What is a first look?
A first look is the moment the couple sees each other all dressed for the wedding day. You can do one as the first time you’ve seen each other all day, or have breakfast together in jammies and then go your separate ways to get all dressed up (this is what my husband and I did on our wedding day!) Then your first look can be the second time you've seen each other that day, but the first time all dressed up. Usually, you follow this with family portraits, then a quiet moment, then the ceremony and reception.
It’s a moment for just the two of you to come together for the beginning of your wedding day, and I think it’s become a “new tradition”.
The benefits of a first look.
You get to see each other before the ceremony. Obviously! But why? If you’re planning on being emotional or are nervous, getting a big hug from the person that you’ve chosen to share your life with makes the most sense, right? Plus, if you’re an ugly crier (like me) you get to do it in private. You’ll also have more time to be emotional with each other during a first look.
More time for portraits. Photos of the two of you are going to be the most important images of the day. When you do a first look, you’ll have more time with them. We’ll also have more leeway with the location and the lighting (and if you’re getting married outside of Daylight Savings Time - winter weddings - you’ll have more daylight hours to work with).
Family photos go faster. After your first look and couple portraits, we’ll do photos with your family, right before the ceremony. Before the ceremony, everyone is there and focused on getting the shots. The bar isn’t open, the old friends haven’t arrived yet. After the ceremony, there are a million people to say hello to. If you’re having your ceremony and reception in the same place there’s the added distraction of cocktails to get line for, and passed appetizers going by on trays. Rounding everyone up after when everyone is giddy and there are snacks is often really difficult. Wedding guests that are not part of the photos will be over my shoulder with iPhones snapping photos, which gets distracting. Someone will be missing, then someone else will go get them… and now there are two people missing. It takes way longer, and we risk missing shots and having the day go long.
You get to go to your cocktail hour. You paid for it! With all the family photos taken care of before the ceremony, you get to enjoy it.
The cons of a first look
The “aisle moment” won’t be the first time you’re seeing each other. I am happy to report that none of my clients felt like it diminished something for them. It didn’t for me and my husband, but it might for you. Think about this one carefully.
You’ll want to touch up hair and makeup before the ceremony. All that pre-wedding smooching will ruin your lipstick, and if we go outside and it’s rainy or windy, you’ll need hair and makeup to stay. Unless you're comfortable DIYing this, you'll have to pay hair and makeup extra to stay.
Unless you decide to slip them on early, you won’t have your wedding bands on in your official portraits.
The veil issue. If you’re going to wear a big veil or a larger wedding skirt, it’s going to be on for a lot longer. A dear friend loaned me the biggest cathedrial veil ever that it was hand-beaded all the way down. It was exquisite and I loved it, but it weighed about a million pounds. By the time we got through the first look, portraits, family photos, and ceremony, I couldn’t wait to get it out of my hair.
When it might not matter.
If you’re having a ceremony and reception in two different places; most commonly, this is a church wedding. The hour or so between the two events means that we have time to gather everyone, and if your mom gets pulled into a conversation, it’ll be a little easier to wrangle her back if a big party isn’t ramping up!
What should you do?
Honestly, I lean towards a first look because it gives us the best chance of getting the most gorgeous portraits. However, if it’s going to be more emotionally fulfilling for you to wait until your ceremony, you shouldn’t let anyone - including your wedding photographer - tell you otherwise.