I've had so many couples on the fence about doing a first look that I felt it was totally necessary to write this post. I'm not trying to talk anyone out of anything that they have their heart set on, but I ask you to read on with an open mind. If you read to the end of this post and are still totally against first looks, that's fine and I won't blame you for it! You do you! In all honesty, I continue to have couples coming to me after their wedding saying that they loved everything, BUT the only thing they wish they would've done differently is do a first look. This makes me cringe every time and as much as I try to encourage all of my clients to do a first look, I can't help but feel like maybe I'm not educating them properly on the benefits. Ultimately, my goal is to educate my clients as much as possible and to make sure that their special day goes as smoothly as possible. Because let's face it, most of you, if not all of you have been dreaming about this one very special day for your ENTIRE life.
First of all... some of you may be wondering at this point, "What the heck is a first look?"
To sum it up, a first look is a non-traditional trend that has quickly become popular for weddings, where the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony and you get all of your portraits (including family portraits & wedding party portraits) done beforehand. First looks are gaining so much popularity for a number of reasons.
#1- You get to share a private moment with each other- I know that most of you have probably imagined that the first time you see your bride/groom would be walking down the aisle but what's more special than sharing a private moment together with just the two of you (I'll be a silent fly on the wall, capturing it all). Wedding days are full of excitement but the time line of the day will be jam packed and is usually planned out right down to the very minute. If you choose the traditional route of not seeing each other until the ceremony, you really won't have a private moment together (like you would with a first look) the whole entire day, with guests pulling you every which way right after your ceremony ends.
#2- More Time (+You get to enjoy your cocktail hour!!)- When I've asked some of my past brides what advice they would give to brides that are in the planning stages of their wedding, they've all told me different variations of the same thing, "Enjoy every moment, because it goes by so fast!" "It goes by in the blink of an eye!" "It's over before you know it!" Doing a first look not only gives you more time for photos, more time with your hubby (or wifey), but it also gives you more time to spend with your guests and you even get to ENJOY YOUR COCKTAIL HOUR (I know it sounds totally crazy, right?!) It's only ONE day and it already goes by so fast as it is.... so why try to cram EVERYTHING into just a few hours?? Everyone will feel less rushed and your wedding party will thank you for it (when they get to make a beeline for the bar right after the ceremony). Your guests are coming from near and far to spend time with you on the most important day of your life, you should be able to be present in the moment and spend as much time with them as possible! It's not fun watching all of your guests have a great time from afar, while you're stuck taking all of your portraits, (and I don't want to be the bad guy keeping you away from your guests!), just sayin!!
#3- You'll get more of a variety of photos- Since a first look takes place before your guests arrive to your ceremony, we'll be able to roam around your venue (inside & outside) freely without having to worry about guests photobombing shots in the background (Also, guests will be trying to say Hi to you and hug you during portraits which only prolongs the whole process and keeps you away from your party longer, and eats into all of your portrait time that you set aside during cocktail hour). This is a huge plus, because usually we can't even take portraits where the cocktail hour is taking place because it will be congested with guests and sometimes this might be the most picturesque room in your venue. Have you been dreaming about taking photos under that beautiful chandelier or in front of that huge fireplace...... OH wait, that's where your cocktail hour is going to be..... Unfortunately, that's probably not going to work unless we kick everyone out, and I'm not taking cocktails away from Aunt Mary... that could get ugly! All kidding aside, another point I like to bring up is, if you're planning your ceremony for later in the evening, sure we can do photos right after your 4:30 ceremony....which doesn't end until 5..... but the sun is supposed to set at 6.... it starts getting dark at your venue at 5:15 because the tree line is higher.... see where I'm going with this? (I"m especially talking to you late-fall-and-winter-the-sun-sets-at-ridiculously-early-times weddings) It can sometimes seem like a race against natural light and I can't fight nature. If all you've been pinning are those bright and dreamy, natural light photographs on Pinterest, than that's just another reason for... Need I say it? First. Look.
#4- More flexibility and less risk in your timeline- What if it starts down pouring right after your ceremony, your hair and makeup artist takes longer than expected (I've seen this throw off an entire day many times), your officiant gets a flat tire on the way to your ceremony, your best man forgets the rings and has to go home to get them, your dog gets loose in the morning and you have to chase him around the neighborhood ("GET BACK HERE FLUFFY!!"), the list goes on and on. I know these aren't ideal scenarios to think about when picturing your wedding day, but the reality is s*** happens and nothing ever goes 100% as planned. I'm not trying to freak you out or give you a panic attack, no matter what happens the day will be incredible.... buttttt it's never a bad idea to have a plan B in case something does go haywire. Try to think more logically and less emotionally when weighing the pro's and con's of a first look. If you decide to do a first look, it basically means you can get all of your portraits (family portraits, wedding party portraits, bride and groom portraits) done and out of the way before your ceremony. It also provides you with a back-up time slot after your ceremony to finish your portraits just in case something kept you held up earlier in the day. If you're hesitant because you don't like taking a ton of photos ("Can we stop now... my mouth hurts from smiling.") you don't need to carve out a crazy amount of time for your first look. Getting your pictures taken on your wedding day shouldn't be an exhausting process and I strive to make it as fun and laid back as possible. 1.5-2 hours is usually a good amount of time for all of the portraits, depending on how many people you have in your family and bridal party.
#5- Less stress- Doing a first look tends to take the stress off of everyone. There's something about seeing your better half before the ceremony that calms your nerves. The months and weeks leading up to your wedding day can cause a lot of built up stress and I've seen it time and time again, it's almost like a weight has been lifted when a couple sees each other for the first time during the first look. Not to mention, the day is less rushed and everything tends to run more smoothly, which can alleviate a lot of stress.
#6- Your makeup and hair will be fresh- (This one's for you brides!) Your first look almost always takes place immediately after you get your hair and makeup done. And let's be honest, professional hair and makeup on your wedding day is not exactly cheap. So, wouldn't you want all of your most important photos from the day (the portraits!) done when you're looking super fresh and flawless. If you wait until after the ceremony, you could start looking sweaty, pieces of your hair might be falling, your face might start getting shiny, your makeup might have already smudged and ran all over your face from crying during the ceremony (waterproof mascara might work but that doesn't mean your foundation won't smear!)... Do you really want to take the chance and do all of your photos after the ceremony? Nothing looks better in photos than newly FRESH hair and makeup!
#7- The feelings will still be there- One of the biggest reservations I get from couples about first looks is "I want the first time that we see each other to be special", "I want my husband to cry when they see me walking down the aisle". If this is your main concern about doing a first look, let me tell you the first time you see your husband/wife, whether you're doing a first look or not, will be far more SPECIAL than you ever imagined. And then guess what.... after you do your first look and see each other for the first time during the ceremony, THAT will be more special than you ever imagined too. It's two totally different moments and the feelings you'll be feeling when it's just the two of you are a little different than the feelings you'll be feeling when you're in "LET'S DO THIS" mode, with all of your friends and family there to watch (And I think there's just something so much more intimate of being alone the first time you see each other). And if you're a little shy in front of crowds or hate being the center of attention, your mind might be a little pre-occupied with thoughts of "Please don't trip over my dress, please don't trip over my dress...." Not to mention, I'd hate to have Great Uncle Harry jump in front of you with his ipad as you're walking down the aisle and obstruct your view of each other (I've seen it happen before... Blog post on reasons why to do an unplugged ceremony... coming soon). Bottom line... if the feelings are there during the first look, they will be there for the ceremony! I've seen groom's get emotional during the first look and then completely break down just a few hours later as their bride walks down the aisle.
So I hope that this has helped to educate you a little more on first looks and to give you a better idea if it's for you or not. If I sense that you're really not about it, I definitely won't push because ultimately I really want what is best for you. I want you to enjoy every moment on your wedding day and get the best photos possible....because after all is said and done, all you'll really be left with are your photographs to relive the BEST DAY EVER!