If you find yourself asking, “Should I do a first look?” or even, “What is a first look?” This post is for you!
Your wedding day is going to feel like a whirlwind. And even though you are expecting it, you won’t fully understand what this means until the DJ announces last call, the lights come up, and you’re left standing in the middle of the dance floor wondering where the day went.
A FIRST LOOK is where your beloved is set up in a nice, quiet location before the ceremony. You walk up behind your love and tap him or her on the shoulder or grab his/her hand so they turn around to see your for the very first time before the ceremony! Meanwhile your photographer captures both of your reactions and those first moments together on your wedding day from a distance. A first look is something you and your fiancé should discuss to determine if it is right for you. This is your wedding. Not your mom’s, not your grandma’s, and certainly not mine. So I would NEVER try to push a couple into having a first look, but I do think it is important to have all the information before deciding what is right for you.
There are a few reasons you should consider a first look and they have nothing to do with photography. After photographing hundreds of weddings, I know how important it is to see your fiancé’s reaction when he/she first sees you in your wedding attire. Even the most calm, collected person can get nervous on their wedding day. The tension has been building since you started getting ready and now you will be standing in front of 60-300 of your closest friends and family. You can’t help but think of them all watching you and your fiancé, waiting for your reactions, even as you see each other for the very first time. And when you do first see each other, from the end of an often very long aisle, you won’t be able to talk, hug or kiss. You have to wait until the end of the ceremony for that. Even after the ceremony, it can be difficult to have a moment alone together as all of your guest rush over excited to see you, and you are whirled away for photos.
You’ve just finished getting ready. You and your partner have spent the morning apart with your closest friends and family. Hanging out, having a glass of champagne or whiskey, listening to music or maybe half watching a game on tv as you get dressed. Neither of you have had the chance to even think about getting nervous yet. Meanwhile, we’ve found a gorgeous, quiet area outside your venue and set your partner up with his/her back facing your entrance. And then we tell your partner that his/her beautiful bride or dashing groom is just behind him/her. We’ve stepped back to give you some space and it is just the two of you. You walk up behind him/her, tap him/her on the shoulder and he/she just loses it. He/She wraps you up in the biggest embrace and kisses you. You both cry together and you’ve completely forgotten we’re even there. You twirl a couple times and ask what he/she thinks of the dress or the suit and you kiss again. He/She can tell you how beautiful you look and you can say how much you love each other. For as long as you like, because there’s no rush. No guests waiting. No coordinator telling us dinner is waiting. Neither of you are worried about everyone watching, or your friends teasing you later. You can truly be lost in this magical moment.
And now, the nerves are gone. The anxiety is gone. Because you get to spend the rest of the day with the person that makes you feel the most calm. Eventually, you look around, blinking as if you were in a daze. You remember you were being photographed, but the smiles on your faces cannot be contained. After this, we move on to the portraits of the two of you. This means you get even more time together! Which equals more photos! More time to cuddle, more time to kiss, more time to soak it all in. This is the way you’ve been waiting for, planning, dreaming of. This is your time to be together, alone.
And then we bring out your families and friends. We are able to move quickly through your family photos, because everyone is already gathered. They are all waiting for the ceremony to begin. After the family photos are done, we move on to your bridal party. Photos of you, your partner and your closest friends celebrating your wedding day. There will be plenty of time for you to have some fun with them! Finishing all of the photos BEFORE the ceremony means you will be able to actually join your cocktail hour, enjoy the tasty treats you picked out, and spend more time with your guests. Or you can use that time to be alone with your new spouse and really take in the whole day.
There are a couple instances where I would highly recommend doing a first look. If you have planned a sunset ceremony, it will be completely dark afterwards so if you want daylight for your portraits and family photos, you would want to do a first look and capture everything before the ceremony. The other reason is you want a lot of family photo combinations and this is very important to you. Usually there is only 1 hour between the ceremony and the reception. During that time, you have to fit in your wedding party photos, family photos and couple’s portraits. If your list of family photos is more than 5-10 combinations, it will end up taking away from the portraits of you and your new spouse.
But the real reason I advocate for a first look is this. Once upon a time I was married. On my own wedding day, the first time I was alone with my husband or even in a room with less than 10 people, was when we got in the car to leave. To me, that is heart breaking. This is the day you’ve been dreaming possibly since the very early stages of dating, before they even popped the question. This is the day you marry your best friend. Wouldn’t it be lovely to spend as much time together as possible? If you choose to see each other before the ceremony, you gain so much extra time together to share even more laughs, exchange even more kisses, and make even more memories.
You are investing a lot into your wedding and your wedding photography. Doing a first look gives you a lot more time to get all the photos and capture all the moments you want. A First look allows the day to feel more relaxed instead of rushed before the ceremony and not rushing through the portraits to get to the reception because you have hungry guests waiting. creates a more stress-free day and also means you can join cocktail or steal away for a few minutes with your new husband or wife.
There is ONE thing I will try to convince you to do on your wedding day. Whether you opt to do a first look or stand by tradition, find time to slow down, to be alone, to take in everything that is happening and the monumental importance of the day. Pause for a moment when you reach the end of the aisle to squeal “We did it!”, steal a few minutes to be alone before cocktail hour ends or slip away from the reception to take it all in. This is your day. Make the most of it.
But seriously, look at that face! Have you ever seen anything more touching!
MY METHOD OF STORYTELLING PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWS YOU HOLD ON TO THE MOST IMPORTANT STORIES OF YOUR LIFE. AS MEMORIES FADE, PHOTOGRAPHS SAY, "BUT NOT THIS ONE".