What is a “First Look”? It’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s the first time a bride and groom see one another on their wedding day. But more importantly when during the wedding day timeline should this special moment occur? There are definitely strong feelings associated with this on both sides of the debate.
Certainly some feel that it is bad luck to see one another before the ceremony. The origin of this superstition may surprise you. Back in the day when arranged marriages were the rage, the couple wasn’t allowed to see each other before the wedding at all. The wedding was merely a business transaction between two families. Fathers feared that if the groom met the bride before the wedding and thought she wasn’t attractive, he’d call off the wedding. This would embarrass the bride and her family. Therefore, it became the custom that the bride and groom were only allowed to meet at the wedding ceremony. This way the groom did not have the opportunity to change his mind and back out of the deal. The veil the bride wears was to keep the groom from seeing what the bride looked like until the last possible minute insuring the wedding would go off as planned.
With a “first look” the end game here is to create a less stressful day to insure the best wedding ever. There are definitely some benefits to doing a first look.
Enhances the wedding experience. The ability to relax and not hold back all your emotions is priceless. After photographing over 900 weddings I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times the groom got emotional when seeing his bride for the first time at the ceremony. Between all the guest leaning into the aisle to get their cell phone photos, the anxiety of being “on stage” and the realization of what is about to happen the only thing going through the groom’s mind is “try not to pass out”. When you have an opportunity to share an intimate moment and be at ease with one another the emotions can just flow. He can tell you how he is really feeling, how beautiful he thinks you look, how excited he is. I’ve seen this private exchange go on for more than 15 minutes. This would not be possible during the ceremony.
More time together. The truth be told, you will actually spend very little time alone with each other on your wedding day. People will be vying for your attention all day. After all everyone has gathered in your honor. Many may have travelled long distances to be with you. A first look will allow you more time to spend with each of them.
Attending cocktail hour. A first look often allows more control over the day’s schedule. This is especially true when both the ceremony and reception will take place at the same venue. This is because as soon as the ceremony ends the cocktail will begin. This only gives you one hour (at best) for ALL of your formal portraits. There are many portraits that need to be taken in addition to the bridal portraits. Immediate families, bridal party and extended families all need to be photographed. In most cases this simply isn’t enough time. An hour may seem like plenty, but when you consider the time it takes to rally the troops together and keep them all corralled during the portrait session not much time is left for the photos of just the two of you. You will probably want your photographer to spend some time in the ballroom photographing the room and all the details before your guests enter as well. Most couples would rather take this time to relax and enjoy that “Just Married” feeling and spend some time mingling with family and friends.
More/better photos together. When you have a first look you have more flexibility with the timeline. You can decide what photos are important to you, how much time you are willing to devote to them and block out the necessary amount of time. My experience has been the photos are generally better crafted, more diverse with more varied locations when a first look has been planned. The biggest obstacle to getting great wedding portraits is the lack of time.
Overall, the goal is to make the wedding experience more meaningful. A first look doesn’t necessarily diminish the tradition of seeing the bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle. You still experience that moment. When deciding whether or not to do a first look you must ask yourself what’s really important to you and what do you want to achieve from your wedding photos. Think about how you can realize these goals without adding any additional stress to your day. After all it’s your wedding and what better way to begin your life together than putting each other first.