One of the first questions we ask clients when planning out their wedding day photography is “do you want to do a first look?” Whether to take advantage of this newer trend or stick with the traditional route can be a tough decision. Couples are normally unsure what the best option is, or even what exactly a first look is. So we thought we’d break it down here!
What is a first look?
A “first look” is a special private moment when the bride and groom see each other before the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, brides and grooms were not supposed to see each other until the wedding ceremony for fear it would bring bad luck. This superstition actually started in the days when marriages were arranged and the bride and groom wouldn’t even meet before the wedding…eek! Luckily, wedding traditions are continually changing! In recent years, more and more couples have decided to adopt the more modern first look.
How does a first look work?
The first look is usually done a couple hours before the wedding ceremony starts. After the bride and groom are dressed, we bring them into position for the big reveal. Typically, the groom waits in a designated spot, then the bride walks up behind him. When ready, the groom turns around and the couple sees each other for the first time. The moment is intimate and exciting and we are flies on the wall capturing all the emotions as they unfold.
What are the benefits of a first look?
There are many benefits to doing a first look on your wedding day. Here are 4 you should consider:
1) A first look makes the timeline of the day flow more smoothly….which means less stress!
Wedding days are hectic and there are tons of moving parts to keep in sync. Without a first look, all the family portraits, bridal party portraits, and couple’s portraits happen immediately after the ceremony. That doesn’t leave a lot of time, and it can be very stressful trying to juggle everyone needed for photos and get through them all swiftly. Not to mention, it can be annoying to have to focus on these photos when you probably just want a moment to revel in the excitement of being married and get the party started at the reception!
By opting to do a first look, we can take advantage of having the ability to do most of these portraits before the ceremony. Starting earlier also makes it less likely that things will get behind schedule later. After the bride and groom see each other during the first look, we can move into couples portraits, bridal party portraits, and family portraits all before the ceremony starts. This makes the portrait process much less rushed and stressful!
Best of all, it means after the ceremony, you’ll be able to get to the reception sooner instead of taking photos. You’ll have time to actually enjoy cocktail hour, visit with guests, and enjoy the excitement of being married!
2) More time for better photos
By doing a first look, not only can we get the portraits taken care of before the ceremony, but we will also have more time to devote to them. In a traditional timeline, we are usually limited to squeezing all the portraits into the cocktail hour time slot. This means completing family portraits, bridal party portraits, and couple’s portraits all in less than an hour. The portraits of the bride and groom usually come last, which means we often have very little time to spend on what are arguably the most important shots!
By doing a first look and shifting the portraits to before the ceremony, we can take our time on them. Especially the couple’s photos, which we make the first priority! And for us, more time for portraits means we can be more creative with the photos. In the end, you’ll get better portraits and a bigger variety of them.
A first look also helps us better capture the actual moment when you see each other for the first time. Without a first look, capturing the reaction during the ceremony is more difficult, as we are often limited on where we can position ourselves. Also, the moment is quite brief and doesn’t allow you to interact afterward since the ceremony starts immediately. Opting for a first look lets you stretch out the moment for as long as you want and interact by talking, hugging, kissing, etc.
3) A chance to calm your nerves and take the pressure off
Even if you are usually calm under pressure, it is easy to get overwhelmed and nervous on your wedding day. Knowing this is the biggest day of your life and you will be the center of attention can be anxiety-inducing. Especially if you get nervous in front of crowds, doing a first look will definitely help take the pressure off. It gives you a chance to chat with your significant other and calm each other down before walking down the aisle. Definitely a confidence booster!
Think about this: a first look might be your only chance for alone time with your significant other on your wedding day. The truth is you will be constantly surrounded by family, friends, bridal party, and vendors the entire day. It is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the wedding day and miss the chance to stop and soak it in. A first look gives the bride and groom some time alone together. It turns the experience of seeing your significant other for the first time into a much more intimate moment. No pressure, no onlookers, no distractions, just each other. You are free to react candidly without worrying that people are watching. The reactions are more genuine when it’s just the two of you being yourselves.
Still on the fence?
As a photographer, I can honestly say I’m biased in favor of a first look. We strive to produce the best photos possible of your wedding day, and a first look really helps us achieve that goal. So if photography is your top priority then I would strongly consider doing a first look.
On the other hand, if seeing each other for the first time at the altar is your number one priority and the idea of breaking with tradition makes you feel sick to your stomach, go with your gut. We don’t want anyone to sacrifice the wedding of their dreams. If you choose not to do a first look, there are some other ways to make the timeline flow better. I would still advise building in extra time before the ceremony to do individual bridal party portraits to free up some portrait time after the ceremony. Another good option would be having an extended cocktail hour or a longer break between the ceremony and reception so we can devote adequate time to portraits after the ceremony.
The decision of whether to do a first look is a significant one because it will shape the timeline and flow of your wedding day. It is also an extremely personal decision. So take your time and make the choice that is best for you. Rest assured that whatever decision you make, your wedding day will be full of excitement and emotion and we will be there to capture it all.
One more thing!
P.S.—first looks are not just for the bride and groom. A lot of brides are choosing to have a first look moment with their fathers too. This can be a really cute idea, especially if you and your dad are extremely close or he is apt to tear up during emotional situations. You can do a first look with your dad regardless of whether you choose to do one with your significant other. Just one more idea for you to consider!