I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, and I finally have!
If you’ve been following wedding trends at all, you’ve probably have heard of a “first look”. So today’s post is going to talk about what it is and why I always suggest a couple to at least think about adding it to their timeline. I should add that I firmly believe that this is not for everyone and I never try to push this on a client. I just feel that it’s important to know the pros and cons and weigh them accordingly. So here we go!
WHAT IS IT?
The moment a bride and groom first see each other on their wedding day is emotional and special. Their eyes connect, they look at each other with love and hope, and overwhelming joy. A first look as it’s referred to here, does not happen at the end of the aisle. In this case, it’s a time that the bride and groom share privately before the ceremony. (I know, that really rocks the boat, huh?) Usually this time is set aside for after everyone finishes getting ready, and I’d suggest adding an extra hour to your timeline for it (making sure you can also have time for bridal party photos too!).
Michelle and Jeffrey, 2011
WHY SHOULD I CONSIDER A FIRST LOOK?
Excellent question, friend! There are many reasons why I think first looks are beneficial and incredibly memorable.
The timeline is something that many people struggle with during the planning process. Imagine the list of family formals after your ceremony. The different family members, the combinations. After that you’ll do the bridal party, and finally, we’ll get to you and your amazing new spouse. If you allotted 45 minutes for photos of you and your love, you’ll also have to add on the time for all those post-ceremony formals. All total, this could theoretically be up to an hour and a half plus any extra travel time! Your guests have been waiting for you since the ceremony ended; maybe they’re getting hungry or wondering where you are! Maybe YOU want to make it to cocktail hour yourself? So what’s the solution? Should you sacrifice your portrait time to get to your guests sooner? As a photographer, it’s hard to watch this happen. This is the only day you’ll have to get some professional photos of you in your wedding attire unless you schedule another session altogether. These are the photos you’ll put on your walls or in frames or pass down to your kids! I would never suggest cheapening that experience. (Isn’t the day about you two anyways?) Not to mention, the day goes by in a blur; it’s busy and there are so many people around…wouldn’t you want some quality, no-pressure time on your day to cherish your newest commitments and just be together?
The first look would ease this stress in a couple different ways. One, the nature of weddings is that you’ll probably be running behind at some point. The first look provides a very important time cushion to work with! Two, the rule of thumb is that the more you can get done before the ceremony, the more relaxed your timeline can be after there ceremony. Phew! I’m all for relieving stress! The first look can eliminate a whole section of post-ceremony formals! We’d use the first look time to take photos of all your bridal party – bride+girls, groom+guys, and then everyone! (I want to add too, that usually bride+girls and groom+guys are done before the ceremony anyways, but I think it’s important to get those full group shots at the same time for a cohesive look AND as a timesaver!) This means that after the ceremony, formals would consist of just family before we moved on to your couple portraits. Keep in mind, it takes an average of two minutes per family photo! That really adds up! Third, taking time to do some portraits before the ceremony will mean that your photographer won’t be pressed into trying to get relaxed, comfortable, non-rushed portraits in a span of 15 minutes after the ceremony. I’ve had this happen before and though it’s doable, it’s more stressful and probably doesn’t yield the best results. Help your photog by allowing them enough time to excel! Now, I’m not necessarily suggesting that you should skimp on after ceremony portraits just because you’ve done some before hand – the BEST most ROMANTIC light happens later in the day and really gives an extra quality to your wedding photos! So, you may be wondering with that last statement, “how does it save me time if we we end up taking pictures afterwards anyway?” Well, I think it’s a time saver because of the quality of the time. Photos come out so differently when the couple is thinking about their guests and if they’ve stayed out too long and checking what time it is. If you want your photos to not look rushed, then it’s a good idea to not feel rushed! In that same concept, there’s maybe not as much pressure to get 1000 awesome shots after the ceremony in the time allotted. You already have some in the bag! If you want to end early to make it to cocktail hour to be with your guests, you can and you would still have tons of photos!
In the photos below, consider the “timeline safety” reason: these are from Caroline and Shaun‘s first look. This was before the ceremony when the weather was fine. Later, right before the ceremony ended, it POURED and continued POURING until after dark. We wouldn’t have been able to take ANY photos outside. Instead, we got plenty of photos of them AND their bridal party! Crisis averted!
And plus, he had a really fun reaction
This is immediately the first thing people balk at. They want that RAW emotion when they’re revealed at the end of the aisle. Totally understandable. You both have dreamed of this moment! It’s the biggest “Ta-Dahh!!” of your life so far! So, the big question is – if you see each other before the ceremony, will it take away the emotion from “the moment”? In my experience, it doesn’t! But let’s explore the “emotion” thought and then revisit this question. Take a look at the images below.
You see, to me, these photos are HUGE. I loved the view of Meredith because THIS is emotion! Look at her! Could she have thrown her arms around him at the end of the aisle? Could they hug w/out being interrupted or could he have whispered how gorgeous she looked or simply have taken a few minutes to take all of her in? Once the bride reaches the aisle, the preacher starts talking and all the thoughts running through his head are quieted, remaining there until a 1/2 hour LATER! I submit to you that a first look actually allows for MORE of that unfiltered emotion to come through.
A second aspect of this emotion thing is PRIVACY. Seriously, I’m talking to my guys here. You know that EVERYONE is going to look at you for your reaction. When she walks in, 300 eyes turn to YOU. IS HE GOING TO CRY?! Sheesh, nervous yet? Like I said, this might not be for everyone, but imagine how sweet it would be to share that moment ALONE. Without all the extra eyes, no one to focus on but her. It’s just you and and her and your reaction is REAL and genuine; you can say what you want, you can twirl her and admire her dress, or just hold on to her! Here’s one of my favorite first looks:
See what I mean? Diana and Daniel probably took 7 or 8 minutes just soaking it all in. Just between the two of them. They cried, they laughed and they held on to each other like they would never let go. It was truly beautiful. And what was Daniel’s reaction when those doors did open? Everyone there can attest, the first look didn’t take away from that moment, either. He was truly moved, because this is still the moment you’ve built up! She still coming towards you about to pledge her life to you! And in fact, I’ve heard many times that the first look only strengthens that emotion; you’ve already shared a huge connection, like an unspoken bond, your confidence is strengthened because you’ve seen her and hugged her and been blown away – and you don’t have to share that with moment and process it with 150 guests staring at you! So because of this, it really helps to calms nerves for the guys too!
The third reason to consider is, well, the finished product! One, you will have some awesome emotion captured! Your photog’s hope is that those photos will be SO precious to you and they’ll bring back all that joy when you look at them. Practically though, you just end up with more photos! I once heard a stat that people who do first looks end up with 40% more photos! I don’t know if that’s true for me as a photographer, but I can tell you that having a first look DEFINITELY adds to the total number of photos. It’s like adding in an extra session on your day! In terms of the album, you’ll have TONS of options and more spreads! And who doesn’t want more spreads??
There are really only two cons that I can think of: One, it breaks tradition. Grandma might not be too happy with this one. And two, is if you’re really worried about walking around in your dress more than necessary or if you fear losing your perfected look. But there is always enough time to “refresh” before the ceremony if you need to! So…maybe that’s not really a con
Having said all that, some people will still recoil at this idea. If that’s you, that’s awesome! You know that you want that aisle moment to be “it” and your photog will be thrilled to capture it. Either way, I hope this post has offered some insight into the issue. Have a great Wednesday everyone!!