First Look or Not?

Wedding Planning

A “First Look” is the term used when a bride and groom decide to see each other before the wedding ceremony. Many couples go back and forth on this decision. While, a traditional bride might prefer to have her groom enjoy the first sight of her as she walks down the aisle, there are many benefits to having a first look. Here are 8 reasons to have a “First Look”:

Wedding days should be full of emotion and should not be stressful.  A first look can add so much beautiful emotion and happiness to your day.

If you are Jewish you must see the groom before the wedding to sign the wedding contract.

A First Look helps eliminate those “I think I’m going to go crazy” nerves that you often feel before the wedding. Seeing your honey and sharing that time can provide instant relaxation and assurance that everything will be just fine. While some jitters and nerves come back when you are about to walk down the aisle, it’s different.

Photographers enjoy doing photos before the ceremony as there is less stress and more time to be creative.

Many guys lock up when you come down that aisle. They feel “on stage” and you often won’t get an honest response out of him. He’s nervous too! When he can see you before, he can take it all in, respond to how beautiful you are, laugh with you, cry with you, and most importantly… TALK TO YOU!

When you choose to see each other before the ceremony you have time to touch-up makeup, are able to say things to one another and you are actually able to enjoy your time together before the ceremony. When there are tears, you can take time to re-compose before your walk down the aisle.

Many times the reception and the ceremony are very close together in time scheduled to eliminate a long wait time for your guests. However, that means that once the “formal photos” are done, there is usually not enough time to do the really great candid shots.

TIME with your groom alone!  The day will be very busy!  Guests will be congratulating you, wanting to ask thousands of questions, and you will have no time to share with your groom until the end of the day.  The first look gives the two of you some time together.

If you’re traditional, it’s okay to skip it. “Remember that you can always change your mind—even on the day of your wedding!  Some couples prefer that the first time they see each other to be when the bride walks down the aisle in church. It can be an exciting and emotional time, and you can share that with your guests.  Plus, the photos after the ceremony capture you wearing your rings.



Brides – Be a Great Host for Your Out of Town Guests


A good, thoughtful bride always takes into consideration making her out–of–town guests as comfortable as possible, and that includes helping with hotel reservations.   That’s especially important if you hope people will stay near your actual wedding and especially important if your guests are not familiar with our area.

The location of your wedding and time of year are both key factors that determine when you should tackle this task.  If your wedding is on the outskirts of St. Louis with limited accommodations during a holiday weekend or concurrent with a sporting event, book early.  If you are getting married in our “wine country” area or perhaps Hermann in October, that might be as much as a year in advance!

There are two types of blocks:

A Closed Block is one that requires a deposit in order to block and hold a specific number of rooms.   Sometimes you will be responsible for any unsold rooms and other times it’s a percentage of the room rate.

An Open Block frees you of being financially responsible for unsold rooms.  I like to refer to it as a courtesy block, and most accommodations have a cut-off date (30 to 90 days in advance) when those rooms are released at then available market price.

In Downtime St. Louis where there are a large number of accommodations to choose from you should keep in mind price and location, and ideally be within ten miles of your wedding venue.  I always recommend that accommodations be close to other attractions and restaurants so that guests who arrive early have something to do.   Also verify check-in time to allow your guests early enough check in to get ready for the wedding.  This is especially important if they are driving into town and have spent some time travelling.

In the St. Louis county area accommodations that I particularly like are the Residence Inn/Fairfield Inn ( both by Marriott.   They offer a shuttle service within a 5 mile radius that will pick up your guests from your reception and bring them back to their hotels.  It’s included in your bookings up to 9pm, but if you need some later pickups, say after the reception ends, you can work with them for a modest price to pick up guests at the end of the reception.  Guests love this as they can feel free to drink without any issues and not worry about getting lost late at night.  In addition, they offer a reservation link that you can provide your guests for either hotel whereby your guests can quickly and easily select the accommodations that fit their needs and budget.  Contact Tiffany Timbrook if you would like to reserve rooms are schedule a personal tour of their hotels at 314-762-1600 or email her at

Many brides also like to book a hotel room/suite for their “prep” time prior to the ceremony.  I asked Patrick Pope of Patrick Pope Photography (,  “What do you recommend for the bride and groom for get ready locations?  Should they be separate locations?” Here is what he suggested:  “Hotel rooms are a great place to get ready. What works very well is for the ladies to have a room on one floor while the guys have a room on a different floor. Being on different floors means there’s practically no chance of accidentally seeing one another, but as a photographer I can easily run up and down to get photos of both groups while they get ready. By having the same photographer photograph both it gives a consistent look to the photos. Most hotels also have good places in the lobby or an open area that are great for quick portraits or for first-look photos with the father of the bride.”

As you consider making these hotel arrangements, here are some additional questions to ask:

What is the group rate with taxes and fees?

What about parking?

What is Check Out Time?

Is there a Minimum stay required?

What  kind of amenities come standard?

It there a bar or restaurant onsite?

Room Types?  Queens, Kings, Family Rooms etc.

Some hotels offer Free Rooms or a complimentary Bridal Suite for the night of the wedding.   If you’re booking a large number of rooms at one property, you might be eligible for a free room or bridal suite.

And finally, it is always nice to provide a “WELCOME BASKET” for your guests.  That can include maps, snacks, a bottle of wine, and a schedule of pre-wedding activities with locations and details.

Finally, get the word out to your out -of-town guests.  Many brides include this on the wedding website, but if not, send them a brief message.  Here’s an example:  We’ve reserved a block of rooms at x at a rate of $XXX per night. You can reserve one of these rooms by calling 212-555-1234 or visiting   In order to secure the discounted rate, please book by (specific date).  Additional information is available on our wedding website at

What Everyone Needs to Know When Planning a Wedding

I’ve seen a fairly large number of weddings, and I can guarantee you that there has never been a perfect wedding.   But here are seven things that are KEY to a GREAT WEDDING.

Here’s the crazy thing about most weddings.  You and your partner will share very little time together on the most important day of your lives!   First, you get ready for the ceremony, then have the ceremony, and finally spent a lot of the reception dancing with parents and friends and thanking guests for coming.  I highly recommend that you PLAN some alone time for you and your spouse immediately after the ceremony.  Take a walk, go to a room alone, or just some place where the two of you can really share time just with one another.  The Wedding Timeline should allow plenty of time for your together time and photos of just the two of you.

Don’t try to do everything yourself!  The night before the wedding you don’t want to be making place cards, finishing centerpieces or arranging bouquets.  In fact, you should have all your décor and decorations READY 30 days before the wedding!  Those last few days before your wedding you want to enjoy.  Delegate and use your family and friends.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen are there as well to assist you, so don’t hesitate to ask them to take responsibility for a last-minute task.

Don’t invite too many wedding guests.  Sure, I’ve seen empty spaces at tables where guests have RSVP’d and then failed to arrive.  However, if you have invited 300 guests, received 290 “yes” responses, but the reception venue can only legally accommodate 275, you might have to turn 10 people away.  That’s really bad.  And I think most couples don’t realize this.  Keeping the guest list shorter also helps control the budget – that’s the easiest way to cut expenses.  And quite honestly, you want to be spending your day with those who TRULY care about YOU…not a second cousin removed that has only met you once!

Don’t blow the budget!  Make a budget and keep track of your expenditures.  Don’t forget the hidden extras like tips and delivery fees.  I’ve heard of grooms who had to make a trip to the bank to get money to pay the DJ, or else there would be no music!  It costs a lot of money to have a wedding, so make sure you have all the major items budgeted for.

Photography is one of the MOST IMPORTANT items on your budget.  Your photos will be your special “take away” from the day – and images that bring back memories of your special day are just really priceless!


Create some WOW at your reception.  Do you want your wedding reception something that family and friends will be talking about for years?  You don’t have to spend a fortune.  You just need to add some extra pizazz and show guests that you really appreciate them.  Little things can make a big difference.  For example, serve pre-ceremony cocktails or serve wine/sparkling grape juice during the ceremony, have an “after party”, or hire special entertain for the reception.  Perhaps a singer, bagpiper to make a grand entrance, or a piano player to play requests!

Your wedding day goes fast, so just go with the flow and enjoy your day.

Wedding Planning – Important Dates to Keep in Mind for Your 2019 Wedding

Wedding Planning


Congratulations to all you brides sporting a beautiful new rock on that left hand.  One of the first questions you will be asked is, “Have you set a date?”  The date you choose is key to your entire event.  If you are on a tight budget there are some dates you will want to avoid and if you choose a date around a Holiday, you might find your favorite vendor already booked.  To save money, go for a Friday or Sunday wedding as many vendors will offer a reduced price on those days.   We also listed the 3 day weekends – these are great for guests who need to travel.   October is a very busy wedding month.  If fact, it ranks up with June as one of the most popular wedding months.

So let’s start –

January 1 – It’s a Tuesday this year.  Some of you might want to opt for a 12/31/18 end of year wedding.  And besides it will save money on taxes if you file as “Married”.  Many companies will be celebrating a 4 day weekend so this could be a great time to say those “vows” especially if you have out of town guests invited.

January 9, 2019 (It’s 1/9/19) – A easy date to remember!  What I call a Novelty Date.   (Yes, it’s a Wednesday)

January 19-20-21  – A 3 day weekend for many to celebrate Martin Luther King’s Day.

(January 27th – Our First Bridal Show of the Year at The Christy Banquet Center in O’Fallon, MO.)

February 3th – Super Bowl – If your guy’s a sports fan – forget about this date!

February 12th  – Lincoln’s Day is a State Holiday in Illinois.  It’s a Tuesday.

February 14th – Valentine’s Day (Thursday).  Florists will be super busy, and you might pay more for those red roses.

February 16-17-18 –  President’s Day Weekend – A 3 Day National Holiday.

March 3rd – BrideStLouis Bridal Show at the Foundry Art Center in St. Charles

March 5th – Marti Gras (Tuesday)

March 6th – Ash Wednesday (Catholics usually don’t marry in Lent.)

March 10th – Daylight savings time begins.  (Longer Days)

March 17th – For You Irish Lads. (It’s a Sunday. Wear those kilts!)

March 20th – First Day of Spring – Vernal equinox. (Wednesday)

April 19th – Passover Begins and Good Friday

April 21st – Easter Sunday.  Most couples avoid that date.  Many churches will not perform weddings the Saturday before Easter – April 20th)

May 12th – Mother’s Day.  (Be sure to check with your Mom’s about that weekend.)

May 25-26-27 – Big Wedding Weekend – Memorial Day Weekend.  If you are thinking about one of those dates, you need to get your contracts signed NOW.  Photographers and favorite venues may already be booked.  Vendors know that they can book these dates – so don’t look for price deals.

June 16th – Father’s Day.

July 4th – (Thursday) This could be a busy time for many places so get your reservations in early.  If you have folks who need to travel this could be an ideal time for them to come.  It’s generally HOT so consider an indoor wedding.

(July and August can be very hot in St. Louis.  It is best to plan for an “indoor” ceremony/venue.)

August 31, Sept. 1 & 2 – Labor Day Weekend.   Book quickly if you want this date.  Good again for those with out-of-town guests.

September 29th – Rosh Hashana Begins (Sunday)

September & October Weekends

Extremely popular in the St. Louis area.

Great time for those Wine Vineyard Weddings.

Ties with June as the most popular month.  Book EARLY for weekends in these months.

October 12-13-14 – Columbus Day Weekend.  Another good long weekend.

October 31st – Thursday

November 1, 2019 – Another Novelty Date (9/1/19).  Easy to remember.  (Sunday).

Nov. 3rd – Daylight Savings Ends

November 9 – 10 – 11 Veterans Day Weekend

Many in the military choose this day.

November 28, 29, 30,Dec. 1 Thanksgiving Weekend. These dates book fast.

December 22nd – Hanukkah Begins

December 25th – Christmas (Wednesday)

December 28, 29, 30 and 31 – End the year married!


Also, be mindful of religious and cultural holidays (Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Christmas, and Kwanzaa) when planning your wedding.  There may be restrictions at your house of workship.

And if your family is deeply involved in sports – avoid weekends with the Super Bowl, Final Four March Madness, and perhaps some local college games as well.

And finally, for number “13” fans – you have (on weekends):  January 13th (Sunday)), April 13th (Saturday), July 13th (Saturday), September 13th (Friday), and October 13th (Sunday).   This is for Friday, Saturday or Sunday events as noted.


Outdoor Places for Low Cost Ceremonies

Recently we had a future bride ask about outdoor places with gazebos or gardens that could be used for wedding ceremonies.  (She was looking for FREE or almost free!)   So – I tossed together some locations that come to mind.

Alton Gordon Moore Public Park

Bellevue Park, Belleville.  It has a beautiful gazebo and a medium size lake.

Forest Park – Waterfall off Lagoon Street, The Muny Entrance (Gazebo and beautiful lake in front of the Muny), General Grounds, the Basin area, and Old World’s Fair Pavilion are my favorites.

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Faust Park – By The Village, Outside the Butterfly House, or at the Thornhill Mansion grounds that is behind the Butterfly House.

Missouri Botanical Garden – That’s not free, but it is beautiful.

Kiener Plaza – The old Kiener Plaza was a beautiful setting.  The new one is a bit busy all the time.

Carondelet Park

The Water Tower off Grand

Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit.   It’s $5.00 per person to enter, but it’s worth it!   They have a beautiful lake and in spring they have 1000s of daffodils.

Oak Knoll Park in Clayton.   There is a sunken garden area to the West of the building and also a small lake.

Bee Tree Park in South County.

The City Garden has a nice waterfall

Tower Grove Park – Most everyone knows about the ruins, the lily pond, and the many, many gazebos.

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Castlewood State Park off Manchester Road in Ballwin

The J.C. Stage in St. Charles on the Riverfront.  It cost a little to rent, but it’s very nice.  They also have two other smaller pavilions.

The Arch Grounds.

Lafayette Square & Park

Wedding Ceremony locations by BrideStLouis

Laumeier Sculpture Park

Queeny Park in Manchester

Chesterfield City Center Park

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St. Ferdinand Park in Florissant – Both Lake & Gazebo.

Various New Town Locations in St. Charles

Drace Park in Des Peres – not well known, but very nice.

Longview Farm off Clayton Road in Town & County.

Creve Coeur Lake Park

Kirkwood Trail Station (Get married inside the train station.  A great location when the weather is bad.)

Fort Zumwalt Park

Quail Ridge Park in St. Charles County

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At some of these locations you can reserve a shelter.  For almost all locations I recommend you check with the various authorities for any permits that may be required.

We, of course, would love to hear any additional suggestions from you that we can share with our readers.

5 Tips for Getting Into Your Wedding Dress.

I love the fun and excitement of getting ready that occurs in the girl’s getting ready room.  There are lots of special moments that unfold that beg to be captured by your photographer.  Perhaps it is your sister’s special hug or gift, or your best friend’s “something old” that she has given you – all these moments are so very special.

Here is what I hate – bags, shoes, underwear, empty food containers, water bottles and a complete mess all around the room!  Your photographer will do their best to capture the events, but honestly, let’s have your girls pick up as they go – and a firm reminder from you, goes a long way.  The benefit is that your photos will not have the distractions of the messy environment, and those photos will emphasis the event and the emotion.  Remember you will be looking at these photos years from now!

And now for putting on the dress.

Tip #1:  Always go potty BEFORE you put on your dress.

Tip #2:  Be sure your photographer is there to capture the moment.  Don’t put on the dress before he/she arrives.

Tip #3:  Putting on your wedding dress can be an incredibly beautiful, fun and captivating moment.  Most photographers recommend that you pick one person to assist you, sometimes your mother or your maid of honor.  Having less people will make the moment more relaxed, let you enjoy it, and allow your photographer to capture more of you and your dress, rather than a sea of people.

Tip #4:  To keep your hair and makeup fresh, if you are putting the dress on over your head, raise your arms up and out to protect your hair and makeup.

Tip #5:  Put on your own jewelry.  A sea of people – adjusting your dress, adding your bracelet, one adding a necklace – just way to much going on at one time.  I see people looking like they are dressing a Barbie Doll, and the bride just trying to accommodate everyone!  It’s crazy.   Put on most of your own jewelry, but if you have one piece that’s important to you (or hard to get on) have ONE person help you with this.  Shoes do require help – who can see their feet in those big fluffy or tight dresses.

And one last, little thing.  Why do all girls hold onto their boobs?  Really?  Once the dress is on, let go!    Do you want all your photos to show you holding up your boobs?