December 13, 2017
“I wanted that moment to be special, just for us. Call me selfish, but I didn’t want to have to share that moment with a bunch of other people. I wanted him all to myself in that first moment I saw him, and having the time and space for the first look made the day that much better.”
“I wanted to have more time for B&G portraits as photography was my biggest priority on my wedding day. I also wanted to enjoy the moment privately without all my wedding guests looking on. I didn’t want to feel any pressure about how I reacted. I also wanted some alone time together where it was just us.”
“I’ve always loved the idea of the moment that you first see each other on the wedding day is from either end of the aisle. To me, it felt like it added that extra emotional weight to the ceremony.”
“It seemed more magical to see each other for the first time while walking down the aisle.”
These are a few responses I got after polling my past wedding couples about their first looks. I was curious as to why they decided for or against one. I was originally going to write this article just from my standpoint as the photographer (which I’ll still add a bit) but thought it’d be way more powerful to hear it from people who have gone through it.
So what is it? A first look is a typically private moment for the soon-to-be-weds to see each other before the ceremony. Pretty simple on the surface but I was surprised at how everyone responded to why.
“I wanted to be surprised at how good she looked. We live together, so surprises are less frequent. Being able to surprise her and be surprised by her and then capture it on record was really special to me. “
Along with the first two responses at the top of this article, there’s a common theme of wanting that moment to be between just you and your future spouse. Me personally, I loved this following line about not wanting the pressure of reaction in view of their guests.
“It was so nice to have that moment just between the two of us, not a whole church full of people staring. It was still amazing to walk down the aisle to my husband, but I loved being able to really take the time, just us. We were able to get the shots that we wanted, to be able to celebrate about what we were doing and to really relish having a few minutes to just enjoy what we were about to do. It also helped calm me down to know that I would be a little less emotional, having already seen him once. I was still a completely different kind of emotional walking down the aisle to him. Also, it cut down on the time needed for pictures after the ceremony, so we were able to get to our reception much sooner to see our guests. It was important to me that we be able to just do family pictures after, and get bridal party and couples shots out of the way beforehand.”
To top it off, she hits one of the logistical key benefits of doing the first look – knocking out portraits early. I had a wedding recently where the ceremony was set for 5:00 PM in the fall. We had a first look beforehand, so I was able to do the couples portraits and also knocked out some bridal party portraits too. The day was running late though, so we had to finish doing the groomsmen’s portraits after the ceremony. Well, the sun sets at 5:30 PM in Atlanta during the fall season, so by the time we wrapped up the ceremony, it was pitch black outside. The final images of the guys were 100% different than the girls. Now that can be intentional for some couples, but in this case, we got lucky with a stellar venue, shooting outside with the Atlanta skyline. I had a pretty backdrop to place everyone and I had the flashes to light it properly.
Now, what happens when it rains after the ceremony? What if your photographer isn’t strong with their flash work (always ask to see a photographer’s reception photos in dark venues before hiring them)? What happens if it’s pitch black outside with no lights? What happens if the day is running super late and you can only do 5 pictures before the reception has to start?
“Makes the whole thing easier. No avoiding each other. You can get pictures out of the way AND it was just about the only moment my husband and I had to be alone the whole night. It was just us. We could talk. We could cry. It was the perfect start to the main event “
Logistically speaking, first looks are a blessing to a wedding timeline. You can knock out images beforehand, do them again after the ceremony if the weather wasn’t great or the prep ran over and cut into that time, you can get even more images, and you can cut down on the cocktail hour or even enjoy it with your guests. If you’re a particularly private couple, a first look offers a lot of benefits because the pressure of seeing each other for the first time down the aisle isn’t as great, and as one of my past couples alluded too, the moment is still powerful and emotional when it’s time to say I do.
Now, what about the other side? I had a 50/50 split from those who responded, which totally blew my mind. Those who opted not to do a first look were pretty concise in their reasons why.
“Nothing beats the expression that the photographer catches when the bride starts walking down the aisle!”
“Didn’t see a need for it/seems like a trend.”
That last one made me giggle because it highlights my favorite clients: laid back but straight to the point. With the last 2 quotes from the top of the article, these couples stuck to traditional ceremony first looks seemingly because of the romantic and emotional aspect.
Now granted, all of these responses while 100% valid are also biased. It’s not like everyone got to try out each! This is why I’ll add in my 2 cents because I’ve seen it both ways. Here’s my quick and dirty list of the pros and cons of doing a first look:
You can almost flip that list 100% for a traditional ceremony first look.
Obviously, I prefer first looks. There’s no right or wrong answer though, it is YOUR wedding after all. Every single couple was adamant about their decision and weren’t persuaded by others when I asked. I guess it all depends on your personality and what you want that first look to be. I’ll wrap this up with some final quotes when I asked my couples if they had to persuade someone else to do a first look, what would they say?
“I didn’t do one and it was worth it. Because when the groom did finally see me, walking down the aisle, he cried like a baby. The music, family around him and the sight of me were too much to keep in and he had the biggest happy cry of his life. I’m not sure that would have happened with a silly first look.”
“You get more portraits because there is more time. It takes a lot of pressure off of the timeline because you can get portraits done before the ceremony. A first look gets you to your cocktail hour and reception so much faster.”
“Maybe you aren’t feeling “nervous” but the level of excitement feels pretty close to nervousness. That said, seeing your partner before it all kicks off really helps to ease the nerves. Seeing that smile on your partner’s face was the best! And it gives you a moment to spend with JUST y’all, alone. Big or small wedding, getting time for just bride and groom/groom and groom/bride and bride is really tough – having a planned “pause” is the best decision I made that day. AND it gets pictures out of the way so you can enjoy your reception!”
“Don’t do it! You’ll never be able to relive that unexpected moment ever again. I can’t still see my husbands expression and it was almost 10 years ago!”
“It really was the best decision. No one persuaded me, but I did change my own mind. I originally thought it would be more special to wait, but I wouldn’t trade having that time for just the two of us for anything. It was my favorite part of the day. We didn’t feel rushed or pressured.”
“That it makes the moment much more special to be able to share it with only your spouse, and so you can get your makeup touched up if/when you cry.”
“I think that it is a very personal decision that should only be made between the couple. Look at some wedding pictures together. Which makes you feel happier – seeing a couple having private first looks, or having that moment during the ceremony? Also, consider your personalities. If you think one or both of you are going to feel (understandably!) overwhelmed on the day of then maybe first looks will help put you at ease.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts about why couples should or shouldn’t do a first look at their wedding! The majority of my couples ask my opinion and I want to present them with all the information I can. Your feedback would help tremendously.
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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