Having a First Look is a new tradition that is emerging for couples on their wedding day. It is the moment the wedding couple sees each other for the first time on their special day… but this isn’t during the ceremony. Does it make you nervous? Well, some couples aren’t familiar with the concept become nervous when I ask, “Are you going to see each other before the ceremony?” After I explain what a first look is, most couples make the decision to include it on their wedding day. In talking to my couples and friends who have done the first look, I’ve found that no one mentions that they regret doing it.
What happens during the first look
Typically scheduling 15-20 minutes, after everyone is ready for the ceremony, to have a first look is the best time frame with which to work. You can meet your soon-to-be spouse just about anywhere. It’s very popular to have it at a beautiful outdoor location or in the sanctuary where you will be married. One person will arrive first and orients themself so as not to face the direction from which their significant other will be arriving. When the time is right, they turn around to see their soon-to-be spouse (usually with an expression of amazement) and watch them walk toward them, much like what would happen during the ceremony or pulls them in for a big hug. The pictures that come from this moment are usually amazing. The photographer doesn’t have to worry about the heads of the guest blocking facial expressions and they have the freedom to move around. There isn’t much limiting the photography as they capture beautiful images of this moment. Upon reaching one another the couple has an unusual moment to themselves to hug, kiss, talk, and cry before they are ready to start their pre-ceremony pictures.
Why some people pass on the first look because it’s tradition
It might be pressure from your family, or it might be something on which you’ve always had your heart set. Some couples decide to go with it because it’s all they’ve known. The tradition has been that the couple doesn’t see each other on the day of the wedding until the ceremony for a long time and it’s hard to go against that for some people. Some people even believe that if it doesn’t happen that way it will bring bad luck to the marriage.
10 reasons why it might be for you
1. It’s becoming the new tradition
If you understand where the tradition actually comes from, it might not be that romantic. In the time of prearranged marriages, the couple wasn’t allowed to see until after they were married in fear that the one would run if they didn’t find each other attractive (hence: veil).
There are reasons why we don’t have duels or take a horse and carriage to work anymore, other things have replaced those (like trials with judges and automobiles). Weddings are changing. They are bigger, better, and more beautiful. 40 years ago you didn’t have 300 guests and a wedding party of 16. It was almost unheard of to take pictures at a different location other than the sanctuary.
In the past 15 years, wedding photography has become a must for couples. Traditions change with time. Now more couples are choosing to see each other before the wedding. It has been this way in the majority of weddings which I’ve attended (as a photographer or guest). The antiquated tradition of waiting till the ceremony for the couple to see each other is already fading.
2. Special moment
You probably won’t have any other moment to spend alone with your soon-to-be spouse on your wedding day. The day flies by and soon you will find yourself in your car heading away from your reception saying “hi” for the first time. A first look gives you a moment to spend one-on-one to talk, pray, or show off how gorgeous you are. It’s special. You have the opportunity to tell each other how much they mean to you, how excited you are, how amazing they look, or just give them a kiss! If you are worried that you will be emotionless at your wedding ceremony, I wouldn’t worry. I cried all the way up the aisle during my wedding ceremony and whilst walking toward my husband during our first look. The thoughts that went through my head during the ceremony were “This is actually happening! We are getting married!” During our first look, I had the opportunity to focus on him. There wasn’t anyone else around. It was all about us. It doesn’t take any of the specialness away. It will never replace your ceremony, but I believe it adds to it.
3. It helps calm nerves
A first look takes away a lot of your nerves. If you or your significant other gets nervous with just the thought of having to get up in front of hundreds of people, it might be perfect for you. I don’t know about you, but my husband is always like Xanax to me. My nerves usually melt away. I needed that first look. I was nervous walking towards him during it but after that I was great. Since we saw each other before the wedding, the pressure of him seeing me for the first time in front of our 200+ guests had time to dissipate. It didn’t take away the specialness of the moment. As I said I still cried, but it did help me to enjoy the moment more when I was walking down the aisle in the ceremony.
4. A different location for great shots
Are you someone who dreamed of a outdoor ceremony but were too nervous about the weather to actually have one? Well, a first look might be perfect for you. You aren’t limited to having your first look in the dark sanctuary or ceremony location. Have it in a beautiful garden or some other sentimental location. That way you have those beautiful candid shots outdoors. This might not replace your ceremony location preference but it sure comes close to it.
5. Worried about time
A first look not only lessens the time of pictures but it assures that you’ll be at your reception on time. The reason why picture time decreases is that you aren’t splitting up the wedding party and family during the picture time. Taking the couple’s photos with their wedding party and family separately actually adds about 45 minutes to portrait time. Tearing down lights and setting them back up can be very time consuming, not to mention the time to get one person back into their room and bringing the other out so they don’t see each other. It adds up. For your first look, you can take all your pictures before the ceremony, and then you won’t have to worry about the ceremony or receiving line running longer than expected. The schedule is much more predictable.
6. More time at the reception
Like #5, you don’t have to worry about being late to your reception because you’ll have all of your pictures finished. You put thousands of dollars into your reception. The last thing you want to do is not enjoy every second of it. You are looking at possibly showing up to your reception an hour or two earlier than you would if you waited till after the wedding to take all of the family and group pictures. Also, the sooner you get to the reception, the sooner you can start the dancing (which is my favorite part).
7. More time for the pictures you want
You aren’t limited to just taking pictures before the ceremony. If you want to make sure all your guests are there before you arrive, have a 20-30 minute shoot of just you and your spouse to be at a different location. That way you can have a variety of shots to choose from. The hardest part will be trying to fit all those wonderful pictures of both of you on the wall.
8. Family members don’t have to stay after the ceremony
Weddings are stressful for family members. They are required to come early for pictures, then required to stay after for more. Since most family members will be there early, why not eliminate the shoot after the ceremony so everyone can enjoy cocktail hour. If anything, they want to celebrate the families uniting at the reception with everyone else.
9. Guests don’t have to wait
If you have been to a wedding, you know the party really never starts until the couple gets there, no matter what’s being served. When they arrive at the reception 2 to 3 hours after the ceremony, this wears out a lot of guests and causes them to leave earlier in the reception proceedings. Though the wedding isn’t about the guests, it’s safe to say we put more emphasis on the guests now than we did in the past. Couples spend tens of thousands of dollars on their reception to pay for meals, drinks, and dancing for their guests. You want those guests to be able to enjoy it as much as possible because an atmosphere of fun is intoxicating. Arriving as soon as you can assure that the reception starts off well.
10. Ceremony and Reception are in the same location
This goes along with #9. If your ceremony and reception are at the same location there is no travel time for your guests. They aren’t going to stop at a department store or grab a snack. They are going to walk right over to the reception. So, not only will your guests have to wait but they’ll have a longer time waiting than normal.
Making the Decision for Yourself
The job of your photographer is to inform you of your options. First looks are actually not for everyone, even with all the benefits. I really enjoy shooting the first looks because I see the beautiful images that come out of them, but for those who wait until after the ceremony, we still provide amazing photos and make the photo schedule work with their choices.
The decision of whether or not you do the first look is your decision to make. Don’t let your family members or photographer pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. This is your day, so make it just that. Before you make your final decision, inform yourself. Ask non-biased sources and read wedding forums to help discover what is best for your situation, if you are having trouble making a decision. Either way, what is best for you is going to be best for the wedding.
Best wishes on your planning!
Love this more educational post about? Check out my thoughts on What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business.