Many soon-to-be brides have asked the question..."should I do a first look on my wedding day?". And if you haven't asked that question, you probably don't know what a first look is! A first look is when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony while the photographer documents all the raw emotions and reactions that occur, and you can take care of all of your portraits before the event even begins! There's a few things you should ask yourself before deciding if this is the way to go:
- Do you have time in between the ceremony and cocktail hour to do your portraits?
- If not, are you okay with missing your cocktail hour?
- Do you have multiple portrait locations you'd like to use?
- Will there be enough daylight to do them after the ceremony? Don't forget to factor in if you're doing a receiving line because I've seen that take up to a half hour-45 minutes!
A first look isn't for everybody, there are both pros and cons to doing them. First looks tend to be in the afternoon, when the lighting isn't the best (we would look for shade or creative ways to use the sunlight), whereas waiting until after the ceremony will usually get you closer to the "golden hour"; the softer, more romantic light. However, if your ceremony and reception are all at one place, you will likely miss cocktail hour and be rushed through portraits, missing some of those storytelling photos. If you did do a first look, imagine your wedding day being extended by 2-3 hours with your one and only! If you are having a church ceremony, it is likely that a first look is not necessary since you will have time in between the ceremony and reception. And if you aren't planning a first look with your soon-to-be husband, what about a first look with Dad?
Now you might be asking yourself "how much time do I really need for the portraits?". 2 hours is what we typically suggest, (unless it's all at one place) and an hour is just enough to get what you need. (I just want to note that 2 hours is not just for taking pictures. It usually includes driving time to and from the portrait location, and of course a "buffer" in case things run behind.) The more time you have the better, especially if you're having an album designed.
There are some major benefits to doing a first look. The first one is you get to enjoy the moment together and extend your day by 2-3 hours with your one and only! When you walk down the aisle, it may be hard to see his reaction, and once you finally get up there, you can't really talk to each other and hear him say how excited he is, and most of the time you can't even touch! Now you've already spent half the day away from each other getting ready, can't talk or touch during the ceremony, then you kiss and it's over. Seeing each other beforehand calms the nerves a little bit, starts the day a little more relaxed, and time usually isn't an issue. Imagine being able to be close enough to comfort him if he sheds a few tears!?
Having a church ceremony or time in between your ceremony and reception tends to mean enough time for portraits and in softer, natural light. In the event that time is still a little short, you can always plan to step away from your reception for a few minutes for sunset photos, which are always our favorite!
You never want to be rushed on your wedding day. Ever, no matter what. Enjoy it! If you're trying to squeeze in your portraits in between your ceremony and cocktail hour, and all you have is a half hour, your photographer is going to feel the pressure and rush you through it..simply because they have no choice! Is that what you're spending money on? If so, that's fine, but if you contacted this photographer because the images on their site really showcased personality, emotion and creative style, and that's what you want..give them time to do it. For us, immediately after the first look we photograph the bride and groom for a few minutes while the emotions are still running high, then jump right into the bridal party pictures (they can meet the bride and groom at the first look location, or wait in the transportation until the first look is over) and then all that is done and over before the event begins! We even try to plan it so you guys have a few minutes to go relax before the ceremony begins so we're not in your face the entire day, and constantly checking in, or interrupting conversations with friends and family to see if you're ready for your pictures. Family photos are usually done fairly quickly after the ceremony. Oh..and you do not want to feel rushed..did I say that already?? :P
The photos below are from a wedding that included a first look. We had SO much time to be able to walk around Asbury and hit all the major landmarks that were "must haves". They got so much variety, AND they got photos of the bride and each bridesmaid, and the groom with each of his groomsmen. We even made it back to the venue in time to do family photos before the ceremony, so once that began, it was all a celebration from there on out! One of my favorite weddings ever!
Make sure there is enough daylight at the time you're hoping to have your portraits taken! Again, this goes along with the style of your photographer. If you're contacting them because you love that they use natural light, don't set up your day so that they are stuck using a flash for your portraits. While they could probably still get some good stuff, it's not why you contacted them. It's also a good idea to check out the sunset time before planning the timeline of your day.
If someone doesn't do a first look, they usually have enough time in between or they are okay with missing their cocktail hour. Another option to avoid a first look, is nixing the receiving line after your church ceremony, doing your portraits immediately after the ceremony, and making it to cocktail hour to say your hellos and eat the amazing food! Again, just make sure there is still enough light outside and you have enough time in between.
Ultimately, if your timeline allows it, you may not need a first look, but I do think that there are couples out there who could really benefit from having one. Even if you decide to do the first look, I still believe that you'll have the excited, anxious, emotional experience walking down the aisle...just less nerve-racking. ;)