If you’re planning a wedding, chances are you’ve heard of a first look.
If not, let me clarify that a first look is when the bridge and groom see each other before the ceremony. It’s usually a private moment (with two photographers and possibly videographers capturing from afar), and it is a really big decision for determining the timeline of the day.
I also want to say that I know quite a few photographers who are really adamant about first looks and actually won’t photograph a wedding unless you do one. This is not me. I wanted to write this post because I think a lot of times in the wedding industry we can toss this term around and expect brides and grooms to know what it means. And maybe you know what it means, but you don’t necessarily understand what the big deal is or why everyone is bucking tradition. This post is meant to be educational and share pros and cons of a first look. I absolutely never push my couples to do one if they want to keep things traditional! My husband and I did it the traditional way, so I totally get it!
So like I said, a first look is when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. There are a lot of reasons couples choose to do this!
First, it provides a really special and intimate time for just the two of you. Until your wedding is over, you will not get one on one time with your brand new spouse. Even though you have photographers and videographers observing, a first look truly allows you some time as a couple to be (almost) alone and really soak in what is about to happen. It’s always a really special time to get to spend together. Almost all couples who do this end up saying that it’s their favorite part of their wedding day!
It helps with photos! And this is the reason so many photographers love first looks. Not only do you get incredibly sweet photos of the first look itself, but it allows you to do your bride and groom portraits before and after the ceremony. You can also do full bridal party photos and family photos all before the ceremony itself. This allows for a much more relaxing transition from ceremony to bride/groom photos to reception. You can also choose to do your couple portraits after the first look only if it’s important for you to be a part of your cocktail hour.
You get a lot more photos, specifically bride/groom portraits. Every bride and groom values couple’s portraits differently. All photographers love this part, of course, which is again why first looks are so heavily encouraged. If you’re a bride (or groom!) who really values couples’ portraits and want a lot of options and variety, definitely consider a first look as that will give you extra portrait time! However, if you are fine with 15 minutes to do portraits, that’s fine too!
It relaxes the timeline. I personally try to do all bride/bridesmaid and groom/groomsmen photos, as well as immediate family photos, before the ceremony. Without a first look, all family formal shots, bridal party, and couples’ portraits are needing to fit in a 45/60 minute window. That can be really tight, especially depending on how many family combinations you have! But again, if you’re ok with limited time for couples portraits, this may be ok with you! If you get a little stressed out with a tight timeline, though, it might be beneficial to consider a first look!
And let me add a quick disclaimer to the above. Make sure you have a photographer you trust. I obviously always recommend this, but especially if you choose not to do a first look. You absolutely have to have a photographer who you feel can work well under pressure and work quickly. 10-15 minutes with a bride and groom isn’t a ton of time. If you have a good photographer, that will be plenty of time to still get you great variety!
There are very few scenarios where I will actually recommend my couple do a first look. (Much as I love them, again, I never push my couple’s to do them! I love to educate about them and then let me couple decide what they want to do!) If you are getting married in January and your ceremony is at 5pm, I will recommend a first look. This is simply because by 5pm in January…the sun is gone. There will be no natural light after the ceremony for portraits. While I feel confident shooting with flash at night…that’s not my style, and that’s not the style my couples have hired me for. In order to get portraits that I know my couples want and will love, I will always recommend a first look if the ceremony time is at or after the sun setting.
If you have 30 family formal portrait combinations, I will also recommend a first look. I am very used to working under pressure and on a tight timeline, however. Family portraits can take up major time. Getting different combinations in and out quickly is tricky and time consuming. Family shots are really important, as well, and I never want to detract from them. They can, however, take a lot of time away from bridal party shots and couple portraits.
At the end of the day- it’s your wedding! You need to make the best decision for you and your fiancé. Definitely communicate with your photographer about the timeline and seek their opinion, but it just depends on what you prioritize! If you want time alone with your soon-to-be-spouse and want that intimate moment, a first look is for you! If you love tradition and have always dreamed of seeing your groom’s face in that moment, don’t feel pressured to have one! As much as photographers (me included!) love them, it’s not our day, it’s not our photoshoot, and you should choose what you both want and will work with the flow of your day!