August 8, 2016
We learn something during every wedding that we photograph. A few days after the wedding, I sit down and take notes on what went well, what could have been improved, and what lessons we learned. I take these thoughts and pass them along to future brides in a bridal guide. I encourage them to think about when the flowers will arrive, having their bridesmaids get dressed first so they are coordinated while they are helping the bride into her dress, and making sure they purchase one extra invitation suite so it is fresh and flawless for us to photograph. These little details I’ve learned along the way help all of us make the most out of your wedding day.
If I had only one tip to offer, it would be to break the tradition and do a first look on your wedding day.
A lot of couples are against doing a first look. And I get it. You want that moment. That moment you’ve thought of for years – when the groom sees his bride walking down the aisle. You want the tradition. But this has a larger implication on your wedding day. I would appreciate if you took a few moments to think about it from a few other perspective.
Here are 17 benefits you receive when opting in to a first look – in no particular order:
-The bride’s hair and makeup is still fresh and in tact.
-If we stay on schedule, we have twice the amount of time to take photos of you as a couple. We don’t have a specific time limit on our wedding package, so you’ll get the most for your money (an extra 1-2.5 hours of photography coverage) if you do a first look. Win!
-The first look is your moment. We won’t rush you through it. You deserve to have this moment together. Talk, laugh, kiss, hug, and get all of your nerves out before the day.
-The ability to share this intimate moment between the two of you is extremely special. Imagine walking down an aisle. Your groom has to wait until after your ceremony to hug you and tell you how stunning you look. After even a 20 minute ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as a first look.
-Most of the time, the groom has a more genuine reaction, as he isn’t worried about the surroundings and the guests. He is only focused on his bride and how stunning she looks.
-From a photography stand point – we are able to pick a spot with optimal lighting for the first look. Sometimes ceremony locations don’t have the best lighting or a patch of sun is shining through the tree directly on your face. With a first look – these factors won’t be an issue.
–More flexibility (this is a big one – that I’ve experienced multiple times). The weather is always a big “what if.” You go through all of this planning, and the one piece of the day that you have no control over is the rain. To share a real story with you, Thomas and I opted for a first look. We had ample time to take photos before the ceremony. When it was time for our ceremony, the storm clouds rolled in. The impending rain messed up our whole wedding timeline – and the rain never stopped – for the WHOLE TIME the guests were at our wedding. If we had opted not to do a first look, we would have had to do all of the portraits with umbrellas – or after our wedding reception was over – but by that time our photographers had already left. A first look is the only reason we have wedding portraits without umbrellas from our day.
-For all of the late fall, winter, and early spring brides, you will probably run out of natural light for portraits after your ceremony. The sun sets early! Having a first look before your wedding solves this problem.
-You have the ability to spend time ALONE on your wedding day. This may be during the first look itself, or you make take a portion of cocktail hour to escape from the day and sit with one another. And actually talk about your day. Alone. I’ve had almost every bride say that the wedding day went by too fast. You have no time for each other. A first look gives you some of that time back. In addition, you can’t catch each other up on the morning or last night while you’re at the alter. And after the wedding? Forget about it. You will be taking photos, greeting guests, and dancing the night away – all of which is great too. 🙂
-What about the walk down the aisle? Nothing (not even a first look) will replace the experience of walking down the aisle and seeing one another right before you get married. The moment will still be powerful and meaningful.
-The day is less stressful and everyone is more relaxed. A first look calms your nerves. Most brides and grooms don’t realize how nerve wracking a wedding day can be. A first look calms you both down and allows you to ensure one another that everything will be perfect.
-First looks provide you with the ability to extend your wedding day. You have time to take all of the photos you’d like before the wedding and take a bunch of fun photos of the bridal party. We can even take photos in a different location if you want! You get to spend that much more time with your groom and the whole group of your friends!
-Not only do you get to spend more time alone with each other – you get to spend more time with each other in general! At least 2-3 hours you won’t be locked up in separate rooms that you would be otherwise.
–The day is more efficient. I can’t tell you how many minutes (they add up) I’ve spent running back and forth between a bride and groom making sure they don’t see each other on their wedding day. Whether we are taking photos of the bride outside and the groom needs to be locked up or if one of you has to use the restroom, someone is always double checking to confirm they won’t accidentally see one another.
– You can decide how you want to spend cocktail hour. Do you want to be with your guests? Do you want to take more photos? Do you want to relax by yourselves? It is up to you.
-That being said, depending on how you want your day to go….You get to spend more time with your guests – your cocktail hour will only last an hour, or maybe even 45 minutes. When you opt not to do a first look, a lot of times cocktail hour can be 1.5 -2 hours. What about all of those guests that traveled to be with you? You want to spend time with them, don’t you?
-No one feels guilty if we take the bride and groom away to take beautiful sunset photos. Because you have been mingling with the guests since cocktail hour, we can steal you away for 5-10 minutes to get a few last great images with the golden light. (Scroll to the end to check out some of our favorites from our “round two” portrait sessions!)
Finally, I want to conclude by saying that while I love, love, love first looks and strongly encourage them, I never pressure my couples into doing them. I want to make sure you have the information available and you make the right choice for you, but if you say you’re not interested – I make sure you’re aware of the impact that it makes on your day, but beyond that, I drop it. It is my job to make you as happy as possible and create beautiful photos with the time we have, but ultimately, this is your decision. I haven’t had a couple regret doing a first look. If you decide not to do a first look, please make sure you have plenty of time between your ceremony and reception so we can create stunning photos.
Be sure to keep scrolling to read testimonials from our couples!
I’ve included a few testimonials from brides and grooms that have decided to do a first look:
De: Being a traditional romantic, initially I was skeptical about “missing out” on the idea that my groom would see me for the first time as I walked down the aisle. I’ll admit it, I was not sold on this “first look” idea at all in the beginning when Emily brought it up. She completely understood and didn’t bring it up again! But, as we began to sort out the details of what our wedding day would look like, we realized that not only would we have limited time with our family and friends because we’d be off taking pictures, but the two of us would only be able to spend a few hours together on our wedding day! When I gave my groom a hint that I may be coming around to the idea of a first look, he seemed to look completely relieved. I hadn’t realized the pressure that the “seeing me walking down the aisle for the first time, with everyone staring at him to see his reaction” put on my groom! This was OUR day! We discussed it some more, and let Emily in on the fact that we were now strongly considering it. She (excitedly) walked us through what a potential timeline would look like with, and without, doing a first look. We eventually came around to the idea that maybe a first look was exactly what we needed to take a step back, breathe, spend time with just the two of us, and enjoy every minute of our wedding day!
CJ: I really liked having a first look. When my wife and I (but really her) were deciding whether we wanted one, we weighed the pros and cons of each. We ultimately decided that the first look would give us more of “us” on our big day. I loved the intimacy of the moment, and treasured being the first to be with De with all of her makeup and dress on. After the first look, we went back in the house with our parents and wedding party to have drinks, and start the party. This eased the stress of the day, and helped us relax. Having that time with only our parents and bridesmaids/groomsmen was one of my favorite parts of the day.
Shannon: There are a lot of emotions that you experience on your wedding day, one of the most dreamed of and talked about moments is walking down the aisle, seeing your spouse-to-be at the end and seeing his reaction to the dress. You’ve got all those people staring at you and then you finally make that first eye contact and it’s just all so real. Then it happens and in a flash, you are married and next it’s time for pictures and a party. It is a whirlwind of fabulous events, but unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of time for just the two of you until you drive away after it’s all over. Thankfully I had time with my groom before the ceremony since we opted for a first look. What an experience, it is definitely one of the moments that sticks out in my memory from our big day. Bubbling over with excitement I got in an arms reach of my soon to be husband and with a smile from ear to ear it was time, he turned around and I was greeted with genuine emotion, we were able to hug (and kiss – a big plus!), it was like taking a deep breathe and letting it go. We were fresh and giddy and it showed as we spent the next period of time taking pictures. We even had a chance to relax together with family and friends before the ceremony took place. Although, I never worried about the experience of walking down the aisle, I can say that despite the first look, emotions were rushing through me when I took that walk and our eyes met again.
Logan: The first look provides a candid personal moment with your bride and there is something special about sharing that initial moment privately. As a guy you’ve been waiting to see the dress for quite some time and having the privilege of seeing it before everyone else means a lot. You also get to be one of the first to see how beautiful your bride is and you still take it in as she walks down the aisle.
Laura: No one tells you this, but you will hardly see your fiance the week of your wedding – and when you do, it’s either wedding-errand related (did you sign the welcome bag cards? we need to get a gift for our readers!) or you are also seeing dozens of relatives and friends that you haven’t seen in even longer (i.e., the rehearsal dinner). Chances are you have guests staying at your place or you are staying with members of your bridal party or family. I was so excited for our first look because I knew we would finally have an hour to ourselves. Just us. To hug, to check out each others outfits, to catch up on the night before, whatever. All of those things that you can’t do when you first see one another walking down the aisle (the impact of which is not at all lessened even if you’ve already seen one another). Walker and I decided to exchange letters, which can be done without a first look, but it was so nice to sit side by side, holding hands, resting my head on his shoulder as we read. Having that time together during the first look completely erased all of the pre-wedding nervousness I was experiencing.
Chelsea: Tim and I had decided to do a first look pretty early on in the planning stages for our wedding. We knew that it would be a very emotional moment and there was something special about it being between just the two of us. Our first look was definitely one of the best parts of the whole day. I could not wait for Tim to see me for the first time on our wedding day, in my wedding dress. Being able to laugh with him in excitement, hug him and see all aspects of our wedding outfits (which you can’t do during the ceremony) was priceless. Not to mention, it makes for some incredible pictures! I enjoyed walking down the aisle and seeing the look on our guest’ faces that much more, knowing that Tim was already so in love with the way I looked as his bride. Besides the emotional factor of doing a first look, we were so thankful having done our pictures beforehand. No one prepares you for how chaotic it is trying to do family pictures (and I’m sure it wasn’t just our families!) You have grandparents that can’t stand for long, and kids who can’t stand still for long and parents and siblings who keep disappearing to the bar…. Needless to say, we were so thankful we already had our pictures done, the ones you cherish forever and frame in your home. Thank you Emily and Thomas for encouraging us to do a first look! It was the best decision we’ve ever made! Besides getting married of course. 🙂
Hannah: My husband and I decided when we consulted with our photographers that a first look would be a good idea. We did this for a number of reasons, mostly practical rather than romantic.
Another good thing about doing a first look which I didn’t realize until the day of is that it really calmed me down. I wasn’t too nervous to begin with, but planning and executing your own wedding is stressful for even the most composed bride and it was great to have that time with my husband to really remember what it’s all about: me and him. Plus, my make up was fresh because I hadn’t started balling like a baby yet. Writing your own vows will do that to you.
I think it really depends on the bride and groom, but for us, a first look was perfect. It didn’t feel rushed and Emily and Thomas were able to help us pose and feel comfortable. Our favorite shots from the wedding are the first look photos, they were just so natural and relaxed. Again, it depends on the bride and groom, wedding party, venue etc, but if you can I’d suggest having first look photos done. In no way does it diminish the feeling you get when you are walking down the aisle, if anything I’d say in enhances it because you aren’t worried about messing up your makeup and you’ve got some pre-ceremony jitters out of the way.