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Proud pup mom, type A creative, lover of the outdoors, Top Chef fan girl, and wedding and portrait photographer. Welcome to the blog!
HI, I'M RACHEL!
Ooh this is a fun post to write! Today I’m going to talk about new wedding traditions!
Across many cultures, there are classic wedding traditions we are all familiar with. Some of those include:
And then there are ones I grew up accustomed to (I grew up in the U.S. – Maryland to be exact):
And as you delve into each culture individually, many more traditions are uncovered.
Most of the things I listed above are expected at a wedding these days, therefore I expect to cover them when I’m photographing a wedding (unless you tell me on your final questionnaire you’re not doing some of them). So that’s not what we’re really here to talk about today. Today I’m going to share some new wedding traditions I’ve seen more often in the past few years. They are super touching and create wonderful memories and beautiful images, so I wanted to bring them to everyone’s attention. Let’s get to it!
I’m grouping all types of new wedding traditions, first looks, under this one category, and below you’ll see the various options you can have photographed on your wedding day. One thing I do want to note about all ‘first looks’: when I photograph them, they are always private (unless the couple requests to have friends or family present). No audience.
Father / Daughter First Look
This is always a wonderful idea for women who have a special relationship with their dad. A wedding dress/outfit is something a woman will only wear one day of her life (in most cases), so there’s just something extra special about a father seeing his daughter in her bridal gown or wedding attire. These moments always get me teary eyed!
Mother / Son First Look
This can be a sweet moment too! It’s less about a mom seeing her son dressed up (although I’m sure that’s special for some moms!), since there are plenty of occasions for a man to wear a suit in life. It’s more about seeing your son all spiffed up and ready to walk down the aisle on his wedding day.
Bridesmaids First Look
These are super easy to do and I’ve started orchestrating these at most of my weddings. This is where just one or two bridesmaids help the bride get into her dress – usually a maid of honor and mom. When she’s dressed, she walks out to show the other bridesmaids and we catch that moment on camera. There is always so much fun energy in these moments!
Groomsmen First Look with the Bride
I’ve actually never photographed this, but I saw it on Instagram the other day and thought it was cute! This is most appropriate for brides who have a close relationship with the groomsmen. Where the guys are friends of the bride just as much as they are with the groom.
Couple’s First Look
I wrote a whole blog post about this, so I’ll link that here. Basically this is where the couple sees each other before the ceremony – for many reasons you can read about in that other post. And I think they’re a great idea! I’ll leave it at that.
Like some of the new wedding traditions in today’s post, this can be done in a variety of ways. The basic idea is that the couple exchanges gifts they have gotten for each other, before the ceremony. Gifts can be anything! Jewelry, a framed photo, a watch, perfume, cuff links, it could even just be a card with a note for your fiancé on your big day. Really anything that has special meaning between the two of you. The level of the gift should probably be agreed upon between the two of you beforehand! It might not feel great to receive a framed photo when you gave diamond earrings! haha
One way to do this is you have a wedding party member or your wedding coordinator bring your gift to the other person, without the bride(s)/groom(s) seeing each other. Each person opens the gift before the ceremony and we take photos of those moments. It can be done in private, so just the bride/groom and the photographer/videographer. Or it could be done in front of your wedding party.
Another way to do this is to exchange the gifts after you do your ‘first look’. You would bring the gifts to the first look, set them aside, and then pick them up after you greet each other. Those moments of exchanging gifts would be photographed along with the rest of your first look.
This is another one of the new wedding traditions I’ve seen done multiple ways.
One way this can be done is for it to happen similarly to the gift exchange. That’s where you write out your vows and have someone take them to the other person. Then you would privately read the vows, either to yourself in your head, or aloud if you have a videographer and that’s something you work out with them beforehand. I’ve seen couples do this and still read their vows during the ceremony, and I’ve seen other couples do this and not read those vows at the ceremony. It’s up to you!
You could also do this after your ‘first look’. After you greet each other, you could take a few minutes to read your vows to each other in person.
I’ve also seen it done where the couple says the ‘traditional’ vows during the ceremony, and then afterwards they take a private moment for just the two of them, where they read aloud their personal vows to each other.
And last, I’ve seen it done where the couple exchanges handwritten vows at the ceremony and reads them quietly to themselves. Said another way, one person hands a written note to the other person and vice versa. They read the vows in their heads, so no on else hears them. It’s kind of like a moment of silence for the audience. I will tell you, when I saw this as an audience member, I was dying to know what those papers said! haha
This is one I encourage most of my couples to do. Photography is a big part of your wedding day. We want to be there to capture all the big, important moments, and those usually happen within an 8-10 hour window in the middle of the day. Once we’re finished, it can be fun to commemorate the completion of that major part of your day with a special photo. There are multiple ways to mark the end of your photography; it’s a matter of finding what works best for your wedding.
This usually consists of the DJ announcing to your reception guests that they should join the couple on the dance floor for a big group photo by the photographer. This can be done for weddings with usually 150 people or fewer, and is a great way to get all your guests in one photo – obviously. Everyone gathers, I give some instruction, take a few shots to make sure everyone’s eyes are open, and it’s done. The DJ will usually do this right before they open the dance floor, so it doubles as a way to already have everyone be on the dance floor, ready to party!
I personally love this one! This is a photo where we get to highlight a unique aspect of your venue – like a grand staircase, an interesting doorway or entrance, a gazebo, a cool archway, a long pathway, a beautiful chaise or couch. It could be anything! I take some time to look around and then make my recommendation to the couple of where I think the best spot is. I will use flash most likely for this photo, since it takes place at night and often outdoors. And we usually do something dramatic for the pose – a dip, a kiss, a twirl. It’s a fun way to mark the end of the night and to get an epic portrait that’s a little different than what the rest of your portraits will be from earlier in the day.
As I said above, photographers do not need to stay until the bitter end of your reception. I suggest we’re there for 30-60 minutes of party dancing, and then we leave! You don’t need hours and hundreds of dancing photos. Usually the people dancing within the first 30 minutes are going to be the same people dancing the rest of the night. And to be honest, they just get sloppier as the night goes on! haha (Just keeping it real!) No one needs those photos to exist (where’s the cry-laughing emoji when you need it?!)
Some couples still want to do the fun exit photos (you know the ones – sparklers, bubbles, etc) even if their photographers are leaving before the actual end of the night. That’s where the ‘faux exit’ comes in. We grab your wedding party and some close family members and head outside. We have them form two lines and you get to run down the center while they cheer you on! It’s definitely a fun way to end your photography, and then you get to go right back to the dance floor and celebrate with your loved ones without having to worry about being anywhere else for anymore photo ops for the rest of the night. Win/win!
Did this post get you excited to book your own wedding, micro-wedding, elopement, or engagement session?! If yes, send me a note and we can chat about what you have in mind: contact me
Hi – I’m Rachel! A wedding, engagements, and headshots photographer in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia. I love taking photos of elegant people who love to laugh, as well as of much in-love couples. If you’re a dog owner, that’s a plus! I’m currently booking 2022 portrait sessions, as well as 2022 and 2023 weddings.
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Rachel is a wedding and portrait photographer
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