So what exactly is a First Look? Simply put – it’s when the bride & groom see each other before the ceremony in a private moment where we get to capture the intimacy of them seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day… seriously private and seriously worth it. Generally, we do this in order to get most of the formals out of the way beforehand. Typically, I will scout out a spot that is remote and away from guests. Once the bride and groom are dressed and looking their finest, I will lead the groom over to wait anxiously for his bride to let him know when he can turn around to see her. This is private, romantic, and usually quite emotional.
I get a lot of questions from clients on the pros and cons of whether or not to set up a “First Look” before the ceremony. From a photography standpoint, there are usually many more pros to seeing each other beforehand than cons, but what it comes down to is your personal decision. I will try to give you all the information from a photographer’s standpoint, so you can make an informed choice. Usually, the biggest hesitation for most couples in seeing each other before the ceremony is in the thought of breaking tradition or not having that “moment” of seeing each other for the first time walking down the aisle. The trend in weddings lately has been moving more and more into breaking traditions or making new ones that fit today’s savvy couples. Also, one of the reasons to set up a “First Look” is to still have that moment captured of when you first see each other – although instead of it being in front of all your family and friends, you get to have a more private moment with just the two of you.
Not only does this make for some amazing memories & photos, but you get to share in a private moment just between the two of you! Most couples say that their nervousness is completely gone afterwards, and that despite having seen each other before the ceremony, they still feel equally special when they walk down the aisle and see their bride/groom again. Why? Because both moments are completely different. Nothing can ever replace seeing your bride/groom at the end of the isle, locking eyes for the first time and realizing that in a few minutes you will officially be one anothers :) The First Look, on the contrary, is more of a moment spent together, in privacy, in a slow pace – in what otherwise might be the hustle and bustle of your busy wedding day. It’s a chance for you both to soak it all in and enjoy one another :)
There are some circumstances that truly call out for a First Look, such as:
- You have an evening ceremony and sunset is very soon after ceremony ending (meaning little to no natural light photographs as you see in my portfolio).
- You have a tight wedding schedule and you need to do all of your group/family photos before the ceremony.
- You want to have plenty of time to venture out for your bride/groom photos.
- You don’t mind trying out this new tradition.
One of the reasons I’m writing this is because I have found that weddings where couples see each other before the ceremony usually have a far less stressful timeline. We also get to have plenty more natural light to shoot in and time with the couple for more creative portraits. For weddings during the fall and winter months, I usually push to have the “First Look” just so we’re not running out of light by the end of the ceremony.
This also allows for the bride and groom to talk and have special time together before the ceremony and reception. It is a sacred, special time with just the bride and groom and many times ends up being one of their favorite parts of the day. The bride and groom, along with their wedding party and guests, can go straight to the reception following the ceremony. Everyone is hungry and ready to party, so why not let them? Weddings can be physically and emotionally exhausting and the last thing most people want to do after the ceremony is to take pictures. You will be able to enjoy your reception venue for a longer period of time and celebrate more! : )
Whether or not you want to do a First Look will definitely determine how much we do before the ceremony and how much we do after. If you choose not to see each other before (which I totally respect and will definitely work with!), then I’ll try to do as many groupings as possible before the ceremony without having the two of you together (i.e. the bride with her bridesmaids, the bride with her family, and same for the groom). Then, immediately after the ceremony, we’ll bang out all the rest of the groupings with the two of you together, and then do portraits of the two of you. Because portraits of the bride and groom are one of my favorite parts of the day, I treasure this time and love it when we’re not terribly rushed and you’re not anxious to get to the reception, which is why I personally love having time before the ceremony for this. However, I’ve also gotten pretty dang good at rapid fire portrait sessions, so if necessary, I can (and have!) totally work it.
So, here are the pros to the First Look
- More time for romantics! This is a big advantage because the more time I have with the bride and groom, the more creative we can get with the location, poses, etc.
- Family members get to enjoy cocktail hour since all family formals are taken beforehand
- The bride and groom get to enjoy cocktail hour a bit (with the traditional timeline, you are shooting the whole cocktail hour)
- We don’t have to try to squeeze family formals, all the bridal party together, and all the romantics into cocktail hour. With a traditional timeline, this usually causes a feeling of being rushed and usually results in less time for pictures of the bride and groom together. I
- Once the ceremony is over, the bride and groom just have to worry about getting more shots of the two of them and then party time! There is definitely more “flow” in this sort of timeline.
- Make-up and hair look “fresher” in the images shot before the ceremony (this is especially true in the hot summer months)
Does it create some awesome memories? Yes. Can it improve your wedding day schedule? Yes. Is it for everyone? No! Only you can decide if this is the right choice for you & your groom! If you have a day-time ceremony where you’ll have plenty of sunlight for your photos and aren’t constricted on time at all (during the reception or otherwise)… maybe you can afford to wait until afterwards and not do a First Look. It’s definitely a break from tradition! And it’s completely your choice
Why is a First Look important for us?? Because it gives us the opportunity to produce natural, light-infused, gorgeous photographs that might (depending on your schedule) be missed otherwise. We’d like to believe that our clients not only hired us to document their day, but because they love the art that we create in our photography and that they want that same style for their own wedding photos. If your schedule doesn’t allow a lot of sunlight for photos, consider the First Look – it’s one way that we can count on to get you the same gorgeousness in your own photos that made you fall in love with our photography when you first visited our website :)
And fiiiiinally, just to kind of show how all of these elements come together in the formation of a schedule, I’ve created two sample schedules for two completely different wedding day scenarios, and both with 10 hours of coverage. Let me know what you think or how you would customize them to fit your needs!
Ceremony start time of 11:00 am, in November, no First Look
6:00 am Start hair and makeup; I arrive
6:30 am I start shooting details while hair and makeup is happening
[If time allows, I also shoot groomsmen getting ready.]
8:00 am Bride gets into dress
8:15 am Photos of bride by herself and with her bridesmaids
9:00 am Photos of bride with any family who is present
9:15 am Bride retreats to room to relax and I find the groom and groomsmen
9:20 am Photos of groom by himself, with groomsmen, and with any family present
10:15 am Everyone hides away as guests begin to arrive; I shoot candids of guests arriving and, if possible, details of the reception room
11:00 am Ceremony starts
11:30 am Ceremony ends and family portraits begin
12:15 pm Family portraits end and wedding party portraits begin
12:45 pm Wedding party portraits end and portraits of the couple begin
1:15 pm Portraits of the couple end and everyone heads into reception
1:20 pm Photos of all the festivities– primarily candids from here on out
Ceremony start time of 5:00 pm, Sunset at 6:00PM in October, First Look
12:00 pm I arrive; hair and makeup are in full swing
12:20 pm I shoot details and possibly the groomsmen getting ready if they are nearby
1:30 pm Bride gets into dress
2:00 pm First Look happens
2:15 pm Portraits of the bride and groom
2:45 pm Portraits of the wedding party
3:30 pm Portraits of any family members who come before the ceremony
4:15 pm Everyone hides away as guests begin to arrive; I shoot details of the ceremony site, candids of guests arriving, and, if it’s at the same site or close by, details of the reception
5:00 pm Ceremony starts
5:30 pm Guests, bridal party, and family members who have been photographed are dismissed to cocktail hour or reception; I shoot any remaining family with bride and groom
6:00 pm Bride and groom arrive to enjoy the last half of the cocktail hour or to start the reception
6:30 pm- 11:00 pm Photos of all the festivities– primarily candids from here on out
. . . . . . .
Obviously, these are just sample schedules, and you’ll almost always need to customize yours to fit your own needs, but it always helps to have a jumping off point. The important thing to remember is that while it’s good to be organized, don’t become so attached to the schedule that things fall apart the moment we get behind. I always, always, always build in a little buffer time, so DON’T STRESS. That’s why you hired professionals– to help you make sure things go according to plan and to come up with creative on-the-fly solutions when they don’t! :)
We hope these tips/details will help you in making a decision for your own wedding & First Look. While we think it’s a great break from tradition, at the end of the day it all depends on the bride & groom and how they feel about it. If you have any questions – just let us know! We’d be happy to offer some tips when creating your own wedding schedule :)