“Are you going to see each other before the ceremony?”
When I ask this question during our first meeting (and even our last meeting, just to make sure), I am typically greeted with a very firm head shake and a solid “No”, or an excited smile and “YES!” To each his own and that is absolutely fine with me.
However, if some people are on the brink about it, I tend to try to lean them towards the excited smile and “YES!”. But first, we start to create their wedding day timeline and see what they have time for, which leads me to my first reason:
1.) It saves time. For instance, if you are planning a Friday wedding, chances are it is going to take place later in the day and not your typical 2pm ceremony on Saturday. Which means there will be a shorter gap of time in between the ceremony and the dinner. Which then means that formals, bridal party, and bride and groom photos will have to be smashed into a very small gap in order to make it to dinner on time. Which, let’s be honest, can cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
When you have a first look, it allows you to break up photos throughout the day. Maybe you have your first look/portraits of you and the groom, and then the bridal party. Boom! After the ceremony, you only have to worry about getting the wedding formal photos done! Or maybe you can get all three done before the ceremony and then afterwards you can just relax and enjoy the rest of the day without worrying if someone is going to be late for photos. Which leads me to my next point:
2.) It allows you to relax and enjoy the moment with your bride/groom. When you have your first look, it’s just the two of you. Alone (minus the photographers who, if they’re like Paul and I, try to stay a good distance away so it’s almost like we’re not there). You can talk, laugh, cry, etc. without doing so in front of everybody. I have heard so many of my brides tell me that they’ll feel so much better once they’ve seen their groom. It’s really just a chance for you to relax, enjoy some down time before the day is swept from under your feet, and of course, take some lovely photos. :) Which leads me to my next point:
3.) It gives you more time for photos with your bride/groom. In most timelines that do not have a first look, their portrait time is usually cut down to 15-20 minutes with just the two of them. And for some people that is totally fine! However, if you want to make sure you have enough time for portraits, a first look is such a great way to achieve this. I’ve had some brides and grooms have up to an hour for portrait time and it’s just like an engagement session, except with a big, white dress, flowers, and a tux. :) Another plus side, no one is watching you (typically) while you have your photos done which takes a lot of pressure off of you. Often times, when people do not have a first look, their portrait time together is typically right after the bridal party photos are done. Which means there will definitely be people nearby watching, which for some people can be a tad uncomfortable. Now to my last reason (it’s more specifically my own reason…):
4.) They can be very emotional and I just love it. Often times when brides and grooms decline a first look, they are concerned that it won’t be as emotional for them versus walking down the aisle. And I can TOTALLY relate. Paul and I chose not to have a first look (I promise, I’m not a hypocrite – listen to my reasons! :)) and looking back, I’m still glad we didn’t for the following reasons:
a. I honestly have no idea where our first look would have been – the area where we got married was very ugly and in a bad part of town.
b. We chose not to have bridal party (all together) photos which opened up an hour of time for just Paul and I to have photos after the ceremony. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that was my favorite part of the day. Just Paul and I. And it worked out because we had time for it. We didn’t go bar-hopping, we didn’t stop at any places along the way, and yes, we decided against bridal party photos.
However, I can tell you that my walk down the aisle was not as emotional for me as I had hoped for. I was too busy thinking about getting to Paul and looking at all of our guests that I can honestly tell you I don’t remember 3/4 of the walk down the aisle. I remember seeing my uncle and then Paul. And yes, he was crying. :) So that part was pretty wonderful. :) But, I feel that had we had a first look and no one was staring at me, I may have been more at ease and able to open up a little more emotionally. :) I cry at everything (Disney movies, songs, my own brides and grooms’ weddings, etc.) but I did not cry walking down the aisle. I shocked myself.
Anyways, first looks can be very emotional, and as a photographer, I absolutely love it. I still tear up thinking of some of my past brides and grooms’ first looks (I know, I don’t cry at my own but I cry at others – weird) and the things they said to each other (sometimes I’m within hearing distance) or the looks on their faces. I just love it. And the great thing is, is that the people who have had their first looks, their walk down the aisle is just as emotional and powerful. I’ve had brides and grooms cry at both, or I’ve had them not cry at the first look but have cried during the walk down. :)
So, I know this post is all about having a first look, but if my brides and grooms choose not to, I am completely fine with that! When I explain these reasons to my brides and grooms, I do so to educate them, especially if they have a rough timeline to work with. I like to show them all of their options before they make decisions, just so they know. So, if you are on the brink about whether or not to have one, weigh out your options, talk to your photographer (if it’s me – you probably already have, but if you haven’t, you know I’m always here to chat :)), and in the end do what you truly want to do. :)