A first look is a time set aside on the wedding day when the couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony. First looks are very “un-traditional” and a lot of people tend to write them off before they really understand what they’re all about.
Let me start off by saying that at the end of the day, this is your wedding not mine. So if doing a first look does not feel right to you, then you shouldn’t do it. And that is perfectly fine! I think it’s important that you understand all of the advantages there are in doing a first look so that you can make an informed decision.
Some couples love the idea of traditions. But what they really love is seeing the reaction on their partner’s face when they see each other for the first time. There are common misconceptions that you hear about when first looks come up: walking down the aisle won’t be the same, the emotions won’t be there, etc. What gets lost is how stressful it can be to be standing in front of 100-250 people and having all of them expecting a certain kind of reaction. That’s a ton of pressure!
What actually happens during a first look is that you are able to really take each other in. There is no pressure for a certain reaction. You are able to react how your heart tells you to react. You can embrace, cry, kiss each other for as long as you want. You can ask what they think of your dress or suit, do a twirl or two. Nerves start to diminish because you are the people that make each other the most comfortable.
Because there is no time crunch, we can casually move into portraits. No one is around rushing you to a different event on the timeline. It’s just you two and the photographer. This is some rare and precious time on your wedding day where you get to actually be together and alone. Slow, relaxed time like this doesn’t happen without a first look. After the portraits, you meet back up with your bridal party and because there is time to spare, everyone grabs a drink, touches up make-up, and parties a bit before we go out and do bridal party group shots. These group shots are FUN because there is time for them to be FUN. There aren’t any guests getting impatient at the cocktail hour, no DJ coming to check with us to see what time we’re gonna be done. It’s great!
The bridal party separates after this to get ready for the ceremony. Everyone is at ease and relaxed. Once those doors open and you see each other down the aisle, you quickly realize that the first look didn’t take anything away from this moment. If anything it enhanced it. All of the butterflies and happy tears are still there.
A lot of people tend to get nervous in front of crowds when they’re the center of attention. Now imagine this is the biggest moment of your life and all of your guests are waiting to see your partner’s reaction as you walk down the aisle. That’s a ton of pressure and it’s totally ok to feel anxious about this. A first look provides a sense of calm and lifts the weight off of each of your shoulders. The moment you’ve been waiting for – seeing your partner for the first time on your wedding day – is done! Now you can enjoy the rest of the day with your partner there by your side.
This is the whole point, right? By doing a first look you are able to spend an extra 3-5 hours together. For my wedding, after our first look we went back to our AirBnB and got to pop some champagne and hang out with our parents and bridal party. Those are some of my favorite memories from our day – just sharing that time with the people who we cared about most. This is something that wouldn’t have been possible without a first look.
You get to share some intimate time together on your wedding day. Most brides don’t realize that when you come down the aisle, your groom doesn’t even have time to tell you how amazing you look. He can’t really embrace or kiss you or even speak to you until the ceremony is over. And by that time, the reaction is usually not the same as what it would have been. First looks allow you to be together and alone on your wedding day. Not only will it be intimate, but it will be the only time you’ll be able to be alone for the entire day! You may laugh or cry or both, then you’ll be in the perfect mood for portraits. Without a first look, portraits tend to be a little rushed after the family photos and by that time, everyone is ready to be done with pictures and ready to party. It’s tough to get back in the intimate mode.
First looks allow you to actually attend your own wedding. Normally the wedding day would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end and you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions, then it’s reception time. By doing a first look, you’re able to extend your wedding day by almost 3 hours (or more)! Instead of being rushed to do bridal party portraits and family formals, you’re able to knock out most of the photos before the ceremony, only leaving a handful of family group shots for after the ceremony. You get to attend your cocktail hour and enjoy all of the food you spent months tasting and stressing over. Oh, and you get to start dancing sooner.
On average, your photography is the most expensive part of your wedding day besides the venue. You’re investing a lot of money into your photos and having a first look allows you to make the most of that investment. I deliver about 40% more photos to couples that do a first look. There is just more space in the timeline for photos – this is extra true in the winter months when we lose the sun about 3 hours earlier.
I purposefully put this point last because while the logistical aspects of choosing a first look are definitely important and should be considered, the choice to do a first look should feel right. I don’t want to pressure you into a decision that you don’t want to make.
I don’t want it to seem like I won’t work with couples who choose not to share a first look. My clients are not required to do a first look and I won’t try to convince you to do one if you don’t want to. This decision is 100% yours and it should feel right. I have just seen first-hand, and experienced at my own wedding, the benefits of a first look and I want to share them because I want the best for you on your wedding day!