Should You Do a FIRST LOOK?
I'm going to be honest, I'm blogging about first looks for selfish reasons... BUT it stems from wanting to give my couples the best wedding day ever! After a couple books me for their wedding, we begin to talk about timeline and what they envision on the most important day of their lives. The first question I ask... "Are you doing a first look?" For those who don't know what a first look is, it's when the bride and groom see each other BEFORE the ceremony on their wedding day. This wedding day phenomenon is becoming more and more popular in the wedding industry and it should be considered by any couple getting married.
A majority of them know what a first look is, BUT they don't understand the benefits or if it's really something they should do. It breaks the tradition of seeing a bride walking down the aisle for the first time, but what most brides and grooms don't understand are first looks are MORE INTIMATE. Instead of having the pressure of people looking at you and holding back your true emotions, first looks are more private. There's no right or wrong for who can see the first look, but most include just the bride and groom. Others choose to have their bridal party and family view from afar, but it can be whatever you want!
Why do I believe in doing a first look?
The number one reason is TIMING! I've been to tons of weddings with a majority of them being a full day ( 8-10 hours). On average, couples spend one to two years planning their special day and what they don't realize is.... IT FLIES BY!!! Doing a first look allows your photographer to take a majority to all of your family, bridal party and portraits of the bride and groom before the ceremony even begins. No more stressing about having enough time during your cocktail hour AND you get to be present at your cocktail hour!!! Why spend a ton of time planning your own cocktail hour and have to miss it all?! This also allows your wedding party to not feel like the entire time they could be drinking cocktails turned into a photo shoot. There aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check. Without a first look, the bride and groom have to miss most, if not all, of their cocktail because they need to take all those photos during the hour time slot.
First looks allow you to extend your wedding day. You won't waste your day hiding from one another. Most ceremonies start anywhere between 2 and 4 pm and by the time you are ready to walk down the aisle... half the day is gone! First looks allow brides and grooms to be together longer on the day of their wedding (nearly 3 hours more than those who stick to tradition.) Besides pulling my couples out during sunset portraits, first looks might be their only chance to be alone together all day. This might seem silly, but getting alone time... just the two of you, is so nice! Weddings are all about the couple and you are going to be documented, surrounded and consumed by guests, the wedding party, vendors... EVERYONE!!! Although your photographer and/or videographer need to be present to document the moment, we don't have to be there the entire time. As soon as I get the reaction, I step back and give you a few minutes to be alone together.
They take the pressure off of couples. Brides obsess with everything about their weddings and even more about how they will look on the most important day of their lives. Men are visual and don't understand all the nitpicky things us women are so concerned about. Chances are you will be nervous and anxious about making sure the day goes smoothly. Although the groom might seem cool and collected, inside the nerves are happening because they know once they see their bride everything will become very real! This is the number one thing grooms are nervous about... not if the guest will like their suit/tuxedo or if the centerpieces have enough flowers, grooms are the most anxious about the moment they see their future wife. Having a more private place with no extra people or multiple distractions means he only needs to have one focus... his beautiful bride!!! Not only would he get to see her… he could embrace her, cry with her, kiss her and ENJOY that moment with her for as LONG as they wanted. Without a first look he can’t even tell you how amazing you look… he can’t touch you or embrace you. You nearly have to wait 30+ minutes to do any of that because now you have a ceremony to get through.
Having to wait to see your future husband or wife might even play up that anxiety. Every first look I have been a part of has been beautiful and one thing I have noticed about those couples are their nerves disappear once they are with their other half. Seeing one another before the ceremony takes the pressure off, gives you time to react, laugh, cry, and hug without hundreds of people watching it happen. It eliminates the distractions of a guest standing in your view and the amount of flashes that could be going off. (Unplugged ceremonies are another thing that could help and reduce the amount of electronics in the hand of guests.) First looks don't take away from the amazing feeling of walking down the aisle with your father by side, it just takes away all the pressure. More of my grooms have had a stronger reaction during this moment because they aren't nervous and just ready to marry their best friend.
If you do a first look, you will get more portraits of the two of you on your wedding day (trust me, those are the ones you frame!) It allows you to maximize the time spent with your photographer. Photography is so important, so why not get the biggest bang for your buck?! This is a huge investment for you and so with a first look, you get the most for your money.
For those couples who are unsure of what is best for you, here are words from my very own couples about their thoughts on doing a first look for their wedding day:
"I was hesitant to do the first look from the beginning. I guess I had always thought it would be more special to walk down the aisle and see my soon to be husband's reaction. After a lot of thought we decided to do the first look. Jill was never pushy, but recommended it because of the wedding we were having. Our wedding ceremony started at 7 and the sun set at 6:30 so without doing a first look, we would lose all the natural light for everything. I was still nervous to do the first look because I didn't think it would be as special. I WAS WRONG!! All of our closest family members gathered nearby where Ethan was standing at the top of the stairs. Jill came down to let me know he was already tearing up. When he turned around it was a reaction I will never forget. Jill was able to capture it all! What makes the first look so special is that we were able to share that moment with those closest to us. We also got almost all of our nerves and ugly cries out too! It is our favorite part of our wedding day and we are so happy Jill was patient with us. Just so you know...your photographer is always right!"
-Sarah + Ethan
"The first look was one of our favorite memories of our wedding day. We were able to take a few personal moments to ourselves, which may not have occurred otherwise with all of our guests in attendance. The photos captured the raw emotion that we experienced in the seconds we laid eyes on each other for the first time that day. It also gave us the opportunity to take plenty of photos with each other, our party, and our family before the ceremony, which allowed us to spend more time with our guests prior to the reception."
-Emily + Johnny
"I recommend first looks to EVERYONE!!! It is such a special moment for the couple and I loved actually being able to see my husband’s face when he first saw me! I wouldn’t have really been able to from all the way down the aisle. Plus, it’s nice to be able to have real emotions without everyone you’ve ever known watching you while you’re also trying to keep the ceremony moving. I feel like it really helped our ceremony go smoothly. Plus, most importantly, we were able to enjoy our cocktail hour and appetizers!"
-Toria + Kevin
"The decision on doing a first look vs. keeping it traditional depends solely on the couple. For us, the decision was easy - first look, for many reasons. It allowed us to keep the moment we first saw each other on our wedding day more intimate. We were able to have just our parents and wedding party be part of the experience with us. It also gave us more time to spend with our guests during our cocktail hour. There's so much time spent planning a wedding and we wanted to make sure we were there to enjoy every single part of it."
-Abi + Max
Why a first look might NOT be for you:
Although I LOVE first looks for so many reasons, a traditional “Walk Down the Aisle” reveal might be better for some couples. I've noticed more and more couples choosing to select one venue to have both their ceremony/reception, but there are a select few who have two separate locations. This allows the timeline of the day to be more lenient, unlike couples who have everything at one location.
Weddings are so truly personal and should be uniquely designed to meet the needs of the bride and groom. We all grow up picturing our wedding day a certain way and the most sacred moment is the beautiful bride being revealed to her groom for the first time. It's something both parties dream about and breaking tradition may not be an option depending on who the bride and groom are. If it's something you have always envisioned, stick to what you believe!!!
For couples that opt out on doing a first look, I always recommend working with your photographer to ensure that you have enough time scheduled to capture photographs of the bridal party, all of your family formals, and portraits of the two of you. Just because you choose to stick to tradition doesn't mean we can't take some of the photos beforehand. Planning ahead is key!!!
FIRST LOOK RECAP:
- Improves timeline
- Calms your nerves
- Intimate/private moment
- More portrait time
- Bigger bang for your buck
- Enjoy your cocktail hour
- Schedule flexibility
- More present
Deciding on whether to do a first look or stick with tradition is an incredibly personal decision! I believe that as a photographer, it is not fair for me to push a couple in one direction or another. That's why I offer my advice to ensure that their wedding is everything that they hoped it would be! It’s my job to make them happy and to help them plan a great timeline for pictures with or without doing a first look. I'm always here for any questions (even questions not relating to photography). I'm a full-time photographer and part-time wedding coordinator when it comes to it after all!!! Hopefully this blog was helpful to couples planning their big day and if any of my couples want to talk more about doing a first look, I'm always here!!!