When Danny and I got married — before we became wedding photographers, I should add — we had never heard of a first look. We knew all about the tradition of the groom not seeing his bride until she walked down the aisle and met him at the altar. What we didn’t know was how the first look was fast becoming a new tradition that changes the course of the wedding day — and adds so many emotionally-charged memories to each couple’s wedding experience.
Four years later, as wedding photographers who have shot plenty of weddings with and without first looks, having a first look would be one of the major changes we would make if we were getting married now. We love first looks. So do lots of our couples — about half are opting to have a first look these days. While choosing whether or not to have a first look isn’t a question of right or wrong, we personally think that there are some pretty compelling reasons to have a first look, reasons that far outweigh simply sticking to the tradition of waiting until the bride walks down the aisle.
To us, it’s as simple as this: We’ve never known a couple who regretted having a first look, but we have known couples who regretted not having one.
When a couple meets at their first look, there is so much joy.Now — the reasons we think first looks are great. When a couple has a first look. . .
- It’s incredibly calming for the couple to get to see each other. The butterflies settle down, and the couple feels much more relaxed heading into the ceremony — because the big anticipation-building moment has already happened.
- It gives the couple the opportunity to actually talk to each other when they first see each other. If they first see each other coming down the aisle, they don’t get to say anything except their vows until after the ceremony has ended — at which point they’re usually bombarded with family and friends. So having a first look offers the couple some privacy to share their thoughts and just have a few quiet moments alone on a very hectic day.
- It does not detract from the emotions the couple feel as the bride walks down the aisle; we’ve had many a bride and groom get choked up and teary during the aisle walk after a first look. Instead, it gives the couple two “firsts” on their wedding day, only adding to the heartfelt wedding day moments.
- It really frees up the wedding day timeline, because couples can get all their portraits — family, bridal party, and bride and groom — done before the ceremony if they would like. That way, after the ceremony they can go straight to the cocktail hour with their guests. (Although we always try to pull the couple for some additional golden hour portraits during the reception.)
- It’s a safe-guard against bad weather, earlier-than-anticipated nightfall, or other problems that could prevent the couple from getting portraits later in the day. Take Callie and Phil, the couple above, as an example. Callie didn’t feel well during the start of their reception, and by the time she was ready to join the party, night had fallen. But thanks to them having a first look, we had already gotten some incredible portraits of the two of them alone.
- It ensures the bride’s makeup will be fresh and the couple won’t yet be exhausted and looking tired for their photographs.
- It provides a really emotional, exciting, and memorable experience for the couple.
- It’s a fantastic photo op.
Here’s some more proof from a few other first looks we’ve photographed. Just in case you need convincing that they’re as wonderful as we say.Whether or not to have a first look is a decision you can really only make for yourself — but it’s something I would urge every couple to really consider. Most couple’s first reaction to the idea of a first look is to say they want to stick to tradition and not see each other. But every couple I’ve ever known who had a first look had a much different reaction after the fact: They’ve all been absolutely thrilled that they did it.
So is a first look for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you do/did or don’t/didn’t want a first look at your wedding!
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