To look or not to look...a very good question
I love sitting down with couples to discuss their wedding day! There is so much excitement and so many decisions to be made. It can be fun…it can also be overwhelming. When discussing the timeline for the day, one of my first questions is “will you be sharing a first look?” For my wedding (almost 14 years ago) I was not even asked this…it was not even an option…I would not even know what a “first look” was. Oh times have changed. Some couples still look at me with big question marks but most know what a first look it and many have already came to a decision on whether or not they will do one by the time we talk timeline.
The first-look photos are becoming more popular. It’s pretty classic…the bride sneaking up behind the groom. The groom, excited with the anticipation of seeing his love, standing…waiting…smiling. It is priceless…the look on the groom's face as he sees his bride for the first time in her wedding dress (Ahh!!!). They can be truly magical, where the couple shares an intimate moment…where emotions are high…where they embrace. It makes for some beautiful moments. But for some, seeing their husband- or bride-to-be before the ceremony is still a big no-go. After all, isn’t it bad luck for the groom to see the bride on their wedding day? Some would rather save the surprise of the first look for the walk down the aisle.
So if you're a bride-to-be, is it worth it? As a wedding photographer, I would like to take a moment to weigh the pros and cons. This is what I do with my couples as we are deciding on the flow of their day. I would never try to force one of the other, but it is important to be informed in order to make the best decision. I feel it’s important to note that about 40% of my couples decide on a first look.
Let’s begin with the pros…
More time for photos
As a photographer, I do have to admit that I love this pro! When you share a first look, you have increased the amount of time (and light) for photos of the couple, the wedding party, and even family pictures. This way, you are sure to have plenty of sweet photo moments while at ease (and with fresh makeup and hair to boot). When you can't take any photos together until after the ceremony, there is usually a time crunch. If your ceremony and reception share the same venue, there may be many moving pieces which limit time and space…you may only have the cocktail hour to get all of your shots. It may sound like enough time, but gathering family members and wedding party takes time, leaving you with hardly any time to get photos of just the two of you. With a first look, you ensure that you capture plenty of sweet photos of you and your beloved. An added bonus: Your hair and makeup will be perfectly fresh and photo-ready for all of your photos.
Calming the nerves
Seeing each other beforehand allows you to get all the gitters out. Some grooms do not do well letting emotion, but this allows him the time to breathe, react, and allow you two to enjoy the moment. Seeing each other before the ceremony can also be a huge source of comfort (to make sure the best man didn’t steel you on your wedding day…my mother was taken by my dad’s best man aka brother prior to the ceremony). This will help you feel more relaxed for your walk down the aisle.
Special moment, private setting
During a first look, you can really let the emotions run free...and if you're a private person, you may not want to have a big emotional reaction when you first see each other in front of all of your closest friends and family members. You will also have a chance to talk to each other…which you can't do during your ceremony (without getting looks from the officient).
You'll need more time up front (starting your day earlier)
The reason I ask about the first look before doing the timeline is that it completely changes the amount of time needed before the ceremony. …it moves up the entire timeline of the day. This may mean losing a little sleep, get your hair and makeup done earlier. It can also change the amount of time needed for professional transportation if you are using it to transport the bridal party and family.
The ceremony may feel anticlimactic
If you've always dreamed of sticking to tradition and having your groom see you for the first time as you walk down the aisle, a first look can take away some of that excitement. And not every groom has an overly emotional reaction during the first look — if you have your heart set on that and it doesn't happen, you could end up disappointed that you gave up the big ceremony reveal.
The moment can feel staged rather than spontaneous
When you do a first look, you're very aware that your photographer and videographer are standing two feet away from you, ready to capture every emotion. Of course, there are many, many more people watching you during your ceremony, but you have more distance from your spectators than during a first look.
So there it is...the pros and the cons. I'm sure there are more but those are the main ones I can think of!