In case you don’t know, a wedding day first look is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than the traditional run of show where you wait to see one another for the first time walking down the aisle, so many couples are deciding to do a first look before the ceremony. However, it’s becoming more and more popular to see each other just before the ceremony for a number of reasons…
I have been photographing weddings now for over four years and I continue to find that weddings with a First Look tend to go a lot smoother. Disclaimer: I am a wedding photographer so this post may be a bit biased toward prioritizing photography. I do, however, try to balance everything to make sure my clients are the priority. So digest only what applies to you...
Top 5 Reasons According to Your Photographer
1. IT CALMS THE NERVES
If you’re the type of person that gets nervous around crowds, doesn’t like to be the center of attention or gets anxious easily, and the person you’re about to marry is one of your biggest comforts, then this is a great option for you. I’ve found that most clients are super nervous just before the ceremony, seeing each other can help calm your nerves, and set the tone for a joyful and relaxed best-day-ever. Let's face it, your wedding is probably one of the biggest days of your life. Depending on how involved you are in the process and your personality type, there can be a lot of internal stress built up to that moment of seeing each other for the first time. However, doing a First Look will give you peace of mind knowing that your significant other will be there for you to help calm those nerves. Time and time again, I see the stress fly away just after the bride sees the groom for the first time. It’s almost like a weight is lifted off your shoulder and the rest of the wedding day activities are a breeze.
2. WAY LESS RISKY
Is the reward worth the risk? In my biased opinion, yes! But let's try to think about this logically and not emotionally. The reality is a wedding day only happens once. You set a date, pick a venue and you’re ready to go. Whatever happens, happens. Your wedding day is not guaranteed to go perfectly. There are a lot of moving parts that you can’t control. Like bad weather, people running late, traffic jams, missing rings, a setting sun, etc. The list goes on and on. So instead of betting against the odds try planning things out with as little risk as possible, plan for the worst, and your day might end up being surprisingly pleasant.
As it stands, you start your day getting ready, making your way to the venue, hiding out til the start of the ceremony, then you walk down the aisle, make it official (whoohoo!) and it’s off to photos, followed by making your way to the reception, doing toasts, dinner, greeting guests, first dances, and a couple hours of dancing and before you know it – you’re leaving the venue. Phew – what a fun, tiring, perfect day! Don’t you wish you could hold on to these sweet moments just a little longer? (I know I did.) Good news – you can.
If you choose to do a first look, it basically means you can get all your pictures done and out of the way, before the ceremony... private bride & groom portraits, bridal party and family portraits. I love doing these before the ceremony, whenever possible, in case the day runs late or the weather is poor. Either way, I’m going to give you a fun, amazing photo experience, but I’d rather not feel like we need to rush your photos. Having a bit of flexibility is helpful for everyone. So, then, after the wedding, all you have to think about is actually attending your own cocktail hour and mingling with favorite people, who are eager to congratulate you and tell you how freaking bomb you look both! … Don’t you think you should take advantage of every minute?
3. THE FEELINGS DON'T GO AWAY
So you’ve been dreaming about your wedding day since the day you were born. Right? You’ve been thinking about how precious that one moment is going to be when you see each other for the first time. Right? Well, what if its not everything it was cracked up to be? What if it was special but just not THAT special. I don’t mean to be cynical here, I just want to lower the expectation level so you don’t have super high expectations for something that might not be exactly what you imagine. Mind you, I’ve seen some AMAZING moments because the couple opted to not do the First Look. But at the same time I’ve seen incredible moments at the ceremony just moments after doing a First Look. If the emotions are really there, they are going to come out regardless of what you do. Seeing each other privately before the ceremony is much different than seeing each other in “Let’s Do This” mode as all your best friends and closest family members are watching. Here is a shot of a groom that did a first look moments before the ceremony. Trust me I have plenty more to prove it!
Here's another couple who did a first look...
and their second look at the ceremony...
My thought is this: If you’re the type that doesn’t really want to hear about a First Look, then don’t do it. But if you’re a little open minded to the idea and want to know more, then, a First Look might just be right for you.
4. MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PICTURES
This one is probably my favorite because, let’s face it, I want you to have more opportunities for great pictures! At the end of the day, all that’s left is the photography to look back on. When Brides were asked (in two separate surveys) after their wedding what they wish they spent more money on: 21% of brides wished they spent more on photography according to these articles found on the Huffington Post and Shutterfly. Which happened to be more than any other single item on the list.
Think about this for a sec: You spent all year long at work on Pinterest, pinning those nice, bright, naturally lit wedding pictures. But you have a 5 p.m. ceremony time and the sun is setting at 6:30 p.m. sharp, which means you still have about 15 minutes of available light before things start getting too dark for natural light. It sounds like enough time but what happens if the ceremony doesn’t actually start until 5:30 p.m. (which is pretty common). That leaves you with 30 minutes for the ceremony and 30 minutes for family portraits, bridal party portraits and bride/groom portraits – Talk about a rush!
Now that isn’t always the case. You could certainly plan for an earlier ceremony time, do your bridal party portraits separately (bridesmaids with bride & groomsmen with groom) before the ceremony and actually give yourself more little cushion for after the ceremony to focus on family portraits and bride/groom portraits. But you have to be okay with possibly missing your own cocktail hour and having only one opportunity for bride & groom shots. Also, you have to hope that lighting and weather during that golden hour will be nice to you. For most weddings, this approach works out just fine but if you’re not the type to take any chances, please save yourself the headache and just do the first look.
5. BE PRESENT AT YOUR WEDDING
“Your wedding day will go by so fast!”
This isn’t an overstatement. There is so much activity and things to accomplish on your wedding day that sometimes taking it all in just isn’t possible. Even more reason to have a photographer capturing those unseen moments right before you. Try thinking like this, when planning your wedding: For every tradition, location or moment in my wedding day, something extra is required from either me or my day. So, if that tradition of seeing each other at the ceremony is very valuable to you, other things have to be appropriately moved around to accommodate for both. There is only so much time in one day. Unless you have all the money in the world, let’s be realistic about your day, but, creatively plan so that you can have the best of both worlds.
Time and time again clients have thanked me, after the wedding, for convincing them to do a First Look. If I sense they are really not about it, I definitely won’t push because, ultimately, I really want what’s best for you. But if someone is on the fence, I want to lead them to make a more logical game plan for their big day.
I want you to live in the moment and not just relive it through the photos. I want you to be present with your guests. A First Look gives you the flexibility to get all your portraits totally out of the way so you can engage with the people you love the most.
There you have it, six reasons to consider having a first look on your wedding day. Personally, I am ALWAYS a fan of couples doing first looks, from an emotional connection and logistical standpoint. Hopefully, this insight helps in your decision making! Feel free to pass this on to your friends in the wedding planning process!