It’s 2019. Weddings are getting less traditional by the day, but one idea that always seems to stick around is waiting until the altar to see your partner in life. Why? As a wedding photographer, I always talk to my couples during the consultation about having a first look. When the topic of a first look is mentioned, most couples are battling between the idea of sticking to traditions or doing things their own way. In this post, I want to clear up some misconceptions about having a first look on your wedding day and talk to you about how it may have a positive impact on your entire wedding day.
To start, what is a first look?
Simply put, a first look is when you see your spouse-to-be before the wedding ceremony. Typically, the first look takes place a couple of hours before the ceremony allowing us to take all the wedding party photos before you even walk down the aisle.
Here are 5 reasons you should have a first look on your wedding day!
1. It won’t ruin the aisle moment
One of the most common excuses on why not to do a first look is because you want that aisle moment. You know, the moment you’ve seen in every single wedding movie ever. The moment your groom is so overcome by emotions after seeing you for the first time that he falls to his knees with tears streaming down his face. Ok, that may be a tad more dramatic than you’ve pictured it, but point being, you still want your groom to be emotional.
Well, if your groom is prone to crying, he is going to cry whether you have a first look or not. In fact, he may actually get more emotional at the altar because that is the moment when he’s like oh sh*t, this is really happening. From my experience photographing more than 100 weddings, about half of which had a first look, the groom is still going to cry during the ceremony. Typically, the first look is all about smiles and happiness then it gets real during the ceremony and those emotions will show.
Here are some real examples of the groom’s reaction during the first look vs the ceremony.
Point being, if your groom is going to get emotional, having a first look won’t ruin that.
2. You’ll get some alone time
You may not realize this, but you will actually spend more time with me on your wedding day than with your spouse. If you choose to not do a first look, you’ll actually spend more than half of the day without seeing them. Let’s think about it this way. You are best friends. You love them more than anything. This is the most important day in your lives so far, so why wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as possible with them?
When you have a first look, you get 15 minutes alone to just be yourselves. From getting ready to the ceremony to portraits to cocktail hour to the reception there’s really no moment in the day where you will be alone with the person who you love more than anything.
From a personal perspective, my husband is my best friend. It was killing me to spend so much time away from him. By so much time, I mean less than 24 hours, but it was painful! I had my bachelorette party and spent the night with my girls the night before the wedding, so when we arrived at the venue, I could not wait to see him. All I wanted to do was hug him and talk to him about it being our wedding day. The day we had planned for so long was finally here.
I remember the nerves I felt as I walked up to him moments before our first look. I couldn’t wait to hug the love of my life on our wedding day. When you’re experiencing this at the altar, you can’t hug or kiss them. You’re going through the motions before you share your ceremonial first kiss. I can’t imagine going through an entire ceremony thinking all I want to do is be in his arms. The ceremony would have meant so much less to me if I was only focused on getting through it.
3. It’ll calm your nerves
That leads me to my next point. Having a first look will calm your nerves because you aren’t so focused on having that grand first look moment. You’ll be able to focus on what really matters. You’ll be able to focus on marrying the love of your life.
Since I did have a first look, I actually remember what happened during the ceremony. So often I have brides tell me that they can’t even remember what happened during their ceremony because they were so nervous. When you have a first look, you will be calmer and more focused on the meaning behind the ceremony and less focused on how your groom is looking at you.
4. You’ll get more time for creative images
Let me talk for a second about how your timeline works when you have a first look. We start the day the same, with details and getting ready, but you’ll wrap up your getting ready time about two hours earlier than if you didn’t have a first look. Yes, this does mean an early morning, but let’s be real, who can actually sleep in on their wedding morning?
I know, for example, I got about three hours of sleep. I couldn’t fall asleep until 5 in the morning. Yeah, I had been hanging out with my girls and that kept me up for a bit, but even after the party wrapped up, I couldn’t get comfortable knowing tomorrow was my wedding day. Once I finally got to sleep, I woke up only a few hours later because of the excitement. My hair and makeup ladies were coming at 8 am, and I knew I needed to be ready for them. I also had yet to write my vows. That’s a story for a different post. I was just so excited to get to the day that sleeping was my last priority. When you’re running on so much adrenaline, you really won’t even realize you’re tired until it’s all over.
After getting ready, we have your first look followed by bride and groom pictures. These are some of the most important pictures you’ll take because all the emotions are fresh. You just saw your husband for the first time. You were able to hug, kiss, and show your love to each other. Now, I capture all those emotions. Once we spend about 15 minutes on bride and groom photos, we’ll bring in your wedding party. Typically your friends are thrilled about getting these pictures out of the way because they’ll be looking their best. They haven’t had time to cry off their makeup or stand out in the heat for an hour during the ceremony. Your bridesmaids are looking gorgeous and wanting to flaunt it. This is also before your wedding party has had the chance to drink so much that they’re not willing to follow directions. Once your groomsmen have a couple dozen beers in them, it makes it harder to coordinate them. Everyone is looking their best and alcohol-free (well, relatively).
We spend about two hours with your wedding party and family before the ceremony then you get married! Yay! It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. You’ll have a few minutes to get your makeup touched up, so you’ll still be looking the best. After the ceremony, we’ll finish up extended family photos and take husband and wife photos. These are equally special because you are married! Let’s capture that joy! You’ll get one more special time for portraits in the middle of the reception. Sunset photos. These are the most special because you are able to experience that soft, glowy light and have some more moments alone, despite the craziness of the day. You can look out and watch your first sunset together as husband and wife.
When you choose not to have a first look, we usually have about an hour to capture all these moments. I’ll still pull you away for sunset, but you have to cram family, wedding party, and couple photos into your cocktail hour. You don’t want your guests to wait too long, so I try to avoid having you out for longer than an hour. Having a first look increases your portrait time by about two hours, giving you more opportunities to get those priceless images you’ll hang on your walls for the rest of your life.
5. Your friends can enjoy the party
That leads me to your last point. You want your friends to actually enjoy the party, right?? You don’t want them to be stuck in the heat while all their friends are enjoying the cocktail hour, right? So, when you have a first look, as soon as the ceremony is over, your groomsmen can go straight to the bar. Once we’re finished with your 15 minutes of husband and wife photos, you get to grab a drink and enjoy your time with all your guests who traveled so far to see you. This is a win-win. Your friends get to enjoy the party, you get more portrait time, and you get to spend more time with those you love the most.
I’ve spent this entire blog talking about reasons why you should have a first look, but I wanted to touch briefly on reasons why you might not want to and that’s totally ok!
- If you’re having a church wedding with a large gap in between the ceremony and reception, there’s really no need to get your portraits out of the way before the ceremony since there will be more than enough time after.
- If you want to look super fresh during the ceremony and don’t want to worry about getting hot and sweaty before, it might not be best for you. We can make it work if this is your decision.
- You absolutely love the idea of an around the corner first look. Maybe you still can’t imagine going all day without spending time with your spouse but you don’t want to break traditions. An around the corner first look is a great way to still have alone time without going against your traditions. With an around the corner first look, you can still talk and hold hands without actually seeing each other.
Hear from real couples:
“We had a first look. It gave us a moment to just be together without all eyes on us.” – Dom D.
“We wanted to have a first look because we wanted lots of family pictures.” – Alyssa B.
“We did it due to daylight in November. I loved the time with just us.” – Hannah R.
“We had a first look mostly because of timing. We didn’t want our guests waiting too long on us for pictures. So glad we did!” – Brooke V.
“We didn’t do a first look because we are very traditional. I would have probably have cried my makeup off. Don’t regret it.” Kate C.
Regardless of if you decide to do a first look or not, your day will be gorgeous and a total representation of you. The choice is completely up to you. I just wanted to give you some ideas to consider when you’re debating whether or not to have a first look.
Did you do a first look? Tell me in the comments!