First Look Photography

This is a post I originally shared last year, and I felt it was time to do so again. Enjoy! ~Betsy

There is something really special and magical about the first time that a groom sees his bride on their wedding day. It’s that moment and the memories that bring tears to our eyes every single time. Flipping through bridal magazines, you’ve probably seen beautiful photographs of couples together embracing in this first moment of joy, which portrays the true love that is marriage.  These are some of our favorites too! Those photographs beg the question... would you choose to do a first look?

So, what is a first look?

Simply put, a first look is an opportunity for a bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony. This is a private moment in a secluded location that the bride and groom share.  Usually, the only other person present is the photographer. This concept didn’t really exist 10 years ago, so it’s not surprising to learn many people don’t what it is or how it works. Here is the scoop….

Why do a first look?

COMFORT:  If you have any kind of nervousness or anxiety, seeing your future spouse can help immediately put your mind at ease.  Sometimes couples know they will be too nervous to read their vows to each other at the altar. During the privacy of the time alone, a first look is the perfect opportunity to read those vows to each other. 

MEMORIES WITH PHOTOGRAPHY:  If a couple decides to forgo a first look, they will see each other for the first time at the ceremony.  Think about a typical ceremony set up with an aisle. In most ceremonies, the bride is at one end of the aisle and the groom is at the other and they are facing each other.  It is impossible for a photographer to capture the faces of both the bride and groom in the same frame and the exact same moment.  In this scenario, the bride and groom also won’t have the opportunity to tell each other anything when they are close enough to talk because they are standing in front of guests at the beginning of the ceremony. 

In a first look scenario, a photographer can capture the emotions of both people, at the same time, in the same frame.  That memory is truly one of the most cherished and probably the ones you’ve seen in magazines.  A bride recently told us that she remembers exactly what her groom was whispering in her ear in each of their first look photographs.  See below in these stunning images by Mark Andrew Studios. Can you think of anything more romantic?

TIME ALONE + TIME WITH GUESTS + NOT FEELING RUSHED: When we talk to couples that were married many years ago (often parents of the bride and groom), we are told stories about not having a chance to eat at their own celebration because they were too busy talking to everyone and felt rushed all night long.  Even today, this isn’t uncommon to hear and it’s just not okay with us!  One of the number one reasons couple opt for a first look is to have more time in the day to spend with their guests.  If the bride and groom do a first look, all posed portraits can be taken before the ceremony. The process of taking posed photos usually spans 1-3 hours, depending on the size of the wedding party and families and if the photos are taken before or after the ceremony. 

Here is how it usually works if the couple does a first look: After their private alone time together, the wedding party will join the couple for photographs of the group. Typically after the wedding party, immediate family will join and sometimes even some extended family too. The family photos are last which is the time closest to the ceremony, usually about 1 hour before and just before prelude music begins. After photos are done, the wedding party, bride and groom are all tucked away and out of sight of the arriving guests. Family is then seated in the front few rows  just before guests begin to arrive. After the ceremony, the wedding party and family can go immediately to cocktail hour to relax, enjoy conversation, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The bride and groom can have a few additional portraits alone and then choose to either join the cocktail hour or have alone time (or have both!!). Depending on the flow of the party, the alone time is a nice time to refresh hair and makeup, use the restroom, bustle the wedding dress, and get a bite to eat before seeing guests. 

If couples choose to forgo a first look, all the photographs with the bride and groom together will need to happen after the ceremony, which means family and wedding party will miss most of cocktail hour with the guests and the bride and groom will not have a chance for time alone.  As a planner, this is the hardest to watch because we see couples stressing about time and not enjoying the photographs because they are worried about joining guests.

Ally & Bobby Photography

Ally & Bobby Photography

Why forgo a first look?

TRADITION: Young girls dream about the moment they walk down the aisle and see their future husband on the wedding day.  Because the concept of a first look is relatively new, it can be hard to shake the feeling of breaking tradition.  We can absolutely promise that first look or not... the moment in which the bride walks down the aisle will always be incredibly special. Nothing will change the amazing feeling when the music is playing and everyone is looking at you, knowing that you are about to be married.  Some brides have opted to slightly alter their look, such as not wear their veil during the first look and wearing it only for the ceremony. 

We have this conversation with every one of our clients and it’s never an easy one because there is so much to consider. We see so many benefits to doing a first look and only one reason not to- tradition. We’ve gone back and asked our clients how they feel about the day after the wedding.  Never once have we had a client tell us that they wished they didn’t do a first look.  But on the other hand, we have had clients tell us they wished they had done a first look.  Ultimately, we just want the bride and groom to be happy and it truly doesn’t matter to us if they choose to do a first look or not.  It is our job is to share the information so couples can make an informed decision that’s best for them.