Are You a Good Candidate For a First Look?

When helping clients with their timelines, the question of whether or not to do a first look comes up a lot.  I’ve decided to put together a list of reasons both for and against seeing your groom before you walk down the aisle to help you have an idea of the benefits of both.

But first, I feel as though I should explain what a first look even entails, because while I realize I use this lingo on the reg, I understand that first time brides and grooms may have no idea what I’m talking about.  

A first look involves the bride, groom, and photographer/videographer.  The photographer will scout out a pretty, secluded location with great light around the ceremony site, and will facilitate the bride and groom’s first viewing of one another.  Typically the wedding coordinator and the photographer will work together to ensure the groom faces away so that the bride can walk up behind the groom and surprise him in her dress.  The whole experience is one sweet photo op from start to finish.

Reasons for Having a First Look (from a photography standpoint):

  • Nerves!  If you are losing sleep over having all eyes on you when you walk down the aisle, you may want to consider seeing each other first.  This way, you get to see each other candidly and you can let your ugly cry fly.  

  • Volume of photos.  Let’s say you are going right into your reception immediately following the ceremony.  With a first look, you don’t have to worry about beating the sunset or racing to get to cocktail hour while cutting your photos short.  During your timeline meeting, your photographer will let you know how much time to allot for pictures before the ceremony, so you will have as much time as you need to get the pictures you want.  More time=more photos.

  • Timing.  If you do a first look, you don’t have to miss any of cocktail hour because you will have taken all of your bridal party pictures ahead of time.  Depending on the venue and lighting situation, the photographer may steal you away for a shot of just the two of you, but for the most part, you will have all of your pictures done and will be able to enjoy the evening.  

  • Season. If you are having a fall or winter wedding and you want pictures outside, you will be up against daylight.  If you have a first look, you have a little more control over that.  

  • Location.  You have more freedom to leave the ceremony/reception site and get pictures around the town.  Being a Chicago wedding photographer, this is a huge advantage since the city has so many cool backdrops, but it also takes a little bit of travel time to get to them.  Having a first look allows a little more time in the schedule, which means we are able to visit other locations and you will have a more diverse wedding portfolio.

  • Lookin’ fresh!  If you take your photos earlier in the day, you will be looking your freshest!  Makeup and hair would have just finished, and the dress won’t have any stains and rips in it yet.  Yes, I said rips.  You only wear it once.

Now, you may be thinking, “I don’t know why anyone would choose to do anything other than a first look!”  But people do have their reasons.  TBH, I chose not to have a first look.  It was one thing that I felt really strongly about.  Maybe it’s because I’m dramatic, perhaps it's because I'm a helpless romantic (#wheremylibrasat), but I also know that I really love the traditional first look being the moment the bride rounds the corner and the groom gets his first glimpse.  TBH (I’m just hittin’ you with the TRUTH today), it may be the only traditional bone I have in my body, but I really loved the dose of authenticity not having a first look added to my ceremony.  I loved the nerves I felt moments before walking down the aisle.  It made my ceremony feel really significant, because it was.  It made me walk a little slower and take in all the energy and all the feels.  For me, it was exciting rather than anxiety inducing.

Reasons You May Decide Against a First Look

  • Superstition/Tradition. If you believe it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony, then first look’s out.  If you love envisioning your guests rise as your processional music starts to play and catching that first glimpse on your groom’s face as you see each other for the first time, then first look’s out.    

  • Two Photographers. If you have two photographers, you can get a lot of the bridal party pictures done before the ceremony without having a first look.  One photog would hang with the bride and one photog would hang with the groom, snapping shots of you guys once you were all dolled up as well as "getting ready" shots.  This way, all that’s left after the ceremony is whole bridal party, bride and groom, and maybe extended family.  You still may not make it to your entire cocktail hour, but if you don’t want to have a first look and you want to get to cocktail hour ASAP, there are ways to make it happen with two photographers.

  • Location. If you are having the ceremony and reception at the same venue, you don’t have to factor in travel time.  This allows more time for pictures in between ceremony and reception-not as much time as you would have with a first look, but more than if you were traveling between venues.

  • If you just straight up don’t want one.  Look, it’s your day (my mom was stating it was her day the ENTIRETY of my wedding day…if you know her, this makes sense), and you can schedule it however your pretty little face wants.  If you don’t like the idea of a first look, then you don’t like the idea of a first look.  Stick with what feels right for you, be open about what you want with your photographer, and everything will be perfect.

Have more questions?  Leave ‘em in the comments and I’ll get right down to answering them!