Questions for Stacy: First Look versus a Ceremony Entrance


Hi Stacy.  I recently hired a photographer, and they want to know if we are going to do a “First Look” or wait until after the ceremony to take photos.  Can you explain what a First Look is, as well as the pros and cons of each option?


A First Look is a special moment where the Bride and Groom get to see one another before the ceremony. Often times photographers will stage this so the Groom is located in an private area with his back to where the Bride will appear. One of the biggest pros of choosing to do a First Look is that it gives you an opportunity to take some photographs prior to the ceremony, which often times relaxes the couple from any pre-wedding jitters. Another big plus is that couples are then able to join their guests for cocktail hour, since they won’t spend that time taking photos. We commonly see Bridal Party photos taken after the First Look, followed by a short session of joint family photos. On the other hand, some couples feel that having a First Look takes away from the big reveal as the Bride walks down the aisle. Not to worry, this moment is still just as unforgettable when a First Look takes place.

Choosing to wait to see each other until the Bride walks down is definitely more traditional. The biggest pro is that the Bride and Groom get to experience that incredible moment as the bride walks down the aisle. After the ceremony, both Bridal Party and joint family photos take place. The Bride and Groom are then photographed alone in a secluded setting. This is a good option for couples who are not concerned with joining cocktail hour, as capturing all of these photographs will most likely take up the entire hour.

Now smile and say cheese!



Photo by Yvonne Wong Photography

Photo by Yvonne Wong Photography

Click here to read our last helpful Questions for Stacy blog entry, which addresses wedding registries!

Wedding Photography 101

Hello, friends, we’re back with another photography-related post! When the talented Bay Area Photographer Meg Perotti shared with us her tips for posing for the perfect shot, we thought, why stop there? Obviously, you want to make sure you have the perfect shots on your big day, but who will take these pictures and where do you find this person? How much will this cost? And what are your options? Well, lucky for you, we’re here with some answers. Welcome to Wedding Photography 101.

To start, where does one even find a wedding photographer? Well, we think word-of-mouth is always the best. In fact, who better to ask than your wedding planner who has all the great connections? If you know someone that loved their photographer and loved their wedding photos, ask to look at theirs. If you like what you see, check out their other work. You can also check out guides like this one on the Wedding Channel or take a look through all the amazing wedding blogs out there that feature real weddings. Our favorites include Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, and 100 Layer Cake. If you see something you like, check out who the photographer is. Hint: you can do a search by location, and weddings shot in your area will pop up along with the local vendors used.

When looking for your photographer, check out their portfolios and make sure you’re into their style. Our suggestion is to not go with anything too trendy- timeless and natural is the way to go.  Make sure the photographer has had experience shooting weddings, and preferably ones similar to yours. If all they’ve taken is pictures of their cat, it doesn’t matter how professional they looked, we can almost guarantee that they won’t be able to handle your shot list and you’ll be unhappy with the result.

Your wedding photographer is the one person you’ll be spending the most time with on your wedding day as they’ll want to capture every special moment. So you should really click with them before they click away! We really love a photo journalist approach. These are the photographers that will help tell the story of your big day, including details of all the beautiful things that you’ve worked so hard to create. Of course they will take a few posed portraits, but where they really shine is through all the candid photos. The look on your groom’s face as you walk down the aisle, the tear in your eye as your proud father talks about how special you are to him, the laugher when you and your best friends dance just like old times.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top two favorite photographers, we suggest doing a meet and greet, or at least chatting on the phone. You need to have that instant connection, just like when you found the dress! If you like them, then we highly recommend doing an engagement shoot, which is good for a number of reasons. One, you get a sort of test run to see how you and your photographer work together. Two, you’ll be able to get more comfortable in front of the camera, so taking pictures on your wedding day will feel more natural. And three, our favorite reason, is…you’ll have fun AND get some really special photos of you and your groom to be.

And now, let’s talk logistics. One of the most important things to keep in mind is timing- photographers book fast. Book your photographer as soon as you can, preferably right after you choose your wedding date and usually at least 9 months before the big day. Photographers’ fees can range greatly, especially here in the Bay Area, that said average services tend to be between $4,500 and $10,000. Fees will depend on the amount of hours needed, the size of your wedding, the location, and what type of package you’re looking for, etc. Check out some more wedding photography tips, from Martha Stewart Weddings, and enjoy the rest of your wedding planning!

posing for the perfect shot: expert tips

We’ve been talking a lot lately about various aspects of your wedding planning, from setting your budget, finding the dress, invitations, and more. We have no doubt that your big day will be one of the best days of your life, which is exactly why we think it’s so important for you to absolutely love your wedding photos. So we thought we’d do a few posts dedicated to wedding photography. We started by interviewing our friend and beyond-talented Bay Area photographer, Meg Perotti, who shared some great insight to help make sure your wedding photos are exactly what you hoped for. Meg’s style is soft and uber romantic, but even if you’re looking for a totally different look and feel, these tips will help you get the results you’re looking for.

How should we prepare for our wedding portraits?

Do an engagement session! It’s important to feel comfortable with your photographer and an engagement session helps you to experience how he/she works behind the camera and what they expect out of you as subjects.

What if we see something that our photographer had done with other couples and we want to have the same look?

In my humble opinion, trying to direct the photographer never ends well. Poses are almost always site specific and an approach to a couple is different every time I shoot. For example, I had a more-dapper-than-most groom casually place his hand in his pocket and look off to the left … as I clicked the shutter I knew he had gotten it right on. He looked like something out of GQ magazine … trying to recreate that look with another groom is almost impossible. Different couples fit together in different ways and every shoot yields new and unexpected beauty. Of course, if there is something specific you have been picturing for days, most photographers will definitely want to know these things because ultimately your happiness is the most important thing- but try to remember that you hired your photographer because you love their work and trust their talent.

What if we’re not very comfortable with our photo being taken?

9 out of 10 of my clients tell me they are terrible in front of the camera and 10 out of 10 of my clients love at LEAST a handful of their final images. Remember, your wedding day is not about taking photos, it is about celebrating your love, making you look good in your photos is the job of a great photographer …  if you focus on your love you are sure to look radiantly happy in your photos.

What if not everyone in our group shots is cooperating or comfortable with the pose?

I can’t say I’ve experienced this but my honest opinion would be to tell them to suck it up. I’ve definitely had complaining bridesmaids but for the most part the brides trusts me and just gives her bridal party a nudge and we get through the session quickly. Make sure to tell your bridal party and family ahead of time what is expected of them. If there is something off-color about the pose and you, as the bride, aren’t comfortable with it- all you need to do is say the word and we’ll move on. Your happiness is most important!

What are your thoughts on themed or styled shoots (with props)?

Styled/Themed shoots can be fun but they are also a lot of work and tend to create stress between the bride and groom if they are trying to arrange it themselves. I recommend working with a coordinator/designer to help you pull together a shoot so you can focus on enjoying the experience. I love it when my clients bring props like bikes or balloons, but it’s also completely fine and just as romantic to just bring yourself and your love for each other.

I’m not really into very traditional/pose-y photos. How do we make sure they look candid and interesting?

A few traditional, heads together, smile at the camera shots are always necessary whether you like them or not. A good photographer knows that these are the images that the mother of the bride is going to look for and gets them out of the way quickly.  The most important part of getting the images you want is hiring the right photographer for YOU. If you prefer candid playful images, in order to make sure you get these, you should hire a photographer whose work reflects that. My images tend to be quiet, romantic, soft… and that’s what I am hired to create. Find a photographer that fits your individual style and vision of your wedding photos and you are guaranteed to love the final product!

Do you recommend having a first look, and why?

Either way is fine by me and my recommendation is don’t decide until you have a timeline! Having a first look can sometimes be very beneficial for your timeline, especially if you are getting married during the time of year when the sun sets early in the day. If your ceremony is starting late and you don’t anticipate having much time for photos before the sun sets, a first look can allow you to get all of the necessary shots out of the way so you can enjoy cocktail hour. It can sometimes be a controversial decision if you are a more traditional couple and I always recommend that couples think about their wedding day as a whole before deciding. If you simply cannot imagine seeing each other before you walk down that long Cathedral aisle- then definitely do not do a first look. I encourage my clients to communicate their feelings about how they want their day to go so we can make a joint decision about what is best for the general outcome of the final product.

I’m worried I’ll be overwhelmed on my wedding day. How do I look relaxed even if all I can think about is all the wedding details and making sure I talk to all my guests?

My first word of advice is to hire a wedding coordinator. You really should not be worrying about any details by the time your wedding day comes around and if something goes wrong on the day of you want someone there to fix the problem without you even knowing there was one! Nerves on a wedding day can actually photograph beautifully- the moment before the bride walks down the aisle, the groom going over his vows, the bride wringing her hands together while her bridesmaids put her veil on … embrace your wedding day for the day that it is. It will be what it will be and no matter what happens it is still the day you married the love of your life. Let go and enjoy all your months of planning and hard work!

What are your favorite types of venues to shoot? What types of venues do you think work best?

I realize that people choose venues for all sorts of reasons and can understand and appreciate that, but personally, I think my photography style lends itself well to outdoor natural light ceremonies and receptions. Late summer nights in Napa or Carmel … vineyards, fields, courtyards… locations that incorporate nature photograph really well. If I had my choice, I would never photograph another hotel banquet hall wedding. 😉

How do you like to get to know the couple before they let you in on their big day?

If a client opts out of an engagement session then I usually insist that we at least go out for dinner to get to know each other. I take a limited amount of bookings a year so that I can focus my attention on my clients. There is nothing worse than showing up to a wedding having not met the bride/groom yet! Unlike your florist or cake artist, your photographer is by your side the entire wedding day- take the time and invest in that relationship and you’ll find the experience to be delightful!


Thank you, Meg, for sharing your talent and expertise with us!

(Since we’re on the topic of beautiful portraits, here’s a snap of the lovely Meg herself)