The “First Look” is a newer-ish wedding day phenomenon that has started becoming more and more popular with brides and grooms. However, if you haven’t actually sat down to consider the reasons behind WHY you may want to opt for a “First Look”, as opposed to the traditional “Altar Look”, you may not really understand it and the benefits to doing one. And you may not really know if it’s something you would like to do, or not. It’s very untraditional for most people, so that right there is usually a turn off for couples that don’t understand the reasons of WHY behind a First Look.
Every couple should do what’s truly best for them, their personal timeline, and their desires for their special day. There is no right or wrong way to lay out your wedding and your first glance at your love. So no matter what you learn about a first look, whether from me or someone else, do whatever sits right with you.
So keeping in mind I am not trying to persuade anyone into doing a first look, or not, but strictly offering some information and education, here are some reasons some couples choose to do a first look, and some benefits to having one.
1. It’s sometimes the only option for beautiful portraits during daylight.
I met with a couple one summer to talk about their wedding day details and photography, who had a gorgeous ceremony and reception location right up the road from the equally gorgeous lake Geneva. They had a beautiful vision for their portraits being taken at the park nearby the ceremony location, and then out on a pier over the lake, with the glowing, setting sun behind them and their wedding party. The photographic vision was perfect. I loved it.
But I then had to bring up the fact that the sun sets at a much different time of day in October than in June. In October, when their wedding date was, we would only have about 30 minutes to try and get to the park and lake after the ceremony and then capture any portraits before the sun was gone. 30 minutes is not enough time to shoot family portraits, wedding party portraits, and bride/groom portraits. Not even considering time for transportation.
Well, those beautiful portraits she envisioned did happen – but it was only possible because we added a first look to their timeline earlier in the day, before the actual ceremony. It was the best decision ever for them! They had their first look (it was a beautiful tear jerker), and then we took the majority of their wedding party portraits, family portraits, and bride/groom portraits. This gave us the opportunity to then still make it down to the pier to catch the beautiful setting sun after the ceremony for a few shots. Having taken all those portraits earlier in the day, made it possible for us to capture the photos they wanted at sunset by the lake. And those sunset portraits were breathless!
If you hold off on all your portraits until after the ceremony, and you have an evening ceremony, you may only have 30-60 minutes before the sun sets and all your photos will need to be taken with flash or other lighting options. If you love the look of flash photography and night photography, and are cool with that being the majority of your portraits, then that’s prefect for you! If you love the look of photos that are taken when there is some sun and natural light available outside, however, then you could definitely benefit from having a first look before the ceremony, and taking some of your portraits earlier, when there is still day light.
My husband and I actually did this before it was a “thing” when we married over 10 years ago. We had an evening, candle-lit ceremony, so portraits after the ceremony just wasn’t possible given we definitely wanted some taken with natural light outside among the beautiful, natural foliage.
It’s strictly a personal preference!
2. It can make your schedule and timeline for the day less hectic.
It can be a LOT to fit in – family portraits, wedding party portraits, bride/groom portraits, detail shots of the reception location, cocktail hour, … there can be a lot to try and capture when considering the photography while still trying to enjoy the day after becoming husband and wife. Having the first look before the ceremony, with some portraits to follow, helps ease the flow of the rest of the day a bit.
It breaks the photography up a bit, and spaces the portraits out more so it doesn’t seem like one long photoshoot after your ceremony, too. If you think you’ll be torn between wanting to capture as many beautiful shots as possible, versus being able to let your lipstick diminish and enjoy some of the cocktail hour with your friends and family you’ve invited to celebrate with, this might be a very real benefit for you. Or at the very least, just not feel so rushed.
This ‘less hectic’ timeline does appeal to some couples as we’re talking about their timeline and the details of everything. For some couples, it might be the only way to make the day actually flow the way they really would like it to.
3. You’ll likely end up with more portraits of you and your love.
When you have a first look, you end up having more time in your schedule for portraits because the pressure of fitting them in between your ceremony and reception isn’t there, AND there’s a good chance you’ll still end up taking a few shots after the ceremony even if you do have a first look beforehand.
4. You won’t waste your wedding day hiding from each other.
Seriously. (I kind of agree with this one.) Even if you have yet to be married, if you’ve ever been in a bridal party you’ve likely witnessed the ever–crazy doings of making sure the soon-to-be-wed couple don’t see each other! It truly can add a level of stress to the hours leading up to the ceremony. You have bridesmaids standing guard at every corner as the bride moves through the building, and you have groomsmen on the lookout for safe passage from one room to another. AND after all of that, there are still the occasional times the bride and groom will still end up accidentally seeing each other. I’ve witnessed it! It can be very disappointing for the couple if they are striving to NOT see each other before the ceremony. Who needs all this unnecessary stress?!
Doing a first look avoids this whole scenario for couples that this doesn’t appeal to, and gives them the opportunity to spend more time together on one of the most special days and moments of their lives. And the intimacy … I think everyone assumes that having a first look will take away from the amazing moment of seeing each other for the first time as you walk into the room and towards the altar. IF this is a concern for you, there is nothing that can take away from the moment your love steps into the room and is about to join you at the altar to become one and say “I do”. I’ve witnessed it, rest assured. A first look will not take away the magnitude of that moment. They are two entirely different moments really. Your first look is private, and special in its own way, and doesn’t diminish the actual moment of becoming husband and wife. At least, I’ve never seen it do so, and yet I know this is a main concern for most couples when considering a first look or not.
Perhaps because a first look simply goes against generations of tradition? If we consider the fact that this tradition actually came from the days of prearranged marriages, when the couple to be married didn't even know each other, they were kept from seeing each other until the very moment they were at the altar so no one changed their mind and tried ‘running’ if they didn’t like what they saw. This reason doesn’t really hold water in today’s society. It’s just “a tradition” now.
5. It takes away pressure and possible stress.
There can be so much build up to not seeing each other until you are ready to walk down the aisle. ‘Anxiousness’ might be the perfect word here for some. I’m not saying you are anxious about the marriage, but that you can be anxious about the wedding day going smoothly. Having a first look can take that pressure away for some couples. It does not take away from the amazing moment of seeing your soon-to-be spouse walking towards you to finally become one – just all the anxiousness for that moment to be so perfect and the pinnacle of the day. I think the pinnacle is actually the moment you say, “I do”. Right?
6. It can turn into the only time you’re actually alone all day.
Really? You’re thinking, “No. Not possible. It’s our wedding! Of course we’ll be spending the day together and have some alone time.” Well, actually, you’re wedding day is anything but ‘alone time’ for you and your husband/wife. Unless if you’re eloping, it’s a day that will be spent with everyone close to you – family and friends – and nope, no alone time until you leave the reception. Having a first look actually gives you alone time. And very special, intimate alone time at that.
For a first look, I will of course set things up so the photographic opportunities are at their best, and then I will step back to give you a few moments alone. Whether you take those moments to just hold each other and wipe the happy tears away, and tell each other how excited you are to say “I do”, or to talk about what you had for lunch and how getting dressed went, it’s up to you. But either way, having those private moments together, alone, to breathe and relax, before saying “I do” sounds pretty amazing to some couples.
I think bottom line, it comes down to timeline for most couples, and what they want to fit in to their day, and how stressed they may or may not be doing so. Think about what works for you and your timeline, and what you are hoping to get out of the day.
If you are reading this and have already married, did YOU do a first look? Leave a comment below to share with other future brides on your own experience with it. Pro's? Cons? Did you love it? Anything you would have changed?