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The Pros and Cons of Having a First Look


The Pros and Cons of Having a First Look

The topic of a “first look” is often highly debated among brides and wedding professionals alike. If you’re unfamiliar with what a “first look” is, essentially, it is where the bride and groom plan a time before the ceremony to see each other – just the two of them.

 But before we move on, a quick disclaimer: the very last thing I ever want to do when talking about a first look is make someone feel bad for choosing to opt for a more traditional route of the groom seeing the bride for the first time while walking down the aisle. Heck, my husband and I opted to not have a first look, because we both decided that we wanted to keep that aspect of our day a bit more traditional! But with that being said, I do want to share some pros and cons of a first look to help those who might be on the fence!



You’ll have more time together.

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This is a HUGE one, and one I wish I would’ve considered going into my own wedding day! On your wedding day, you’ll come down the aisle, get married, jump straight into portraits, then jump straight into the reception – there’s barely any time to have a relaxed moment together. But with a first look, you’ll get the majority of your photos done before the ceremony, and will therefore have much more time to enjoy just being together (plus, you’ll get to attend cocktail hour – which leads me to my next point!).

You’ll get to spend more time with your guests.

If the majority of your photos take place before the ceremony, you’ll most likely be able to attend the majority of (or part of!) your cocktail hour! This is a great way to make sure you get to talk with the majority of your guests and enjoy the party you worked so hard to plan!

You’ll feel less rushed.

Have you ever been to a wedding where there was a 3-5 hour time gap between the ceremony and reception? Me too. I remember being antsy, hungry, and ready for the party to start by the time bridal party made it to the reception. Doing a first look means being able to do the majority of your photos before the ceremony, which cuts down time between the ceremony and reception for your guests.

You’ll be less nervous.

I’m naturally more of an introvert, so being in front of a crowd of people gives me a little bit of anxiety. If you’re like me, consider doing a first look. You’ll get to experience that moment together – just the two of you (plus your photographer, hopefully from afar ;) ) – without anyone else around. There’s no pressure to react a certain way, no onlookers, just a private moment between the two of you.

You’ll have more time for portraits!

Sometimes on a wedding day, things run behind. The ceremony goes a little over, the receiving line is unaccounted for in the official timeline, or the transportation to the reception takes a bit longer than expected – which all cut into photo time. Having your photos taken before the ceremony means that you can plan a bigger time chunk without having to worry about everything running behind and arriving late to your reception or making guests wait for you!

*As a side note, if you’re getting married in the winter months, the sun will set a bit earlier in the day. Make sure you pay attention to when your photo time will take place in relation to when the sun sets so you aren’t taking photos in the dark!



Your fiancé will see you before the ceremony, so the “down the aisle” moment will be a little different.

It’s true, that moment down the aisle you’ve always been dreaming of may feel a bit different since you will have already seen each other.

You’ll have to start getting ready earlier in the day.

With a first look, you’ll need to be “photo ready” earlier, which means you’ll have to start getting ready earlier. It can be helpful to ask your photographer when he/she thinks the first look should happen, based on what time the ceremony is set to begin. Then, you’ll be able to ask your hair and makeup artists how much time hair and makeup will take, and when you will need to start getting ready.

Lighting during the first look isn’t always ideal.

The best time of day for photos is a few hours after sunrise, or a few hours before sunset. The biggest thing I get hung up on with a first look is the light! Most first looks happen in the middle of the day, when the light is harsh, so sometimes it’s tough to find a good spot with flattering light – especially for photos with large groups of people (like a bridal party!).

 First looks have both their pros and cons, but when it comes down to it, all that really matters is what you want your wedding day to look like. If you want a first look, do it. If you don’t want a first look, don’t do it. But whatever you do, make sure you weigh your options so you can make an educated decision either way!

Happy planning!


Bridal Detail Checklist


Bridal Detail Checklist

Let’s just say it like it is: there is SO MUCH TO REMEMBER when you are a bride. Keeping track of vendors, decor, family members, bridesmaids, groomsmen - the day of a wedding can feel like a complete blur!

One of my biggest goals as a wedding photographer is to help my brides and to take things off their plate that have the potential to be stressors. When I arrive onsite on a wedding day to a bridal getting ready suite, there are so many different things going on! Makeup, hair, lunch, steaming the bridesmaid dresses, writing speeches and vows - not to mention taking the time to actually enjoy yourself! The one thing that I don’t want any of my brides to have to do is stop everything just to look for her details for me to photograph!

A great way to not have to worry about gathering all of your items frantically when there are a million other things going on?! Have all of your items set aside in advance. The day before the wedding (or even the morning of!), put all of the details you’d like to have photographed in a bag or box, with your dress hanging nearby. That way, you won’t have to worry about stopping the world to look for your earrings mid-makeup!

And now you might be wondering - what exactly should I be setting aside to have photographed? Well, I’m glad you asked! Below is a comprehensive list of all of the items I recommend my brides set aside for me to photograph! And if you’re more of a “hard copy” type of person (like me! ☺️), or if you simply want a PDF to put in your wedding binder or store on your desktop, I’ve created a PDF version of this list for you to download for free at the bottom of this post! Happy planning! 💛

  • Wedding Dress

  • Dress hanger

  • Dress belt (if there is one)

  • Veil (if there is one)

  • Bouquet

  • Shoes

  • Invitation suite (bonus points for including envelopes!)

  • Save the date

  • Garter(s)

  • Wedding rings

  • Ring box

  • Engagement ring

  • Perfume

  • Purse

  • Headpiece

  • Jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings)

  • Something old, new, borrowed, and blue

  • Gift from the groom

  • Vow book(s)


Want a free, comprehensive PDF Bridal Checklist to add to your wedding binder? Fill out the short form below to download yours as my gift to you!

Name *


What You Should Know About Wedding Photographers


What You Should Know About Wedding Photographers

At one of my weddings this past summer, a father of the bride came up to me and told me he had read my college thesis.


He found it online while he was researching me, and while he was trying to figure out how wedding photographers worked and why wedding photography costs so much.

As the father of the bride was explaining all of this to me, I literally started to sweat. I had no idea where this was going. For my honors thesis project, I wrote a business plan for, you guessed it, Jenna Hidinger Photography. I’ll be honest – I haven’t used it much since. If there’s anything I’ve learned about business while running a business, it’s that nothing stays the same for very long, and that you have to be constantly adapting to changing clients, markets, products, and services. But while he was talking, I kept thinking I wrote that paper almost four years ago, so much has changed since then – I hope he doesn’t hold anything I wrote against me!

But then he said something that astounded me, that I rarely ever hear: “Now I understand what all goes into wedding photography and why it costs so much. I used to think a photographer would just show up the day of, take some photos, and leave. But after reading your thesis, I feel like I understand and really appreciate what you do. You do so much. Thank you for all you’ve done for my daughter.”

Cue the gasp again. Those were most certainly not the words I expected to hear, but they brought so much joy to my heart! As his words echoed through my mind throughout the remainder of his daughter’s wedding day, alternative thoughts from other photographers kept echoing through my head: People should inherently know the value of what you do as a wedding photographer. You should never have to explain yourself or your pricing. People should know.

But if you’re not a wedding photographer, if you’re not friends with a wedding photographer, if you’re not married to a wedding photographer, if you don’t have a wedding photographer in your family… how are you supposed to know? How is anyone supposed to know unless we, the wedding photographers, tell them?

So today, I would love to share a few things you might not know about wedding photographers. There might be some pieces that have to do with money, and some that don’t. But my goal today isn’t to guilt you into paying more for your wedding photos - it’s to show you everything that goes into what we do outside of just showing up and taking photos. Because if no one has ever told you… how are you supposed to know?

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  1. We love when you ask for our advice and help!

    From a photography perspective and a planning-a-wedding perspective, few things give me more joy than being able to help a bride out, whether it’s by providing vendor recommendations, giving a second opinion on decorations, or helping create the perfect timeline. Most couples have never planned a wedding, so they aren’t always sure, for instance, how much time to allot for family formals, bride & groom photos, or bridal party portraits. Always double check with your photographer to see if they have a specific amount of time they recommend!

    I’ve created an 80 page magazine brimming full with tips, tricks, and advice all relating to engagement photos, wedding photos, timelines, first looks, rain, details, destination weddings, and the like. All brides who book with me receive this as my gift to them!

  2. There is a LOT more to photographing a wedding than showing up the day of!

    Emails, phone calls, timeline creation, location scouting, questionnaires, invoicing, contracts, album designing, product ordering, blogging, packaging & mailing – just to name a few! On top of the routine items in each wedding’s workflow, we’re also doing things like improving our education, bookkeeping, collecting and paying sales tax, creating educational resources for clients.

  3. We have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest (more on that here).

    Pinterest has given all brides everywhere access to more ideas than EVER before in every style, variety, and color scheme imaginable. Sometimes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the “Pinterest-perfect” photo opportunities, that you forget to let your day unfold in a way that’s true to you. Don’t miss out on true and authentic moments while trying to recreate someone else’s!

  4. Editing thousands of photos can take a long time.

    Sorting through 4,000 to 5,000 wedding photos, then editing ~1,000 can be a big job. Know that most wedding photographers want to finish editing your wedding photos as fast as you want to see them! But they also want to make sure that your once-in-a-lifetime day is edited to perfection – and perfection can take a little bit of time!

  5. Knowing of any family drama ahead of time is a HUGE help!

    It’s oh-so helpful to know any sensitive family situations so we don’t have two people who aren’t so fond of each other nice and close in a family portrait! The last thing we want is to make anyone feel uncomfortable on our account due to ignorance.

  6. The price you pay for your package is not what we get to keep in our bank accounts.

    If you want to make a buttload of money for working one day, wedding photography is not for you. Being a wedding photographer means lots of expensive equipment (which is expensive to upkeep!), backups for that expensive equipment in case something stops working mid-wedding day, liability insurance, equipment insurance, sales tax, editing software, computers, income tax, paying for continued education, hard drives to store our client’s photos, paying out of pocket for health insurance (or paying for an expensive plan not through an employer), not to mention every day expenses that don’t even have to do with the business (rent, cars, groceries). Don’t get me wrong – I love photography and it has been worth every single penny invested! But to be a full time, professional wedding photographer, major cost is involved.

  7. Besides actually taking pictures, keeping the wedding day on time is one of our biggest jobs.

    This is especially true if there is no planner! It’s easy for family members and friends to get swept up in the emotion of the day (for good reason!), and lose track of the timeline. Keeping the timeline on track ensures that we’ll be able to deliver the quality (and quantity) of images you would expect from us!

  8. We want to know what you like about our work.

    It’s helpful to know what a couple is attracted to in our work. Is it the light? The colors? The posing? The bridal detail styling? Reception lighting? Another special technique? Knowing in advance will help us pay special attention to what’s most important to you!

  9. We love recommending people who know, love, and work well with.

    On a wedding day, the vendors you hire will have to work together to help make your vision come to life, and if those vendors work well together, it’s going to make your wedding that much more epic! We have some vendors who we absolutely love to work who have a similar goal to us: to love on our couples and make their day as amazing as possible! If you would like to see a list of our favorite recommended vendors, including videographers, DJ’s, florists, hair artists, makeup artists, calligraphy specialists, invitation designers, caterers, photobooths and more, feel free to use the contact tab above to reach out! (Or, I linked to a few of my favorites above!)

  10. We love when you trust our expertise and opinions!

    Decisions we make can sometimes seem counterintuitive as to what could make for an epic photo or location, or how much time we allot for photos on a wedding day. The great thing about hiring a professional wedding photographer with experience? You shouldn’t have to worry about those decisions. We’ve acquired experience and education to be able to approach and photograph your wedding day in the best possible way. We love when you trust us to do our job!

The truth is, we never really know what goes into any profession that isn’t our own. We don’t know the time or money spent, or the work that goes into something behind the scenes. But we can listen. We can learn. We can ask questions – heck, we can even read theses! Most importantly: we can give each other grace.


Kirsten + Travis: Elegant Burgundy & Navy Winter Wedding in Saxonburg, PA


Kirsten + Travis: Elegant Burgundy & Navy Winter Wedding in Saxonburg, PA

A girl from South Africa and a boy from Saxonburg, Pennsylvania meet while at college at Penn State. At the time, neither of them know that what once started out as an acquaintance would grow into a life-long relationship built on love and most importantly, on Jesus.

After the chatting with Kirsten and Travis over Skype when they first inquired, I knew that they were exactly the type of couple who I love working with most: while, yes, they wanted everything to be beautiful, for the details to be meaningful, and for their friends and family to be a meaningful part of their celebration, their love and life-long commitment was the most important thing about their day. Even on their wedding day, they demonstrated their desire to love and serve each other by washing each other’s feet, like Jesus washed his disciples feet (if you’re wondering what the heck that means, click here).

It was an unusually warm January day here in Pittsburgh, which made outdoor portraits so much more pleasant! (Though everyone in attendance from South Africa will tell you it was still pretty darn cold - which it was!). We were able to take photos at the absolutely BEAUTIFUL Saxony Farms in Saxonburg (thanks to Travis’ sweetheart of a mom!), and we were blessed with the most beautiful light and sunset (again, crazy for January!)

The celebration continued at Cooper Hall (at the Saxonburg Museum) where firefly lights lit up the reception space. One of my favorite parts of their reception was the “open mic” toasts. Kirsten and Travis set aside about 30 minutes for anyone to give a little toast, and so many of their amazing friends and family did, from all over the world. And really, their stories of hospitality and kindness didn’t surprise me. Having spent just a few months communicating via email, phone, and Skype with these two, it’s easy to tell they have a supernatural love for those placed in their paths!

Kirsten and Travis, what an incredible honor it was to be a part of your day! I know your marriage is going to shine so brightly in this world.

And without further ado - here is the story of their day!


Ceremony: St. Luke's Lutheran Church (Saxonburg), Ceremony by Ps. Barry Keurulainen

Reception: Cooper Hall (Saxonburg Museum)

Invitations: Shutterfly

Bride’s Dress: Formalities by Tracina Fisher (Bridal Shop), Sophia Tolli gown, Mon Cheri (Designer)

Bridesmaid Dresses: Burgundy velvet dresses through Esty store, DesirCouture by Neringa

Makeup: Beauty by Joy

Hair: Hair by Wendy Vario

Menswear: Macy's

Cake Artist: Diane Lehnerd

Catering: LeFevre's Catering

Caller for Line Dancing: Brad Deibert

Chair Covers: Elegant Chair Design Covers

Lines & Tables: Classic Tents

Videography: Light Ridge Studio

Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer: Jenna Hidinger Photography

A special thanks to my second photographer, Taylor Dymond!


Chiara + Patrick: The Grand Hall at the Priory Wedding Photos


Chiara + Patrick: The Grand Hall at the Priory Wedding Photos

A Christmas-time wedding with a couple who loves Disney: does it get any better?! For those of you who might not know, my husband and I are HUGE Disney fans, and even moreso fans of Disney’s Boardwalk Resort - which is where we spent our honeymoon in August of 2015. When I found out that Patrick had proposed to Chiara AT Disney’s Boardwalk Resort - I think I almost fell out of my chair. I think we were destined to work together! And to top it off - I found out that Nick and I were going to be in Orlando at the same time as Chiara and Patrick - literally right after their wedding. And we almost stayed at the same resort as them! (The Boardwalk!) Talk about a small world!

We joined in on Chiara and Patrick’s wedding day at Chiara’s parents’ house, where Chiara and her bridesmaids were getting their hair and makeup done. The house was full of Christmas trees - each decorated with a different theme - and even though it was a dreary day, there was an endless supply of beautiful backdrops right within Chiara’s parents’ home!

Their ceremony took place at Saints John & Paul Catholic Church in Wexford, with their reception at the Grand Hall at the Priory on the North Side of Pittsburgh, which was decorated to Christmas perfection. Trees, lights, wreaths, and candles dotted the reception space, creating a warm, inviting atmosphere for guests - which also doubled as beautiful backdrops for Chiara and Patrick’s portraits! Santa Clause even made a surprise appearance near the end of dinner to say congratulations and dance with the bride!

Chiara and Patrick, thank you for the huge, incredible honor of being a part of your wedding day! You were a joy to work with, and we are so thankful to know you both!


Reception: The Grand Hall at the Priory

Ceremony: Saints John & Paul Catholic Church

Makeup: See Jane Blush

Hair: Static Styling Salon

Florist: Blossoms by Jillian

Bride’s Dress: The Exquisite Bride, Stella York

Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie

DJ & Violinist: Steve Vance Entertainment

Cake: Priory Fine Pastries

Videographer: Kesneck Videography

Photographer: Jenna Hidinger Photography


Best of Weddings 2018: Bride & Groom Portraits


Best of Weddings 2018: Bride & Groom Portraits

Making my “best of weddings: bride & groom portraits” yearly blog post always brings out my sentimental side! I only take a limited number of weddings each year to ensure that I’m able to give the best quality to each of my couples, and this year was filled with some of the most amazing people! I laughed, cried, and even danced with so many of these couples throughout their day, and there were so many weddings this year I was sad to leave because I didn’t want our time together to come to a close!

To all of my brides and grooms: thank you. It’s so hard to convey in words how honored I was to be a part of your days! I hope your photos serve as momentos of how blessed you are by your love and by the loved ones that surround you! 💛


Best of Weddings 2018: Bridal Party


Best of Weddings 2018: Bridal Party

I’m not sure what it was, but this year there were some absolutely AMAZING bridal parties - bridesmaids and groomsmen who went above and beyond, who came alongside their friends in love, and who even checked in on and encouraged us throughout wedding days! To all of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and bridal parties who we photographed this year: thank you for making our jobs so much fun! We are so thankful for each one of you! 💛


Best of Weddings 2018: Bridal Details


Best of Weddings 2018: Bridal Details

Now comes one of my favorite blog posts of the year - bridal details! Photographing bridal details is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day, because it lets me sort of “warm up” creatively, and is a great way to tie albums (and blog posts! 😉) together to create a cohesive style throughout the story of any wedding day!

I love how every wedding is so different, too, and how the style a bride works so hard to create can be captured and enhanced through her wedding details! If you’re a bride (or bridesmaid, mother of the bride, or mother of the groom!) looking for ways to “up” your bridal detail game, check out this blog post!

But for now, check out some of my favorite bridal details of this year!


Kelly + Daniel: Doubletree Monroeville Wedding Photos


Kelly + Daniel: Doubletree Monroeville Wedding Photos

If you’ve seen my work before, you know that I’m a HUGE fan of color - so Kelly and Dan’s sangria and gold fall wedding was a DREAM! Their day was full of color, and oh-so full of love!

One of the things I admire most about Kelly and Dan is their commitment to remembering what really mattered on their wedding day. Sure, the details were beautiful and everything came together beautifully, but at the end of the day, it was SO easy to see that these two are in it for the long haul - better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health. Their joy radiated throughout the entire day!

And I can’t neglect to mention their INCREDIBLE friends and family, who we were so privileged to walk alongside throughout the day! This was my second wedding with Kelly’s extended family (see the first here!), and truly, they are some of the most energetic, excited people we’ve had the honor of working with!

Kelly and Dan, I pray that your marriage continues to become all that it was meant to be and that you continue to be an example to those around you of what true love looks like! So thankful to have been a part of your day!


Ceremony: Anne Ashley United Methodist

Reception: Double Tree Hotel Monroeville

Bride’s Dress: White Orchid, Maggie Sottero Gown

DJ: All Pro DJ

Makeup and Hair: Ulta at the Waterfront

Cake: Spinola's Bakery

Florist: Colasante's Flowers in the Park


Leah + Connor: Morning Glory Inn Wedding Photos


Leah + Connor: Morning Glory Inn Wedding Photos

Leah and Connor’s wedding was unlike any other I had ever experienced. When I first sat down with Leah and Connor, they explained the vision for their day: intimate, full of family and friends, and focused on what really matters. And truly, their day was all of that and more!

Their venue, the Morning Glory Inn (located on the South Side of Pittsburgh) is one of the most unique and intimate wedding venues I’ve ever come across! Though I tried to do this venue justice through Leah and Connor’s photos, this is a place you have to see in person and really experience to appreciate fully! (They take reservations for guests to stay - so if you’re looking for a “stay-cation,” I would highly recommend checking out this spot!)

The wedding day began inside the inn, which has SO MANY beautiful locations for detail photos! Being someone who LOVES the photographing the detail portion of the day (invitation suite, bride’s dress, jewelry, etc.) I was in heaven!! And on top of all of the inn details, Leah had the most beautiful details that matched the vibe of the inn to a “T”!

After getting ready, Leah shared a first look with her dad. There was hardly a dry eye in the room (including mine!). Immediately after, Leah and Connor shared a first look together in the courtyard of the Inn!

We headed to the Mellon Institute columns for bridal party and bride & groom portraits, then back to the Inn for the ceremony - which might’ve been the most unique part of the day! Guests stood in the courtyard, surrounding the bride and groom for the ceremony, which made it feel like there was a closeness and intimacy that is sometimes lost during wedding ceremonies!

After the ceremony were toasts, a delicious meal by Fish Hawk Acres catering, and TONS of dancing in the courtyard! We were even able to sneak Leah and Connor out at just the right moment (when it just started raining!) for a night portrait in front of the Inn!

Leah and Connor, I couldn’t have been more thankful to be a part of your day. Thank you (to you two and your friends & family!) for having as capture such a beautiful day, and for making us feel like a part of the family in the process. 💛

Ceremony & Reception: Morning Glory Inn

Bride’s Dress: Bridal Beginning (Wtoo Watters)

Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie

Bouquets: Deb Smith (Maid of Honor’s Mother)

Menswear: The Black Tux

Invitations: Minted Weddings

Catering: Fish Hawk Acres

Officiant: Meaningful Marriages (Larry)

Cake: Oakmont Bakery

Makeup: Briann Mattise (JL Makeup Studio)

Hair: Sahaira Beauty Salon