Titus & Megan

I first met Megan a few years ago when I did a photoshoot with her family initiated by her older sister (photo reference below) who happened to work at a bakery with my husband. I left that photoshoot⁠ and thought “what a great family!” Little did I know that a few years later we would be living in the same area and she would think of me once again to join her on her big day.

Old family picture of Megan, her siblings, and her mother.

While I have second shot and assisted plenty of weddings in North Carolina, Megan and Titus’ wedding was my first official “Duck & Dill” wedding in North Carolina. For that reason, I am so appreciative that my official break into NC was made with sweet friends. Megan got married in Pineville, North Carolina at The Hut in Pineville, NC on June 4, 2019.   

CLICK HERE Listen to the Titus and Megan Playlist.

Beautiful bride ready for a first look
Details in remembrance of the groom's mother on bride's bouquet.
Bride and groom at the first look.
Bride and groom smiling and laughing.
Bride and groom smiling and laughing.
Cheersing group photo of friends surrounding a bride and groom.

First Look

If you are new to weddings and doing some research, you’ve probably come across the term “first look” thrown around.

But, what is the first look?

Instead of the first moment, which is when your partner sees you when you are walking down the aisle, a first look has that first sight of you be before the ceremony in an oftentimes more intimate setting. A lot of the time, that first look moment is just the bride and the groom or the bride, groom and their wedding party who sneak in to see the sweet moment. I, personally, do not let the couple kiss at this moment.

Whether or not to do the first look is totally up to you as a couple, but here are my list of pros and cons to help with the decision.

Pros:

  • Keep that first sight intimate
  • Can do all the photos before the ceremony
  • Can ease nerves on the wedding day

My husband and I did a first look before our wedding solely because I’m pretty private about things and I wanted to be able to see him without it being in front of everyone. I also knew that he wanted to wash my feet before the ceremony, and that provided the best timing for it. We still did all of our family photos after the ceremony, so it didn’t save us any time.

What I learned later, was that that moment completely calmed all of his anxiety about the day. He let his mind wander the morning before our wedding about all the bad possibilities of a wedding and the moment he saw me, he released those possibilities and felt secure again in our future and me showing up (I literally have no idea why that was a question, haha). For me, that moment was a chance to be hugged by the least frazzled person in attendance.

Bride and groom doing their first look at the Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton, SC.
Bride and groom doing their first look at the Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton, SC.

Palmer and me on our wedding day back in 2015.

Cons

  • Miss out on that big reveal as you walk down the aisle
  • You can’t always control how intimate the first look ends up being
  • The getting ready process will need to start earlier

The first con I mentioned is pretty self-explanatory, but I do want to dive a little deeper into cons two and three.

In theory, a first look is just you and your partner but in reality, it is the couple, the photographer (who might get close), the videographer (who will get close), and possibly the wedding party. If you have a wedding party that is super patient then they will abide by the “don’t watch us” rule, but a lot don’t. It sounds rude to put it so bluntly that they don’t listen to your wishes, but you have to understand…these are the people that have been fully invested in your relationship since the beginning. They are some of your best friends, they heard about him/her when they first started flirting with you, they heard all the details about your first dates, and they were probably there to document the proposal. They don’t want to miss out on any special moments because they honestly feel like they have been there for all the others. As for the photographers and the videographer, well, we were hired to be storytellers and that intimate moment is part of the story that we don’t want you to miss out on recounting later in life.

Groom kissing his future bride's forward during their first look at a wedding in Belton, South Carolina.

Connor and Emma during their first look.

Lastly, timing is a big issue when it comes to doing a first look. I do both the bridal party and groomsmen photos before the first look, then follow up the first look with at least the wedding party photos. That process alone often ends up being about an hour and a half. I also like to have the bride hidden in her room at least 45 minutes before the ceremony, so no guests come across her. All that together means that you have to be ready around 2.5 hours before the wedding, just for wedding party photos. For this reason, I suggest that you be realistic about how long it will take you to get ready before you commit to a first look.

Groom walking up to bride to do the first look before the ceremony.
Groom crumpling into his bride after seeing her for the first time in her wedding dress during first look.

Graham and Stephanie during their first look.

Things to note:

  • Lighting can be an issue.
    • If you are having a late spring or summer wedding and are doing a first look, you are probably going to be doing those shots when the sun is at its highest (early afternoon). High sun makes harsher shadows, so expect a photographer to move you to shaded areas and we will probably ask you to do more photos around sunset.
    • If you are doing a late fall or winter wedding and are not doing a first look, know that the light might be completely gone when your ceremony ends. Winter time sun goes away quickly and often comes with weather that makes the sky darker throughout the day. This time of year is the only time that I recommend a first look, just because you help out your photographer and videographer with being able to deliver you a variety of images of you as a couple in the daylight and the dark.
  • Have realistic expectations about your partner’s reaction.
    • Not all grooms or brides have a reaction of happy crying and hollering when they see you. You know you your partner and the reality of how they might act, so don’t get disappointed if it’s not like what you’ve been drooling over on Pinterest. Some people cry and laugh, like my husband, and then some smile and just need a hug, like myself.
  • You can also do a first something else.
    • Some couples choose to not see each other before the wedding but still do a “first” something by choosing a corner or a doorway where they can hear each other’s voice and maybe even touch. This also allows your photographer or videographer the ability to capture both of you in the frame for you to look back on later.

Bride and groom sharing their wedding gifts.

Bo and Kelly exchanging “first” gifts.

Hope these tidbits help you in deciding what works best for you and your family on your big day! Whatever you choose, know that it will be magical because it fits who you are as a couple.

Bo & Kelly

DECEMBER 8, 2018

Bo and Kelly are also one of those couples have been dating since middle school, so even though they are in their early twenties they have already been dating for almost a decade. They, as individuals, are also very mature so I often forget their age entirely just based off their demeanor and that I think of them as the couple that has “always been together.” Going into their wedding I knew a decent amount about them just based off knowing them through our church, serving and them being local kids, but I realized that I did not fully express the nature of them and their families to my second shooter. This ended up being the best thing I could have accidentally forgotten.

At some point, I had gotten used to them as a couple and used to the ways of their families, so when I sent info to my second shooter I largely only sent her key relationships to capture and the bride and groom’s request of how they wanted to be portrayed. When she arrived, her expectations of them were completely dismantled (in the best way possible). Their love for each other was more established than what is expected of a 22-year-olds and while she could see why I mentioned certain relationships to highlight, all members of their families gushed over them with loving abandonment. Her awe of that day completely opened up my own eyes to see the enchantment of that day. Past the fact that they were friends of ours, past the fact that we knew members of their families, past the fact that they were clients of Duck & Dill, and straight into the beauty that loves found in middle school can change with you into adulthood and well root itself with expectations of hope and a future.

Bride and groom sharing their wedding gifts.
Bride and her bridesmaids at Sleepy Hollow in Clemson, South Carolina.
Groom and his groomsmen at Sleepy Hollow in Clemson, South Carolina.
Wedding ceremony at Sleepy Hollow in Clemson, South Carolina.
First dance at Sleepy Hollow in Clemson, South Carolina.
First dance at Sleepy Hollow in Clemson, South Carolina.

Ryan

We moved to Charlotte, NC for  Palmer’s job as a youth pastor. Our focus with the kids in the youth group has been on presenting the gospel and being approachable as mentors/friends, but at the same time some of them are seniors and they know that we are photographers.

Ryan, a senior in our youth group, is a drummer and a volunteer extraordinaire, so I was super pleased when his family asked us to shoot their senior portraits. What I did not know at the time was that it would be out on this gorgeous piece of land above the city. Living in the city these days, we often forget that going out to the country and the woods feels a little like going home. For this shoot, it was a little rainy, but it was also a warmer day and the clearest day of that month. What more can you ask for in December!

Portrait of a senior in a field in North Carolina.
Portrait of a smiling senior with his drum set.
Smiling senior portrait as he walks.
Portrait of a senior by his drum set.

Austin & Savannah

NOVEMBER 10, 2018

When you are local to an area you often have a lot of small world moments. That happened to me with Savannah and Austin, because I first met Savannah at one of the wedding festivals we attended but she had known and been working with Palmer for almost four months by that time! I’m not sure that he knew she was engaged at the time, but when he began his job at the Southern Wesleyan University (SWU) post office she worked in the coffee shop right next to him. She made drinks for him often.

This wedding was a fun and an interesting mix of things because they got married on Southern Wesleyan’s campus, which also happens to be Palmer’s alma mater and where his parents work. Though I never attended Southern Wesleyan, I often feel so connected to the school and the campus just because so much of my family has strong memories and ties to the school. That being said, the few things that I did remember about the campus and the chapel, where the ceremony would be, were all different. An outdoor amphitheater had been built next to the chapel, the chapel had been updated to match the other campus buildings, and a nearby road that was always under construction had finally been finished. For all the knowledge I thought I had about the campus, I suddenly found myself having to realistically look at the campus in terms of angles and framing instead of viewing it through a lens of a past I never had. Luckily, SWU has a beautiful campus, but it was a bit of a weird awakening to realize that my ties to the school weren’t really with the school or the grounds but to the people who valued the school.

Dress highlight portrait of a bride and groom.
Smiling bride and groom after their wedding day ceremony.
Celebrating wedding party while the bride and groom kiss.

Alex & Elise

NOVEMBER 3, 2019

Alex and Elise’s wedding held so many unique moments for me. They found out about us through one of their relatives, who went on a mission trip to Kenya with me (4 years prior) and happened to see our post on facebook that we were creating our own photography business.

They were the first couple to nail down their wedding day with us after we officially announced our business and they probably had the least amount of knowledge about us as photographers. What they did know was that they had the referral of a trusted family member and for that, I am forever grateful (your words have power, people!)

The wedding itself was smaller than most but filled with so many friends and family members that clearly loved the bride and groom so much. In attendance were friends that the groom had had since KINDERGARTEN! A banker once called me a unicorn for still having friends from high school, so I recounted to her this wedding and said that some of us are unicorns and then some of us are just better at creating a family. I could shoot a million weddings like this…where you just get swept up into a fun loving and friendly environment filled with so much support.

Bride and groom having their first dance.
Close up of bride and groom having their first dance. Bride is smiling and laughing while groom kisses her cheek.
Bride and groom cutting their wedding cheesecake.
Bride and groom smiling after they have smashed a piece of their wedding cake in each others faces.
Booty dancing and laughing at the reception of a wedding.
Doing the electric slide at the wedding reception.
Group photo at the wedding reception.

The Eaton Family

About a mile from where we lived back in Pendleton, SC was a cute little wine bar in the town square. Palmer and I frequented this spot, but also he would sometimes play guitar and sing there on the weekends or on special events. It was at one of his performances there that we met the Eaton family and specifically little Adeline who, though she was quite shy, was always the first one to get up and dance.

Fast forward a few months and Jennifer Eaton (mom) and I joined the wine bar book club where we read some really great and some really bad books, all while sipping down some delicious wine. We were often the only two that showed up regularly to our club, so we quickly went from just book club friends to real friends. Now that we’ve moved I still miss those once a month meetups to chat books and life with chilled rose, but I’m glad I was able to take a snapshot of their lives on my last swing through Pendleton.

Family walking and laughing.
Close up of young daughter smiling while walking with her parents.
Family laughing and smiling.
Family cuddling in Pendleton, SC.
Mother and daughter laughing and smiling.
Father daughter picture with the Eatons.

Jason & Kelly

SEPTEMBER 29, 2018

Kelly initially found us at a wedding festival in Anderson, SC but wasn’t able to talk to us until our following wedding festival in Greenville, SC. I’m not sure what drew her to us at the first festival where she wasn’t able to speak to us, but I am so grateful that she made a point of finding us at the second and hired us to shoot their wedding.

As people, Jason and Kelly are laid back and they so easily welcomed us into many of their intimate moments on their wedding day. As photographers, there were so many fun moments and such freedom in their wedding preferences that it was such an easy wedding to shoot because every moment felt like we were joining our own friends on their wedding day. Cheers to having clients that make work feel like fun and love feel endless.

Bride and Groom about to kiss for the first time as a married couple.
Bride and groom walking away as an official married couple.
Bride and groom kissing in the middle of a muscadine vine.
Bride and groom eskimo kissing after their ceremony.
Bride looking at camera while groom hugs her and looks at his bride.

The Reif Family

Part family shoot, part maternity shoot, all Reif family. In the weird cycle of life, I actually met and created a relationship with the littlest Reif member first. I lead a class at church that was largely playtime because it was for kids that stayed for two services, and that is how I grew to know and love little Kami. Kami is one of those special little children that is super cuddly, plays well with others in a variety of games, and will offer to help you clean up someone else’s mess. I’m glad to have been a part of documenting an exciting time for such a kind family.

Expecting parents reading "I am a big sister" to their daughter.
Maternity shot of a husband and wife holding each other and smiling.
Expecting mom gazing at her husband lovingly.
Mother and father walking and swinging young daughter between them.
Mother showing off her baby bump while young daughter checks her own belly.
Young daughter hugging her mother's pregnant stomach.

Richmond & Peyton

We did two wedding festivals last year to kick off our first year as Duck & Dill Photography, one in Anderson, SC and one in Greenville, SC. At each of the wedding festivals, we decided to give away a free engagement session to one lucky winner regardless of whether or not they chose to book us as their wedding photographers. We ran into Richmond and Peyton at both festivals and luckily we chose them as the winners of our Greenville show. This shoot was as Poinsette Bridge in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina.

Couple almost kissing on street in a wooded area.
Couple gazing at each other on street in a wooded area.
Couple looking at the camera.
Couple sitting on a bench in the woods gazing at each other.
Couple smiling at each other by Poinsett Bridge.
Couple smiling at each other by Poinsett Bridge.

Couple dancing on street in a wooded area.