This question came out before each and every wedding and from my experience a couple of times to underestimate how important this question is! In this article, we would go through each and every aspect of it and by the end, you’ll be able to make firm desition weather to do First Look wedding photos or not.
What is a First Look Wedding? The First Look is quite new but becoming a bridely popular tradition in the US when the bride and groom in their wedding clothes see each other for the first time prior to the ceremony. A photographer captures this moment in a First Look wedding photo-session. However, the old tradition of not seeing each other until the bride is coming down the aisle is not totally outdated and many couples follow it as well.
In this article, I would like to consider all pros and cons of a First Look shoot and help you to create your perfect wedding timeline. At the end you will have a complete picture and can decide whether you’ll implement a First Look into your wedding.
Table of Contents
Why should I do a wedding First Look?
Some brides don’t want to do a wedding First Look and wanted to surprise their partner in her wedding dress. Though there are always some good reasons to make it:
You will not miss out on any opportunities to make great shots
First Look pictures may be the most expressive and candid photos in your wedding album. They usually reflect the most authentic, natural moments in the whole wedding photography timeline, especially if you compare it to more formal photos (posed shots of the couple, the wedding party, etc.). First Look offers a great opp to make intimate wedding portraits with pure genuine emotions without posing. Don’t miss this opp to show your love as it really is.
You will keep your wedding timeline under control
In one of my articles, I explain the importance of a well-thought step-by-step wedding timeline that can save you from inconvenience and unpleasant surprises. Planning the First Look is one of the ways to make almost all the shots that you planned before the ceremony and after have a good time with guests. After the First Look, you can immediately start Wedding Party shots and Family Portraits which will save you a lot of time. It’s especially important in a winter wedding as the sun goes down early and the lighting changes quickly. In the evening you possibly will not have enough light for quality group shots.
You will have your private intimate moments with your partner
During a First Look, you will spend more time together with your partner and have some quiet moments before the formalities get going. The best part of your day actually will be devoted to your love as it has to be. Much time apart does not seem a great idea on your big day — for a groom as well. He particularly will feel relaxed because no one else will be around. First Look is a perfect opportunity to look each other in the eye and express feelings without the presence of others.
You will have more time to enjoy with your guests during the cocktail hour
Would it be not just better to spend the cocktail hour with your friends? Rather than feel rushed with pictures in between in the hope to catch good light for your photography? After your First Look and the ceremony, you can stay relaxed with your guests drinking cocktails and relaxing before the reception will start. Believe me, it’s much better on your best day than being in a hurry and worrying all the time about how not to ruin your wedding timeline. By the way, guests are usually not very happy to wait for the bride & groom while they make their photography. Sometimes the“cocktail hour” can easily turn out into “cocktail hour and a half”, which means less time for the best part of the reception: dance floor time. Do your First Look before the ceremony and get a big “thank you” from your guests.
You will keep your nerves and of your partner calm
I’ve heard from many grooms that seeing the bride before the ceremony helps them a lot to relax and feel more comfortable after. A groom assumes that he may cry and he would rather do it with his fiancé than at the ceremony while everyone is staring at him. To have a wedding First Look is a big relief for him and the same is for the bride. She usually is not excited to be a sobbing mess in front of all the guests while she attempts to walk down the aisle.
In no way it will disturb your “walking down the aisle” moment
The walking down the aisle itself is a highly emotional moment. Instead of searching for your partner’s reaction (that you will catch during the First Look), you will enjoy the atmosphere around you: beautiful surroundings, music, family and friends (maybe crying) — there will be so many wonderful details which you won’t miss. When your partner will see you at the end of the aisle, it will be still a significant moment for both, regardless of whether he’s already seen you this day. On weddings, First Look and walking down the aisle are two different events, each of them has its special ambiance and is very rich in emotions.
Should I have a traditional “first aisle” moment?
Tradition claims it’s bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding, but that’s just a superstition that until now exists in many countries.
Based on this, let us think about what can make you still refuse your First Look:
You (or your partner) are from a “church family” and prefer not to see each other before you walk down the aisle
If we speak about Catholics, you have to know that this superstition has nothing in common with Catholic rituals and means nothing special to Catholic true believers. In the past, Catholic bride and groom together could be seen seated at a kneeling bench at the front of the church, waiting for the guests to arrive before they could start the ceremony. Or they could both be found standing at the door of the church, greeting and thanking everyone as they arrive. Many traditional practices are acceptable by the Catholic church. But there is no strict religious rule of no-seeing your partner before the ceremony.
Your partner is quite superstitious and refuses to see you in a wedding dress before the ceremony
In this case, I usually advise the bride to ask the groom delicately if he really refuses the First Look exactly for this reason. It may happen that a groom is just not quite aware of the advantages of the First Look — particularly according to the wedding timeline (that we described above in detail). From my experience, I have seen many situations when a groom totally accepts the idea of the First Look after the bride (a wedding planner or a photographer) explained how it may make wedding events and the photography process easier. I highly recommend making sure that newlyweds understand each other’s point of view correctly.
You like to see your partner & all the family only at the “first aisle” moment and believe that a wedding First Look can take some of the magic away
You wish to share your wedding First Look moment not only with the partner but with all your loved ones. That’s why you plan to walk down the aisle with your father (or another important family member) and see your groom only at the ceremony site. You believe that the magic of this moment may be lost if your partner will see you in the white dress before the ceremony.
I absolutely respect this wish to stay with the whole family before the ceremony. However, from my experience, First Look will never ever take any of the magical feelings you’ll have while walking down the aisle.
Wedding First Look Alternatives to Do
If you are looking for a compromise between a traditional First Look at the altar and a modern First Look before the ceremony, here are some alternatives. They are equally touching, sentimental, and perfectly suitable to share emotional moments before the ceremony.
- Some brides choose to do a First Look with the father instead of the husband-to-be. If you feel that your Dad was always the best friend of yours and you are comfortable with him at this moment, enjoy the opp and don’t forget to take great pictures.
- There may be some First Look sessions where the couple is not in their wedding clothes. This way, you can see each other before the ceremony and have your privacy and maybe exchange gifts. Then you still get the moment at the ceremony where you first see each other in your wedding attire.
- Sometimes I would suggest doing a First Touch instead of Look. It will still feel intimate and personal without spoiling the surprise. The couple can hold hands while standing back to back or on either side of a partition, or one (or both) can wear a blindfold. You can read each other heartfelt notes, or just talk openly to calm the nerves.
What to do during the First Look? How to pose?
Ok, you would like to have the photographer capturing your First Look moment. But you feel awkward thinking about how to pose and what to do. I must say you will not be an exception, in this situation many newlyweds are nervous and worried. Usually, I explain step by step in detail for both bride & groom what to do during the First Look :
- Firstly, the bride is led to the First Look spot and if there is no second entrance or way for the groom to come imperceptibly, she hides until the groom comes in. He stands with his back to the bride. The photographer puts all the focus on him.
- The bride slowly approaches the groom from the back, touches his shoulder and he turns around. At this moment, the photographer’s camera focuses on the groom’s face to catch his sincere emotions.
- I usually explain to the groom in advance that at this moment he needs to express his admiration as emotionally as possible.
For him as for most men, the idea of expressing his feelings openly may seem quite uncomfortable. Not every man will like that his feelings are put on display even just in the photos. I think my task as a photographer here is to lead the groom delicately to the understanding that the First Look wedding images have to convey genuine emotions as much as possible.
Keeping this in mind I advise the groom to express his admiration for the bride by:
- looking into her eyes,
- taking her hand in his,
- kissing her hand,
- spinning her around to get a full impression of the wedding dress,
- making a compliment.
After that to make more expressive shots I can ask the couple to take First Look wedding photos from a different angle.
How to choose a perfect location for First Look wedding shots?
If you worry about the right spots for a First Look I advise you relying on photographer’s recommendations. Usually on the wedding day, I start my work with the overlooking venue’s area. Before the photo shoot begins, I already have ideas which spots will be perfect for a First Look shoot. Also, I will control the light situation as it may be not easy due to the harsh noon light. As you see, it’s important to trust the photographer’s expertise on the matter. More about it I explain in this article.
How long do First Look wedding photos take?
Based on my experience of more than 500 wedding photoshoots, a First Look doesn’t take more than 15-20 minutes. As I’ve mentioned above, we usually take shots from two different angles. You see that it will not take much time.
Wishing to be objective I admit it’s really a preference of the couple whether they decide to have a First Look or not. Some are really excited about the idea to have all the shots done before the ceremony so that they can devote their time to their guests. Some couples don’t like to be the center of attention all day and the First Look helped them calm their nerves. Some people refuse the First Look trying to capture all significant moments during the cocktail hour.
However, none of my more than 500 couples regretted that they did their First Look wedding pictures. After the wedding, they understood it was a good idea to do. And yes, I had some couples which after the ceremony already had regretted not doing it since their wedding timeline was affected badly. I hope your First Look and your best day will be as perfect as you can only imagine 🙂