It’s the question that I get asked the most from engaged couples and I’ll share a little secret with you – I didn’t have a first look when I got married. I know I know, it’s unheard of for a photographer to not have a first look! Most wedding photographers side with having a first look because it makes the most sense from a schedule point of view and it also produces a unique set of photos for the bride and groom. I, on the other hand, see how both options are great but since getting married I’ve never wished I had done one. A first look is not for everyone and there’s something about seeing each other for the first time right before you say your vows that is extremely special and adds to the excitement of the day.
It’s a personal decision though, that each couple needs to decide and I’ve come up with some questions to ask yourself to help:
1. What time is your ceremony? If your ceremony is later in the day and your cocktail hour and reception immediately follows then a first look would be a great choice. You won’t be rushed after your ceremony to cram in photos and instead can jump straight into socializing with your guests.
2. How important is cocktail hour? If you opt not to have a first look you will most likely be taking photos while guests are enjoying cocktail hour. Some people don’t mind missing this and will focus on seeing guests during the reception but if this time is valuable to you then a first look might be the best choice.
3. How uncomfortable are you in front of people? If the thought of seeing each other for the first time along with 100+ other people freaks you out and sends you into panic mode, then a first look is the way to go. With a first look it’s just the two of you and a great opportunity to get rid of those nerves, hug and kiss right away, and even chat a bit about your day so far. I laugh at this one because I am, and was, SO uncomfortable having ‘all eyes on me’ as a bride so you’d think I would have wanted a first look to take away that pressure. We had a super small wedding though so as uncomfortable as it was, it wasn’t a big enough reason to have a first look.
4. Do you have a significant location you both love that is not where you’re getting married? If so then having a first look at the significant location would be super sentimental and you could document this spot before your ceremony without having to travel around taking time away from your being with family or friends.
5. Does tradition matter to you? It’s almost become trendy to omit wedding traditions and again, this all comes down to personal preference. But it’s ok if you’re someone who loves the idea of keeping certain traditions. And it’s also ok if they don’t speak to you at all. But try to be very honest with yourself on what matters and what doesn’t. Maybe the tradition of waiting till your ceremony to see each other will excite you and that alone will be the answer you need.
Whether you chose to go with a first look or not the number one thing is that it’s based on what the two of you want to do. If your friend had one and thinks its the best ever but you’re doubting how you feel about it, go with your gut. If your mom and dad cringe at the idea of you seeing each other before your ceremony but you love it, let them cringe. It’s your day and you get to chose how you want to celebrate it.
My only suggestion would be that no matter what you decide, plan to have some alone time together at some point during the day. Things go by so quickly and it’s easy to miss having any time alone to just say ‘hi’ so try to plan that into your schedule even if it’s just for five minutes.