The question of the DECADE. Should you or should you not do a first look? I get asked this CONSTANTLY during client consultations, in late-night text messages, & even sometimes the day before the wedding. So…SHOULD YOU??? Or, should you not?
I can’t make this decision for you. But, I can give you the rundown. The 4-1-1. The deets. The pros & the cons.
WHAT IS A FIRST LOOK?
If you’re chatting with your partner and he/she is like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. What is a first look?”, then have them read THIS section. A first look is when you see your partner before the ceremony— an opportunity for you and your partner to share an intimate moment together pre-wedding ceremony. There are a few ways to do this. Oftentimes, Partner 1 will stand facing one direction. Partner 2 will walk up behind Partner 1, tap them on the shoulder, and Partner 1 will turn around and be like, “HOLY HECK YOU LOOK FANTASTIC”. There are, of course, dozens of other ways to do a first look, but, I would say that’s the most popular.
I’m not here to convince you do or not do a first look. I wanna make that clear. This is YOUR wedding day, and YOUR wedding day only. I saw “YOUR” as in you and your partner. Honestly as long as you and your partner are happy with your decision, I’m happy.
So, with that being said, I present to you: the pros & cons.
THE PROS OF A FIRST LOOK
- More time with your guests + each other. First looks allow you to get a lot more done pre-ceremony, that way you’re not spending 1+ hour(s) afterwards taking pictures on pictures on pictures. With first looks, you can get all of your photos with your bridesmaids &/or groomsmen finished before the ceremony even starts. And, if you’re feeling extra non-traditional, you can tell your family to show up early and take your family photos pre-ceremony, too. That way, when your ceremony’s over, all you have to do is take a few more photos of just the two of you. And, then you can spend cocktail hour hanging with your guests or spending time alone just the two of you.
- They cut down on nerves. When you see each other for the first time while you’re walking down the aisle, there is a lot going on. All of your family & friends are standing there, watching you two. You might be nervous or self-conscious about how you’re going to react. Or, you might be nervous about how your partner is going to react. With first looks, the pressure’s off. Nobody’s there except you two, your photographer, and your videographer. No pressure to react or not to react in a certain way. It’s a no-judgement zone.
THE PROS (cont.)
- A moment to breathe. No matter how much planning and careful coordination there is leading up to a wedding day, there’s always going to be a little bit of chaos. Not bad chaos! Just…chaos! The morning is typically pretty busy. You two are getting ready. Your vendors are setting up. There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait”. Or “hurry up because your makeup artist went 30 minutes over schedule and now we’re behind”. First looks give you a moment to breathe. To sink into each other, even if just for a few minutes.
- Timelines. This ties into #1. If you are having a later ceremony, a first look is semi-essential. Let’s say you’re having a December wedding and your ceremony time is at 3:30 PM. Well, your ceremony probably won’t actually start until 3:45 or 4:00 (because there are always late guests). If your ceremony’s 30 minutes long, that means it won’t be over until 4:15 or 4:30. Sunset’s at 4:43. That would mean you have approximately 12 to 28 minutes total to take all of your bridesmaid/groomsmen, family, and couple portraits before the sun goes down and your photographer has to switch over to using flash. HOLY MOLY.
THE CONS OF A FIRST LOOK
- You do have to start getting ready earlier in the day. If you do a first look, this means that you’ll likely have more photos to take pre-ceremony. So, you’ll need to start getting ready earlier than you would if you weren’t doing a first look. So, if you’re having a brunch wedding with a 9 AM ceremony time, that will more than likely mean starting to get ready well before the sun comes up.
- Timelines. You might be like, “Ummm Liz, didn’t you just say that first looks help with timelines?”. I did. But, they can also make some timelines more difficult. If you and your partner are getting ready at different locations (i.e. a hotel & an Airbnb), then you need to coordinate who gets to the first look spot first, how each partner gets to the first look spot, and when each partner gets to the first look part. It takes some logistical planning. Also, if you’re doing your first look at your wedding venue, remember that you’ll need to be “hidden away” before guests start arriving. That typically means being hidden away 45 minutes to one hour before your ceremony invite time. PRO: You get to relax, sip champagne, and hang out with your partner during this 45 minute to one hour break.
- The aisle won’t be the first time you see each other. I feel like this is a given. If you do a first look, it means you willbe seeing each other before the ceremony. I haven’t ever photographed a couple who regretted their first look. But, in theory, a first look could influence the emotions you & your partner feel/express during that “aisle moment”.
*Keep scrolling to see some alternatives!*
So, maybe a “traditional” first look doesn’t sound like something you’re interested. Or, maybe you’re like me & you just want to know ALL of your options first before making a decision. So, here are some alternatives!
- Group first look. If you and your partner are super close to your friends and want them to share in the first look with you, you can do a group first look! That’s what Mel + Chris did (pictured above)! They had friends on each side, “awwww”-ing and cheering them on the whole time. It was super cute and made the moment extra special for Mel + Chris.
- First touch. It’s a GREAT solution if you’re set on seeing each other for the first time down the aisle but want to have some sort of an intimate moment together beforehand. You can either just close your eyes and hold hands for a minute, or your photographer can help set you up on opposite sides of a tree, doorway, wall corner, etc. This gives you a chance to talk to your partner before the ceremony and squeeze their hand.
- First prayer. If you & your partner are spiritual/religious, this can be a really special time to say a prayer together for the last time before you become a married couple. Pair it with a first look or a first touch, whatever sounds best!