This is probably the post you’ve been expecting – should I do a first look? It has become somewhat of a stereotype that photographers push their clients into having a first look to satisfy their own need for more time with the couple. While it’s true that a first looks gives you more time for photos, that’s not what this post is all about.
Oh, In case you don’t know: a first look is when a bride and groom see each other before their ceremony. This is done away from all the guests, wedding party and family so that the special moment can be shared between just the two of you. It is intimate, emotional and romantic – an extra-special way for a bride to “reveal” herself before her soon-to-be husband.
While it’s a step away from traditional wedding customs, it’s becoming pretty popular for couples to do a first look. It’s not for everyone, but there are some really compelling reasons to consider doing a first look yourself. It was the best decision I made for my own wedding, and I want to share with you why!
EASE THE NERVES
Let’s face it: you’re going to be nervous on your wedding day. It’s a natural feeling and there’s nothing you can do about. The nerves are good – it’s a recognition that you’re about to make a lifelong commitment to another human being, and you’re going to do that with all of the people you love most watching you. Are you sweating yet?
I’m not a shy or reserved person by any means, but I was really nervous to be in front of 200+ people for this very important moment. I didn’t want to burst into tears walking down the aisle. I didn’t want to look visibly nervous. I didn’t want the pressure of having all these people see my reaction to seeing Evan! When we decided to do a first look, it was because we wanted more time for photos. We had no idea how much of a difference in our day it would make in – not even for photos, but for easing our anxiety and emotion.
Seeing Evan before the ceremony gave us a chance to enjoy seeing each other for the first time that day without the pressure of tons of people watching us. We relished the private moment to ourselves. We loved having that moment of excitement and pure joy that we were about to become one. All the pressure of having all of our guests staring at us reacting to seeing each other was eliminated. During the ceremony, I was still a little nervous, but my excitement and joy outweighed the nerves because we had a private moment to ourselves beforehand.
Overall, it was wonderful to be able to focus my attention on Evan’s reaction to seeing me and spend private time enjoying that moment. During the ceremony, there is so much to think about. I would not have been able to treasure that moment as much as I am able to now.
RELAX & ENJOY
You already know a wedding day can be extremely stressful if not well-planned. Even a really well-planned wedding can be stressful if you are under a tight schedule. The time between the ceremony and cocktail hour is generally very small, and making sure everyone (family, wedding party) is where they need to be can take a toll on you. The last thing you want on the day of your wedding is to continually be stretched for time.
When you choose to have a first look, you control how much time you have. You can see each other whenever you would like. For my own wedding, we checked off all of the bridal party photos, family photos, and half of the photos of just the two of us all before the ceremony even began. We left a cushion of time between the photos and the ceremony, so that if needed, we could do more or less photos of the two of us after the ceremony. Friends, I was so relaxed. It was truly the most stress-free day imaginable, and that was largely based on the fact that I did not have to rush at all all day!
LOOK YOUR BEST
You are going to look the best that you ever have on your wedding day. It’s basically guaranteed. Therefore, any photo taken of you is going to be absolutely gorgeous (guys, too!). However, we all know that as time goes on, makeup fades, hair starts to fall flat, you shed a few tears at the ceremony, and you just generally aren’t as fresh! A good makeup artist and hair stylist can work miracles on keeping your look together all day, but chances are, you still aren’t going to be looking as fresh after the ceremony as you were beforehand.
This shows up in your photos. The average person might not notice, but you will! Taking photos before the ceremony allows you to look your freshest and your best. Additionally, you’re going to be a whole lot more relaxed because you have more time. It may seem silly, but if you are rushed in between your ceremony and reception and you’re a little stressed about it, this absolutely will be reflected in your photos. A first look will relax you and also allow you to look your very best in the photos that you will cherish for a lifetime.
GO TO COCKTAIL HOUR
While this isn’t important to all couples, today many brides and grooms want to attend their cocktail hour. As a wedding guest, one of my favorite parts of the wedding is cocktail hour. I love getting a drink and enjoying the casual time together with friends. The venue may have a gorgeous view or something interesting to explore.
Also, once seated, it is harder to visit with people. If family photos, wedding party photos, and photos of just the two of you are all happening after the ceremony, there’s no way you are making it to the reception until right before dinner starts. If you want to be at your own cocktail hour, plan on doing a first look!
RECEIVE MORE PHOTOS
Ok, this is probably the one you’ve been expecting! Yes, doing a first look definitely means you will receive more photos of you two and the bridal party. The time between the ceremony and the reception is usually between 1 and 2 hours. Once you add up the time it takes to do family photos, photos of the entire wedding party, photos of the two of you, and travel time to your reception location (or any other photo locations you’re interested in), it usually adds up to well over the allotted amount of time. Any photographer will tell you the same thing: this means less photos!
Occasionally, I will have couples that plan 3+ hours between their ceremony and reception so that they have time for all the photos they want but still don’t have to do a first look. This may be fine with you, me and the wedding party, but guests usually are not super excited about that. If you see each other before the ceremony, you’re able to space out photos to give yourself (and your photographer!) more time to take photos and less time that guests are waiting for you to arrive. You are going to receive gorgeous photos no matter what, but a first look will guarantee more flexibility in where we take the photos as well as how many you receive.
Great news: the decision of whether or not to have first look is totally and entirely up to you! It’s going to be fun no matter what! If timing is a concern and you really don’t want to do a first look, consider a pre-wedding session or day-after session if your photographer offers these (I do!). This will allow you to have a ton of time for photos and also give us tons of flexibility as to where you want to go to take the photos. I hope this has been an encouragement for you, one way or the other, about photos on your wedding day and the idea of a first look!
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