How a Pandemic is Making the "First Touch" Even More Meaningful

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How a Pandemic is Making the “First Touch” Even More Meaningful

For Radian Couples, Radian Photography, Weddings

July 24, 2020

One of our beautiful weddings this year was to take place at The Parlour at Manns Chapel, an intimate wedding venue in Chapel Hill, NC. Unfortunately, it has been postponed to next year, so we decided to visit it virtually through an editorial we shot there a few years ago. We invited Yvette and Aimee, co-owners of The Parlour, to share their thoughts on one of our favorite wedding traditions that has been modernized: The First Touch!

Owners of Chapel Hill wedding venue, the Parlour
Yvette and Aimee, co-owners of the Parlour | photo by Becci Ames

Hello! We are the owners of The Parlour at Manns Chapel, a dreamy little white chapel nestled on a country road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We are thrilled to take over this blog spot for just a bit to chat about one of our favorite moments of the intimate weddings we host. Pre-COVID, we led the charge to Love Big But Celebrate Small, offering a venue and advice on how to create more intimate events offering stunningly compelling moments. Now, as a pandemic threatens to change the look of so many weddings, we are here to tell you to believe in the ‘power of two’ and begin to think about your wedding day quite differently. In fact, it’s the advice we’ve been giving our couples all along. Now, at a time where just embracing our loved ones and friends seems a distant beautiful memory and something we long for, it’s time for couples to focus more on the heartfelt and earnest moments; moments that can’t be ordered or bought, moments like The First Touch. 

chapel hill wedding venue

The first touch for us was so important! With all the excitement and nerves that come with your wedding day, it was really special for us to have a quiet moment just before walking down the aisle. We held hands and even made a few jokes, which calmed both our nerves and made us even more excited to head into our ceremony. The first touch was one of the sweetest moments of our wedding day!

-Catherine & Nick, Parlour Couple

chapel hill wedding venue

Why Should You Consider A First Touch?  

If you have a reverence for the truly romantic, the utterly sentimental, and the breathtaking, heart-stopping moments that define us, then this is for you. Some call The First Touch an alternative to the First Look- the moment we surprise our loved one with how we appear physically before the big walk down the aisle. At The Parlour, we see The First Touch as a more symbolic, intensely physical connection that lights a very quiet spark. This spark ignites the start to a marriage ceremony that goes well beyond how she looks revealed in her dress or how we will appear “to our audience” as they wait for the service to commence. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that human touch is all supreme and something we can not live without- it’s the first thing we miss quarantined from our families or when we see a close friend at a distance in the grocery store. It turns out we are all huggers and just longing for human contact. So it should be no surprise that the significance of just a quiet, tender touch could mean so much.

We are huge fans of a first touch (especially at The Parlour’s intimate and unique locations on-site). The days and hours leading up to the big day are full of joy and fun, but at the same time, they can easily turn into exciting preparation and distraction from the beautiful union that is about to take place. With all the hustle and bustle happening around the day, we love to see our couples set aside this moment to pause and ground themselves with the person they are about to marry. It is one of the most intentional parts of the pre-ceremony timeline. This moment takes our couples back to a mindset of “this is happening, and you are my person.” It is a beautiful and unforgettable experience that both physically and symbolically embodies the significance of the ceremony to come!

-Chelsey Ferguson of The Gathering Co.
bride at the Parlour at Manns Chapel

At The Parlour, we credit the First Touch as the metaphorical moment our couples transition from “two to one,” launching their day with a simple, but powerful connection and often an unspoken promise. It is an eloquent reminder to the couple about what the day is really all about. They are about to embark on something extraordinary together that goes beyond a dress, florals, a big guest list, or a stunning invitation suite. 

For our couples, this moment becomes one of the most thoughtful and compelling parts of their story. They craft letters to read to one another (sometimes called ‘The First Read’), giggle nervously, and feel one another like it’s the first time again. Nerves are eased, excitement is stirred and private promises are made.

chapel hill wedding venue

Mike and I love sticking to tradition. Therefore, we always knew we wanted our first look to be the moment I walked down the aisle. However, we never realized how much emotion would come from a first touch. Our first touch was so special because it reminded us that in the middle of all the “wedding day chaos” that in the end, the day was about the two of us becoming one. In that small moment, our love for one another grew a little more.

-Jordan & Mike, Parlour Couple

Within this sweet chapel, we’ve designed our bridal suite and groom’s room with this moment in mind. The rooms, built next to one another but separate, are adjoined by a beautiful reclaimed wood door that slides open to create one of the most photographed moments of the wedding day. Our couples also make use of the interior private foyer, as well as the corner post of our beautiful front porch wishing to have the chapel as their backdrop while their guests wait inside.

For couples who do not want to see each other before the big moment but need that connection and sometimes a moment to ease the nerves- the First Touch always does the trick. It also gives those shy couples a chance to exchange private vows and love notes before the scripted ceremony in front of their guests. As the behind-the-scenes folks, we know that once the ceremony begins, it may be difficult to steal a moment like this to yourselves to bask in the magic of it all. It also creates a photo opp like no other, and we all know that pre-wedding photos are some of our couple’s faves, leading up to the big moment before the tears start to fall.

wedding dress at The Parlour at Manns Chapel

All I can say is that I am glad I had a tissue on hand. The moment I touched Jon’s hand, my heart raced, and I fell in love all over again. Knowing I was carrying our baby girl, we instantly became a family of three. There was no one else in the world – just us. It was the start to the perfect wedding day at The Parlour.

-Alisa & Jon, Parlour Couple

So while you are curating your special day and meeting with your photographer to create your must-have wedding photo list, make sure this special moment comes out on top. And remember to pack the tissues.

A little word on The Parlour and some history on the building: Five years ago, we stumbled across the biggest gem of our creative lives in Chapel Hill. A little white chapel stood vacant, in need of both ownership and full restoration.

The Parlour at Manns Chapel

Abandoned but not forgotten, some saw the building as “too far gone,” but we celebrated restoring it like saving an old friend. We spent years of thoughtful restoration to bring this chapel back to life as a place to honor the intimate gathering – 100 or less (and sometimes that means much less). Here there are no acquaintances; no obligatory invites that blow the budget — only close friends and family, because, after months of planning the perfect day, the receiving line for 150-200 people is no place to be stuck. And if you must make changes due to the current state of affairs, know a personalized, inspired event is still yours to be had with blissful moments you might have overlooked when planning a larger event.

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