Let me start off by being very clear: whether you choose to do a first look or not is, of course, your decision. I’ll never tell someone they’re right or wrong either way, and it never affects whether or not we can work together. That being said, I want to give you some reasons why—as both a photographer and a planner—I always appreciate it when couples do a first look.
It’s no secret that wedding days can be chaotic. Planner or no planner, tight timeline or lengthy timeline, 15 bridesmaids or 5 bridesmaids . . . it all has an impact on the overall ease of the day and how smoothly (or not smoothly!) everything runs together. But perhaps the biggest factor in how your wedding day is scheduled is whether or not you choose to do a first look. Now hear me say this…I completely understand why people opt out of it. There is something so unbelievably special (and oftentimes emotionally overwhelming) about seeing your spouse-to-be as you’re headed to the altar together. However! Every first look I’ve ever been a part of has been such a sweet, emotional moment. There’s so much love and laughter and tears and excitement, and it NEVER affects the excitement of the ceremony! Despite the fact that the groom has already seen his bride, there’s still SO MUCH emotion when he sees her coming down the aisle to him. It might be a different kind of reaction, but it’s an equally beautiful and raw one, to be sure.
So without further ado, here are five reasons why you should considering doing a first look.
1. You’ll have two opportunities for your photographer to capture those moments of joy and excitement: once in a more private, intimate setting, and again when you’re walking down the aisle and about to commit your lives to each other. Both moments are uniquely tender, and having twice the photos is always a bonus.
2. It calms everyone’s nerves IMMENSELY. Once you’ve seen each other, you’re much more relaxed, happy, and mellowed out. That suspense is over, and now you’re free to relax and enjoy the rest of your time leading up to the ceremony.
3. You’ll be able to get all of your formal pictures out of the way before the ceremony. Once the bride and groom have seen each other, it frees everyone up to go ahead and do family pictures and wedding party pictures. This is particularly important for evening ceremonies! If the ceremony ends after sunset, and you haven’t done a first look, that means all of your family pictures and wedding party pictures will have to be taken inside. If you’re hiring a photographer who specializes in off camera flash and studio-style portraiture then this isn’t a problem. But if you’re hiring a photographer like me, we prefer that yummy, dreamy, natural light.
4. You won’t have to keep your guests waiting at the reception. This one is the same concept as #2. Without a first look, you’re forced to take all of your formal portraits immediately following the ceremony. If you have a large family and/or wedding party, and if bride + groom portraits are important to you (I hope they are!), then it could take quite a while to finish everything. Having a cocktail hour is definitely a solution, but even that’s not long enough to truly dedicate quality time to your photos. And the longer you’re away from the reception, the more rushed you’ll inevitably feel to wrap things up and not keep your guests waiting.
5. You’ll be able to set aside time for sunset couples portraits. If you’ve gotten all the other pictures taken care of BEFORE the ceremony, that frees you up to take a few minutes of bride and groom pictures immediately AFTER the ceremony, when (again, depending on what time the ceremony is) that jaw-dropping golden hour has arrived. Or if you missed sunset, or if you took your bride and groom pictures when you had your first look, then it frees you up to head straight into your reception and not spend any time away from your guests.
Like I said, I understand why people opt out of the first look; a ceremony first look is a special thing that you only get one opportunity for. But at the end of the day, when and where you see your soon-to-be-spouse doesn’t matter. Because your marriage is what matters. Even if you do a first look, there are still opportunities for things to go wrong, people to get behind schedule, and mishaps to occur. But keeping your heart and mind focused on the point of the day is what will truly help everything else fall into place.