I’ve been photographing weddings for a little over ten years now and I continue to find that weddings with a First Look tend to run a lot smoother.
#RealTalk: I am a wedding photographer so this article may be a little biased towards prioritizing photography. I do, however, try to balance this out to make sure my clients are the #1 priority, so read between the lines and consider applying only what’s most important to you.
OK SO WAIT, WHAT THE HECK IS A FIRST LOOK?
You are recently engaged and every vendor has asked you the same question: “So… Are you doing a First Look?” I want to break this down for you – A First Look is a simple way of saying, “Will you be seeing each other before the ceremony?” Traditionally, couples have waited until the ceremony before seeing each other for the first time. However, it’s becoming more and more popular to see each other just before the ceremony for a number of reasons.
MY TOP 5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD DO A FIRST LOOK ON YOUR WEDDING DAY
1. IT CALMS THE NERVES
If you’re the type of person that gets nervous around crowds, doesn’t like to be the center of attention or gets anxious easily, then this might be a great option for you. I’ve found that most clients are nervous just before the ceremony, and those that thought they wouldn’t be suddenly get a little freaked out. Lets face it, your wedding is probably one of the biggest days of your life. Depending on how involved you are in the process and your personality type, there can be a lot of internal stress built up anticipating the moment you see each other for the first time. Don’t let me freak you out though; you can definitely get through it! However, doing a First Look will give you peace of mind in knowing that your significant other will be there for you to help calm those nerves. Time and time again we see the stress fly away just after my clients see each other for the first time. It’s almost like a weight is lifted off their shoulder and the rest of the wedding day activities are a breeze!
2. WAY LESS RISKY
Is the reward worth the risk? Try to think logically and less emotionally about your wedding day; The reality is a wedding day only happens once. Set a date, pick a venue and you’re done. Whatever happens, happens. Your wedding day is not guaranteed to fall perfectly into place. There are a lot of moving parts that you can’t control. For instance: bad weather, hair and makeup running late, traffic jams, missing rings, a setting sun, etc. The list of things that could potentially go wrong goes on and on. Instead of betting against the odds, try planning things out with as little risk as possible. Plan for the worst and your day might end up being surprisingly pleasant. If you decide to do a First Look, it basically means you can get all your photos finished and out of the way in the first part of the day, rather than after the ceremony. Seeing each other before the ceremony lets you finish all of your couple portraits, bridal party portraits and family portraits. Because of this, after the wedding all you have to think about is actually attending your own reception and mingling with guests who are eager to congratulate you! It also provides you with a back-up time slot to finish your portraits just in case something held you up earlier in the day.
3. THE FEELINGS DON’T GO AWAY
You’ve been thinking about how precious that moment is going to be when you see each other for the first time, right? Well, what if its not everything it’s cracked up to be? What if it was special but just not THAT special. First thing: I don’t mean to be cynical, really! But do you know where this tradition originated? I’m going to educate you.
During the time when arranged marriages were custom, the betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see each other before the wedding at all. The wedding symbolized a business deal between two families (romantic, huh?), and a father would have been pleased for his daughter to marry a man from a rich, land-owning family. But he also feared that if the groom met the bride before the wedding and thought she wasn’t attractive, he’d call off the wedding, casting shame onto the bride and her family. Therefore, it became tradition that the bride and groom were only allowed to meet at the wedding ceremony so that the groom did not have the opportunity to change his mind. And that veil the bride wears? Its original purpose was also to keep the groom from finding out what the bride looked like until the last possible minute, when it was too late to back out of the transaction.
Mind you, I’ve seen some AMAZING moments because the couple opted out of doing the First Look – times so sweet even I thought maybe I should stop trying to convince my clients to do a First Look. At the same time, I’ve seen incredible moments at the ceremony just moments after doing a First Look. If the emotions are there, they are going to come out regardless of what you decide to do. I truly believe that. Seeing each other privately before the ceremony is much different than seeing each other in “Let’s Do This” mode as all of your best friends and closest family members are watching. Here is a shot of a groom that did a private first look before the ceremony – he still felt the emotion of the moment despite that. Trust me I have plenty more to prove my point!
My thought is this: If you’re the type that really doesn’t want to hear about a First Look, then don’t do it. This is always COMPLETELY your choice and you should do what you’re comfortable with (but really, have you seen the NO LOOK first looks? 😉 If this article has made you question, though, drop me a line and let’s talk about it!)
4. MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PICTURES
This one is probably my favorite. Let’s face it, I want you to have as many opportunities for amazing images as we can possibly fit in, because at the end of the day all that’s left is the photography to look back on.
Regardless of how you decide to use your MONEY, make better use of your TIME. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a photographer for 12hrs. You can be creative with structuring your wedding day timeline for optimal use. It is possible to have plenty of time for pictures and relaxation without killing the bank. Getting your pictures taken on your wedding day shouldn’t be an exhausting process. For us, we only need about 2-3hrs total (for all portraits) depending on how many people you have in the family and bridal party.
In the meantime, think about this for a sec: You spent all year long at work on Pinterest, pinning those beautiful & artistic, naturally-lit wedding photos, but you have a 5 p.m. ceremony time and the sun is setting at 6:30 p.m. sharp, which means you still have about 15 minutes of available light before things start getting too dark for natural light. It sounds like enough time, but what happens if the ceremony doesn’t actually start until 5:30 p.m. (which is pretty common)? That leaves you with 30 minutes for the ceremony and 30 minutes for family portraits, bridal party portraits and bride/groom portraits – Talk about a rush!
That isn’t always the case though. You can certainly plan for an earlier ceremony time, do your bridal party portraits separately (bridesmaids with bride & groomsmen with groom) before the ceremony and actually give yourself a little cushion for after the ceremony to focus on family portraits and bride/groom portraits. In this case, you have to be prepared to potentially miss your cocktail hour and have only one opportunity for naturally-lit bride & groom shots. Also, you have to hope the lighting and weather during that golden hour will be nice to you. For most weddings, this approach works out just fine but if you’re not the type to take any chances, please save yourself the headache and just do the First Look.
5. BE PRESENT AT YOUR WEDDING
“Your wedding day will go by so fast!”
This isn’t an overstatement. There are so many things to accomplish on your wedding day that sometimes taking it all in just isn’t possible. Even more reason to have a photographer capturing those unseen moments right before you. Try thinking like this when planning your wedding: For every tradition, location or moment in my wedding day, something extra is required of either me or my day. So if the tradition of seeing each other at the ceremony is very valuable to you, other things have to be appropriately moved around to accommodate for both. There is only so much time in one day. Unless you have all the money in the world, let’s be realistic about your day, but creatively plan so that you can have the best of both worlds.
Time and time again, clients have thanked me after the wedding for convincing them to do a First Look. If I sense they are really not feeling it, I don’t push because, ultimately, I want what’s best for you!
I want you to live in the moment and not just relive it through the photos. I want you to be present with your love, family & your guests. A First Look gives you the flexibility to get all your portraits totally out of the way so you can engage with the people you love the most!
This is just some food for thought. I’d love to know your take on this subject. Drop an email or a comment and let’s discuss!