Oh hey, friends. You’re getting married and are torn whether or not to do a First Look. Some say it’s bad luck to see your partner before the ceremony; others say it’s the best decision they made for their wedding day. As a wedding photographer with 11 years in the industry, here’s my two cents on it.
DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. DO IT.
- #1 – The biggest reason (in my opinion) is that you free up more time. Choosing to have your first look prior to the ceremony means knocking out full Wedding Party photos before the ceremony. It means having more time to enjoy your cocktail hour because those must have shots are already completed. You aren’t rushing to chase the sunset. So how do you fit that into your timeline? I suggest it happening right after the Bride, Groom, and Wedding Party are dressed. Prior to the first look, I’ll scout out locations with good light that are close by and private enough that way your guests won’t see you yet. Here’s my typical breakdown:
-Place Partner 1 in the set location with my second shooter. While I fetch Partner 2, my second is grabbing individual shots of Partner 1. It’s hugely important to make sure Partner 1 is facing away from the area Partner 2 will be coming from.
-Partner 2 makes their entrance. My second shooter will be shooting with a different focal length and at a different angle than me so there is a ton of variety from both perspectives. My favorite way to set up the first look is to tell Partner 2 to go tap Partner 1’s shoulder, wait until we give the ok for Partner 1 to turn around, and then once that green light has been given, the rest is candid photos and genuine reactions. Other options are: have the couple stand back to back, count down, then have them turn around at the exact same time; have Partner 1 walk through closed doors to reveal their soon-to-be spouse at the end of the aisle; have your Wedding Party form a wall with their bodies, then have them step to the side for the big reveal.
-While this is going on, the Wedding Party is waiting in the wings (make sure they have their bouquets/boutonniers with/on them) waiting for their cue to join the couple.
-While my second shooter grabs the Wedding Party, I’ll grab a few shots of just the Couple together.
-I’ll start photographing the Wedding Party in several groupings; Full Party together with Couple; Bride with Bridesmaids, Groom with Groomsmen, Groom with Bridesmaids, Bride with Groomsmen, etc. **I ask the planner to give me at least 30 minutes to photograph the Wedding Party.
-After the portraits have been finished, if there’s enough time in the timeline, I’ll also grab immediate family members (parents, siblings), that way after the ceremony we only have to focus on Extended Family, which can be finished in 10-15 minutes. After that you can go right into your Cocktail hour and spend more time with your guests.
- #2 – Melt away the pre-ceremony jitters. I tell my couples that the anxiety/nerves they feel prior to the First Look will be the hardest part of their day. Seeing their partner before helps them let go and focus more on the day itself rather than being too wrapped up in nervous energy.
- #3 – You will STILL get the genuine reactions/emotions when you’re walking down the aisle. There’s a difference between seeing each other beforehand and then seeing each other from opposite ends of the aisle. That’s when shit gets REAL! The realization hits as soon as you lock eyes that THIS is what you’re there for. You’re making the commitment of forever to each other, and that doesn’t come lightly. I’ve seen both partners show emotion both during the First Look and during the ceremony.
But wait! Why stop at one First Look when you can have two or three? A new trend that I’ve seen develop is a First Look with the Bride and her Bridesmaids. They can either leave the room and be let back in after the Bride is dressed, or they can simply turn around and wait until the reveal. So what’s the third option? The Bride’s First Look with her Dad/Mom/Stepdad/Grandparents (basically anyone that is super special to the couple). SO. MUCH. EMOTION. Seriously, heart eyes for days.
I know I’ve shared this set of First Looks before, but I’m still swooning over Mr. & Mrs. Cannaday’s decision to do 3 separate looks. First, when Nikki got to the venue, she had her Bridesmaids line up facing the wall. Once everyone was in position, I told them to turn around.
Next up: Daddy Daughter first look! This was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve encountered over my 11 years of shooting. I may have been crying just as much because Dad’s reaction reminded me so much of my Dad. I wish I would’ve done a first look with him at my wedding.
After that, we went to the rooftop where the ceremony would be held for her first look with her hubby, David. Three different locations showing off their gorgeous venue!
When you’re so amazed at your partner’s beauty, you just have to sit down and bask in it. How sweet is that?
Or this sweet one from Mr. & Mrs. Drennan’s wedding where Brooklyn surprised Hunter’s dad. It was so sweet!
Even the bridesmaids are tearing up :’)
Nothing like getting hyped up by your favorite women! Mrs. Hacker did the same with her ladies 🙂
Here are a few more reasons to have a First Look (or two) on your wedding day:
- If your ceremony is at night time, but you love your photographer’s natural light/golden hour photos, you’ll obviously need to take those photos before it gets dark. This can also be said about ceremonies during golden hour. You won’t be rushed afterwards to capture the last remaining bits of light. Tip: if your wedding is in the winter months, keep in mind it gets dark much, much earlier.
- More time for portraits! I know I touched on this a few paragraphs up; it really does help you make the most out of your timeline, especially if your photographer is there for less than 8 hours. While I don’t push my couples one way or the other to do a First Look besides share my personal preference, it’s so much easier to have them finished before the ceremony that way you can enjoy the rest of your day without being pulled away from your guests. Especially if prep runs long/over time, you won’t feel too rushed to make sure those moments are documented.
- It’s the perfect time for a Gift Exchange! While some clients do this without a first look, this way you can see your partner’s reaction to your gift in person rather than waiting for your full gallery.
- You’re more likely to remember the ceremony. I have clients and friends tell me they don’t even remember their own vows or what happened during the ceremony because they had been SO NERVOUS beforehand and sometimes even during.
- Your hair/makeup is fresh! You want your photos when you’re looking your best. No need to worry about sweat, smudged makeup from crying, or wind blown hair. Also, let’s be real: you’re most likely going to be sober at that point 😉
- You can wrap all portraits before the ceremony and have the rest of the day to soak up that married life.
- It’s a completely private moment (minus your photographer/videographer–though we do stand back to give you space). There will be no other time during the day where it will be JUST YOU TWO TOGETHER. Soak it in.
- The reveal at the ceremony is pretty antiquated. Did you know that tradition came around because of arranged marriages? You didn’t get to see your betrothed until the ceremony!
If you’re still decided to wait until the ceremony, go for it! Ultimately, it is YOUR day 🙂 As a wedding photographer, I’m fully able and willing to help you plan your timeline one way or another to get the absolute most out of your experience.
Let me know in the comments if this post helped sway you one way or the other 🙂