One of the first questions I ask any of my brides when we sit down to start discussing wedding planning is to ask if they plan on a first look. To most, it may seem inconsequential whether or not a couple opts to do a first look, or stay with the tradition of not seeing each other until walking down the aisle; however, it actually plays quite a large roll in the scheduling of your wedding day.
First of all, what exactly is a first look? If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition, a first look is when a bride and groom see each other before the ceremony starts, and typically after they have a few moments together, there is some time allotted for couple’s portraits and maybe even some family portraits before the ceremony starts. It’s an excellent time to get some necessary day-of photos checked off the list before the party really gets started, and it’s also a wonderful time to spend a few solo minutes with your future spouse before you spend the rest of the day in a room with 200 of your closest family members!
When put that simply, it sounds like something everyone would incorporate into their wedding schedule; however, some couples choose to forgo the first look because they want to keep there wedding more traditional, and build up the emotions of the day up until the moment where the bride walks down the aisle. If you feel strongly that a first look isn’t for you, then that’s perfectly OK and there are some excellent alternatives that can still provide meaningful moments before the ceremony, such as a first touch or reading a letter to each other from opposite sides of a door. If you are considering a first look for your wedding day, here are a few reasons why I absolutely love first looks.
01. It gives the two of you some time alone(ish)
Your wedding day is going to be packed with people, there’s no way around that. But the second that you walk down the aisle, you can go ahead and get ready to be around a constant stream of your guests until the minute you exit your reception. That’s amazing, and is the entire point of the day, but it can be a little overwhelming.
02. It makes the post-ceremony pictures much quicker and more efficient
One of the toughest things is working with an already tight wedding schedule, or a rapidly setting sun, and trying to cram what should be an hour of combined family and bridal party and couple’s portraits into a half hour. It’s stressful on everyone involved, and leaves a lot less room for relaxed and candid photos. By doing a first look, you’re putting so much less pressure on the post-ceremony portrait time slot. First looks are typically scheduled with plenty of time to take both couple’s portraits afterwards, and maybe some bridal party portraits or family portraits. This means you’ll need a lot less shooting time after your wedding ceremony, and you may even be able to make it to cocktail hour for a drink and some snacks before you’re formally introduced!
03. It means more photos
While this isn’t always the case, typically your first look will happen at a different location than your post-ceremony photos. The above photo was taken at Graylyn Estates in Winston-Salem, and while we used the post-ceremony portrait time to do some beautiful outdoor portraits at golden hour with the bride and groom’s family and friends, we used our first look portrait time to take advantage of the unique architecture and do these special indoor photos. By scheduling a first look, you’re maximizing the amount of photos you’ll receive of you and your fiancé, which tend to be some of the most often favorited photos after a wedding day.
04. You’ll be able to touch up your makeup post tears and kisses
This is a real thing – it’s likely that you’ll cry during your first look, and even more likely that you’ll kiss your future spouse. Even though you’ll probably be doing both of those things throughout the day, doing a first look before the ceremony ensures that you’ll get a break to touch up your makeup after the tears and kisses involved in seeing them for the first time.
05. I’ve never had a couple regret doing a first look
It’s really as simple as that. I spend a lot of time discussing the idea with couples, and while I still definitely get a few every year that have clearly decided that they don’t want to do it, most couples tend to not have strong opinions either way and end up doing a first look. After their wedding is over, after the photos are sent off, the only feedback I ever hear about the first look session is that they’re so glad we ended up doing it. Whether the ceremony ran long and the family portraits ended up being a rushed affair, or like in this wedding above, it was a winter wedding and not doing a first look would have meant no outdoor couples portraits from the entire day, they’re always grateful that we ended up planning this time for photos.
All of that to say, ultimately the only people who should make this decision are you and your fiancé – if one of you has strong personal feelings about the matter, then that’s really the only thing that counts. As a wedding photographer, my experience is that a first look makes the day a little more stress-free, and makes the timeline flow a little bit easier. But ultimately, all that matters on your wedding day is that you and your fiancé feel happy and comfortable, and that it’s the day that you’ve always dreamed of.