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first look

When do you have a first look? | Wedding Planning | Vlog

When do you have a first look? Wedding Planning | Vlog from LeahAndMark & Co. on Vimeo.

When should you have the first look on your wedding day? We recommend – I recommend not doing it any later than 1.5 hours before your ceremony. So that gives you at least 30 minutes for the portrait session (bride and groom) – and then you have about 15 minutes for your wedding party, and then you have plenty of time to get you guys tucked away, and hidden before all of your guests start arriving about 30 minutes before the ceremony.

So yes – at the latest – 1.5 hours before your ceremony for your first look. You can always do it earlier than that depending on the logistics and where you want it to be. For example if your hotel is beautiful and you want to do it there, or someplace else between your hotel and the venue. Build in the time and plan for it.

One more time! Definitely! Your first look should take place 1.5 hours before your ceremony? (Repeated three times – and now you will NEVER FORGET IT.)

Okay! THAT is when you should have your first look on your wedding day!

Or… don’t have it. That’s cool too.


Your schedule will look like this:

12pm – Preparations/Getting Ready

3:30pm – FIRST LOOK/Portrait Session

5:00pm – Ceremony

See? Simple. Easy. Wedding.

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How Much Time For Wedding Photos?

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SO. You paid $5,000+ for your wedding photographer and now you’re wondering exactly how much time should you set aside for the ‘wedding portraits’? Honestly – if you just paid $5,000+ then the answer is HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES. Because damn – that’s a lot of money and you definitely want to get the most for your money.

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But your wedding day shouldn’t be one long photo shoot. So how much dedicated time should you schedule for your photographer? We use the template below as a guide. This one assumes that you are having a first look before your ceremony.


27 Minutes first look & couples portrait session:

I start with the first look – and then we move into the specific couples portrait session. After that we go into the wedding party photos.


13 minutes wedding party photos:

All of the bridesmaids/bridesmen and groomsmen/groomsladies along with the couple. Every Combination Conceivable. Combinatorics people!


17 minutes family formals:

These usually take place after the ceremony – it’s when ALL of the people involved are RIGHT THERE since they were already gathered for the ceremony. Even if we have to fight to keep them from running to the bar! I RUN THESE FAST. Some photographers take for f*cken ever to get through family formals. You’ve probably been a part of those sessions. The photographer speaks quietly, doesn’t direct anyone, waits for people to get in formation – well F*ck that. This is where I DIRECT PEOPLE.

Of course there are ways to direct 50 people without making them feel bad – you just have to do it LOUDLY. Well – and you have to know WHAT THE F*CK you’re doing. Hopefully this isn’t your photographer’s first rodeo.

Wedding Portrait Session

11 minutes after ceremony couples portrait (short, again):

If we can, I’ll steal the couple for a quick 11 minutes after the family formals and before they enter the end of their cocktail hour. Often times we’re in a completely different location than the earlier session but more importantly – the light will be completely different. It’s usually around sunset by this time and WOW THE LIGHT IS AMAZING. So we take 11 minutes and knock out the BEST PHOTOS YOU’VE EVER SEEN.

Total Specific Portrait Session Time: 68 minutes. Sixty-Eight Minutes.  

(That’s not including travel time to any locations…)

Yeah. Amazing and Great photos don’t always JUST HAPPEN. You have to make time for them. And even if that 68 minutes sounds like a lot – it’s 68 minutes that you will basically have forever. Unlike the food. Or the chair covers. So yes, make time for your amazing photos.


All Photos by LeahAndMark & Co.

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Six Reasons to Have a First Look (Or Not!)

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*Edited to be 43% less offensive.

A ‘First Look’ is generally when the two people getting  married see each other before their ceremony. It’s usually a semi-staged event, where your Asian photographer (me!) says hey person 1, stand here and look that direction  - and then I’ll tell person 2, hey, walk over there and say hi.

Well. Basically something like that.

Should you have a first look before your wedding? Should you wait and not see each other until your wedding ceremony? Yes.


Yes. And no.

I used to push for the first look – because that’s what photographers do. We want that specific time set aside for us, so we’re guaranteed our space to make literal amazing. I used to push for it. Now? Not as much. What I do require is a 30 minute block of time for the couples portrait session. That can take place before or after the ceremony – as long as it definitely happens. No matter what. No matter how late the schedule gets. No matter what. Here are the things to consider when you’re deciding whether or not to have a first look before your wedding ceremony.

1. The Time of Your Ceremony

If your ceremony is at sunset then your portrait session will probably be taking place in the f*cken pitch black dark. That’s a situation when we should’ve had a first look because we need more light than NONE. Of course – if your ceremony is a little bit earlier and then the timing of your portrait session is sunset – that’s PERFECT. See? In that situation we didn’t need the first look. AND now the portrait session is taking place a much better time than at 3pm in the midday sun. Think you can’t have a slightly earlier ceremony time? WHY NOT? It’s your wedding.

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2. Do you want to enter your reception earlier?

The timeline goes like this:

5:00 – 5:30 Ceremony

5:30 – 6:00 Family Formals

6:00 – 6:30 Portrait session

6:30 Enter Reception

If you don’t have the first look – you’re saving 30 minutes of time before you enter your reception. To be honest though – some photographers are SLOW. I’ve heard of other photographers taking an hour+ to complete the family formals and then you STILL have to do your portrait session. That’s a nightmare and that photographer should be fired. Who takes two hours to complete family formals and the portrait session? Anyway… if you happen to have a slow photographer, then YES – you will want to have a first look because otherwise it’ll take 2+ hours before you ever enter your reception. But if you have a generally great photographer – they’ll knock the family formals out and then take care of you during your portrait session and you won’t feel like anytime has passed anyway – and as long as you have a real cocktail hour (you know – with DRINKS and hors d’oeuvres) everyone should be fine.

Of course – you’ll also need to take into consideration any travel time if your ceremony is taking place somewhere other than next door/at your reception venue.

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3. Do you even want ‘First Look’ Photos?

The thing with the ‘first look’ is that without it – you can’t make those photos. If we try to make them after your ceremony, after you’ve seen each other already… well… now we’re just REALLY faking it. It won’t be genuine and also it would just be kind of weird. So yeah – that’s definitely something you should consider. Do you even want those ‘first look’ photos? I think this is actually the NUMBER ONE question you should ask yourself when making the decision to have a first look or not. Sure we try to go into the portrait session right after this, but if you don’t even want the first look photos then the portrait session can definitely take place after the ceremony.

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4. It’s tradition to not see each other until the ceremony.

I won’t argue this fact. It is tradition to not see each other until the ceremony. However – I will say that nearly half of our couples DO have a first look, so this tradition is kept up only about half the time among the couples that we photograph. So there. How about that. It’s not good or bad or against tradition – but it’s definitely a perfectly great option that you shouldn’t feel bad about choosing.

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5. Where might your first look actually take place?

This is a tricky one. Because you could have an amazing location in mind and your photographer might not know how to handle it. There’s a chance your photographer makes average photos in amazing places. On the flip side – your photographer might know how to make amazing photos out of lousy spaces. On the side-side, it’s not your job to do your photographer’s job. Of course – a little help is always appreciated. If you know that the only place we can do the first look is a broom closet – maybe…. maybe we shouldn’t do the first look. Of course – if you don’t care that it’s in a broom closet – then by all means, have at it.

But HEY. This is YOUR WEDDING DAY. Why not give the first look the time and space it deserves because you got dressed up and you look f*cken amazing. Why would you stick yourself in a broom closet for a first look? If you have to take an extra 15 minutes to go over to that amazing spot where the sun hits everything just right – then DO IT. | Atlanta Wedding Photographers Wedding First Looks | LeahAndMark & Co. Wedding First Looks | LeahAndMark & Co. | Atlanta Wedding Photographers


Seriously. HAVE A FIRST LOOK. I don’t know anyone who’s ever been like - aw man, look at all of these extra photos we have of us being ridiculously happy and in love. 

If you’re paying me a trillion dollars to photograph your wedding then I recommend you get your money’s worth – and demand that we do the first look. It’s okay – you don’t have to feel bad about it. I’ll be fine. Really. So if you want the first look just let me know and we’ll turn on the faucet that sprays amazing and beautiful everywhere while you guys meet up and bask in your love (you know – along with having an Asian guy yelling you to kiss/hold hands/be in love, etc.)

DO IT. Have a first look.

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All Photos by LeahAndMark & Co.
– Additional Photography by Joy Hmielewski, Niki Malek

Written by:

Atlanta Photographer | LeahAndMark & Co. | Mark RoX Tioxon



Atlanta Wedding Photographer | LeahAndMark & Co. | Six Reasons for a First Look |Videography | Videographer | Video

MacKenzie & Ryan | by +Krista

Through my journey with everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been this year, I’ve met a lot of people. A LOT OF PEOPLE. A LOT OF REALLY AWESOME PEOPLE. Amazingly talented, artistic, funny, kind people- honestly, the gaggle of people that have come into my life this year are unlike any others I’ve ever known. Clients. Brides. Grooms. Families. Friends. Children. Performers. Artists. And most of all, fellow photographers from every far-flung corner imaginable… and some that went to high school right down the street from me.

Paralee is kind of a legend. She was the very first Intern- ever- and everyone who knows her thinks she’s the sweetest thing in existence. And so, when I got an email out of the blue from this Very Famous Paralee, asking if I’d like to partner up with her on a wedding in Savannah, I felt like I was entering this new level of being a photographer. My internship may be a thing of the past, but the challenge of what I’m doing never ends- and it’s never going to– and the idea of doing something OTHER than either second-shooting or lead-shooting, but instead, truly building a partnership for a wedding, almost literally split right down the middle, well, I was intrigued- I’d never photographed a wedding that way before. That, and I was thrilled and honored to work with Paralee.

The wedding was lovely. The weekend was lovely. The bride and her family, whom we stayed with in an incredible house right on the beach on Tybee Island, were lovely. The groom and the families and the friends and the beach and the entire three days… just lovely. Really. There was a lot of loveliness going on. The bride’s sister walked her down the aisle. There were fabulous yellow cardigans involved. From a First Look on the beach… ON THE BEACH… to a dock-side ceremony right on the bayou… to the envitable shrimp and grits as synonymous to Savannah as the Spanish moss that I miss again already… it was all just perfect. And fun. And romantic. And… lovely. It’s weddings like these that make me want to get married all over again- to my husband again of course- he humors the shrimp and grits thing so I think I’ll keep him.

Thank you to MacKenzie and Ryan and your families for everything- for opening your home to us and welcoming us so warmly into your family for the weekend. And I made a new friend out of the weekend- Paralee, thank you for everything and I’ll see you at the next one!

Atlanta. Wedding. Photographer. Savannah. Tybee. Beach.