149

Got Flowers? Not in these Creative Non-Floral Centerpieces!

This past Saturday at The Sutherland, our bride, Laura, designed her own non-floral reception centerpieces that equaled the work of a professional.  Their elegant simplicity dazzled under the pavilion market lights as the December evening sky turned to dusk.  Inspired by Pinterest, she created everything herself, including the boxes which were made from recycled shipping pallets.


While I am constantly blown away by the floral creations dreamed up by my wedding design colleagues, the thought of spending thousands of dollars on flowers for my own wedding made me uneasy because 90% of our guests traveled from long distances and would not be able to take the centerpieces home, which means all of the beautiful blooms would be tragically thrown out at the peak of perfection.  I did follow tradition by using flowers for the ceremony, the wedding party bouquets and boutonnieres, wrist corsages for special guests, and a a floral centerpiece at the head table.  For the guest table centerpieces, I filled vases of all shapes and sizes with our family’s favorite red and orange candies, as well as popular red and orange labeled candy bars (think Reese’s, Kit Kats and Take 5 Bars), and instructed our guests to take bags of the candy home as their favor.  A simple photo of a lollipop centerpiece on Pinterest (and my love of all things sugary) inspired an explosion of candy-themed creations.  Here are just a few:

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When my college friend Amy accepted an invitation to a wedding near her hometown in Wisconsin, little did she know that one of the bride and groom’s non-floral reception centerpieces would become a member of her extended family.  Over three years later, Sammy the Fish resides in the middle of the family’s kitchen table where he remains the center of attention.  (Note from Amy:  Sammy has since received a bigger home.  The original bowl was smaller and filled with a few marbles and a starfish.)

If you, too, are looking for an alternative to flowers for your wedding centerpieces, here are some of my favorite non-floral Pinterest finds to get your own inspiration board started.  Happy Planning!

A yummy 3 for 1 alternative – Centerpiece, Favor and Wedding Cake all wrapped into one.

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These book and clock centerpieces seem perfect for an English Garden themed bridal shower.

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Candles are a simple, economical way to bring elegance and romance to any occasion.

I adore the cheeriness of this whimsical centerpiece. It would be perfect for a tropical venue.

I adore the cheeriness of this whimsical centerpiece that makes me long for a tropical getaway.

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A colorful, fruity alternative to traditional floral centerpieces.

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These are three distinct, innovative centerpieces that bring height to the room’s design scheme.