First Look vs. No First Look

Couples ask me a lot of questions, but by far, the most popular question I get asked is whether or not they should do a first look. Now, it goes without saying that I can't make that decision for you. Its up to you and your honey, its not a right or wrong. But in over the past 3 years I've shot over 70 weddings, and so I'm just here to share the input I'm heard from brides, experiences I've seen myself, and how to communicate best with your team, regardless of your choice!

Basically, a first look is when a bride and groom (or groom and groom/bride and bride) see each other before the wedding ceremony. The alternate is the traditional experience of a person seeing their spouse come down the aisle for the first time.

So why a first look?

The three main reasons I've heard couples give for doing a first look is timeline, nerves, and privacy.

1. Time line

Getting your wedding timeline down perfectly is a fine science. It's a great tool, but its rare that I see wedding days stick strictly to these timelines - and that's OK! But, that's another post for another day. When creating a wedding day timeline, couples are guided by so many factors- venue limitations, meal times, hopes for receptions, and so many other details. I know it's overwhelming, but as a photographer, I'm here to help in those decisions. Letting your photographer give input and answer questions can help alleviate so much stress from your day. Now I'm not here to act as a wedding planner, but let me gift you with some of the experience and knowledge I've been collecting!

Many couples who opt for a first look do so because they know that after the ceremony they are going to be ready to party. By doing a first look, you get some quiet moments with your sweetheart while getting your portraits done. We can even set up the timeline so that we can do family portraits and wedding party photos all at once. That means when the ceremony is over, you can head straight to the reception and enjoy the time with all of your guest.

The Winter months add another layer to creating the timeline. Shortened days lead to less light. As a photographer who focuses on natural light, my lil heart hates seeing those 5pm sunsets. If you as a couple found me, fell in love with the images I create during golden hour, then I want to provide you with images similar to the ones that drew you to my work. This simply can't happen when the sun sets at 5pm, and the ceremony is beginning at the same time, without the option of a first look.

2. Nerves

I get this one. I really do. You are about to get in front of 50, 100, or 300 people and vow to love that person for the rest of your life. If that doesn't make your heart pound at least a little, I'm not sure what will. Even though this is a joyful and incredible time, its still a big deal. If you are anything like me, the person that you love is the one that will bring peace and calm to a giddy and exciting day. Having those moments alone to just breathe in the day can create some of the most beautiful moments of your wedding day.

You know yourself far better than I ever will. If you foresee yourself only want a few minutes with your fiancé(e) to breathe and settle down, than by all means, talk and see if a first look is best for y'all.

3. Privacy

Wedding days busy, busy, busy. You will be around people for 12+ hours and man, it can be a little overwhelming. By including a first look into your day, often it's just the two of you, me, and sometimes a few select people you chose. This time provides a moment for just you. You and the person you are choosing to love for all of your days. I'll be there to document the whole thing, so if you choose to share that private moment later in life, you absolutely can!

So what about no first look?

I have many couples who choose to not do a first look. I've heard a few different reasons, the main reasons I have heard are timeline, inclusion, and the traditional experience.

1. Timeline

Wait a minute, didn't I use this as a reason to do a first look? Yeah, you heard me. Like I said, wedding day timelines are a fine science. When you incooperate how many hours you have in your venue, the scheduling of hair and make up artists, if you choose to have an earlier ceremony, and other factors, you may be left seeing that no first look is the best option for you. My advise? If you have a solid preference, make your schedule work around it. For instance, if you want your first look to be coming down the aisle, be willing to schedule your ceremony and reception in a way that makes sense for that to happen. Find yourself a killer wedding planner, tell them your hopes and dreams, be flexible and let them do the work! That's what they are there for!

2. Inclusion

For many couples, they want the friends and family who have supported them on this journey to be present when they see each other for the first time. They want to be surrounded by the ones who have guided them on this journey. If this is the case, it makes total sense to opt out of a first look and to instead, give your friends and family the opportunity to witness with moment that you will share together.

3. Traditional Experience

This is probably the main reason I hear couples wanting to do the walk down the aisle. There is something to be said about following in the footsteps of generations of married couples before you. If you have dreamed since you were little about the day you would walk down the aisle to your future spouse and seeing them for the first time, than dang it, lets make that happen!

Like I said, I can't make this choice for you. Some couples come into the season of wedding planning knowing full well what they expect and want from their wedding day, others come in with less of a plan and are seeking guidance, and many others are somewhere in between. So whatever group you may fall in, collaborate with your team, trust the professionals you hired to make this day happen, and help create a wedding day that is true to who you are as a couple.


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