Tradition: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior
First, let me start by thanking Shannon Gail and her team for letting me step in and provide a little content & clarity related to the wedding world. As a photographer, one topic that comes up in nearly every wedding is whether or not to do a “first look.” As with those couples, I’m not here to sell you one way or another on the matter, simply provide some perspective and insight about how this decision can affect your approach, emotions and timeline for the whole wedding day. This blog has touched on the topic before in a post entitled 3 Reasons to Do a First Look, and I would like to piggy back on this subject a bit, and expand on both sides of the aisle.
The two definitions I posted above are the most frequent and rational reasons to either do a first look, or wait until you lock eyes walking down the aisle. You either want to keep with tradition, or you just can’t stand waiting that long to get to sharing the day with your soul mate. I will be perfectly honest, I think both have their own merits, so on an emotional level I don’t think you can go wrong. A lot of times it’s either a religious or scheduling reason that makes this decision for you, but of course that isn’t always the case. There are pros & cons to both scenarios, so let me just bullet those off quickly, and I’ll continue from there.
First Look Pros
- A unique kind of anticipation at the front end of your day
- Settle the nerves – Some people just need their rock in moments of anxiousness
- Get to spend the majority of the day together
- Though “staged,” this controlled environment makes for great photos
- Private moment that allows you to share a few minutes gushing and being yourselves
- Many combinations on approach (more on that later)
- Transition right into couple portraits on an emotional high
- Gives you the opportunity to tackle most of your portraits early in the day, freeing up the remainder for socializing, allowing for more candid photography
- Schedule flexibility if weather is erratic
- Fulfill other religious pre-ceremony rituals
- Family portraits can be done early
First Look Cons
- Perhaps it feels awkward or inauthentic to be photographed in this moment
- Mid-day portraits aren’t always the best lighting, but also dependent on weather
- Family portraits before a ceremony can be logistically difficult, so why get worked up before the wedding
- Potential for guests to see you early if you are at one location all day
- Need everyone to get ready at the same place or nearby each other
- Could increase transportation budget/hours
- Outdoor elements during portraits may affect hair, get the dress a little dirty
Pros of Waiting
- Extended anticipation
- Let Dad have that moment first and be the one to give you away
- You get to have that eye-locking moment you’ve been dreaming of
- Portrait sessions later in the day will typically give you better light
- Flexibility with preparation locations
- Could reduce overall hours related to vendor budgets
Cons of Waiting
- Time to REALLY talk is limited until well after the ceremony
- Though certainly a special moment meeting at the alter, it is a condensed moment – Your eyes could be darting all over as you walk down the aisle
- Shortened portrait window where you could miss cocktail hour
- Alternatively, you could be creating a time-gap for your guests to fill independently while you take portraits
- Venue could need you out ASAP, so family portraits need to be done elsewhere
As I mentioned before, sometimes the best solution is to follow your scheduling needs or whatever your gut tells you. Talk these options through with your fiancé, planner and photographer to see what fits best. Personally, as a photographer, I like the flexibility of being able to complete most of the portraits in the first half of the day. I always find that private moment to be so genuine and enjoyable to watch unfold and can immediately get a few portraits of just you two. Then, as newlyweds, you are able to enjoy the remainder of your day soaking it all in and socializing with friends and family. This also allows for more flexibility to photograph details, decor and cocktail hour moments, even with a 2nd shooter. More often than not, if there is a venue change, the 2nd photographer is going to stay with the main shooter, especially if time is of the essence.
So let’s talk a bit about how do to a first look. I’ve picked out a couple of different combinations on approaches, which may give you a little bit of insight on what could work for you. Lots of variables come into play here, such as the style of dress, stairs, setting, outdoor conditions and so forth. I happen to love with when the bride approaches a groom who’s back turned, but honestly, a couple facing each other as one approaches gives you that same feeling of walking down the aisle. The anticipation is slightly shorter, but the smiles you see you get to soak in until you finally meet. That said, both photograph great.
Back to Bride
Classic arrangement, never fails.
Straight on approach, nothing but smiles the whole way!
Let Him Know You’re Coming!
Break the tension and get those teeth showing early!
Stairs are great by mixing angles & depth, adding variety in the images.
I think these are fun ways to be in the same image, but not having seen each other yet adds a cool element.
GET THE KIDS INVOLVED
Anytime there are new families being made, the kids love sharing in some of these moments as well.
WAITING FOR THE CEREMONY
Tradition is tradition!
EMOTION IS EMOTION
Even after a first look, sometimes you still lose it.
First Look for Dads
This last little bit is important to me, now so more than ever in my life. I was photographing weddings for years before my daughter came into our lives, so it’s fair to say some moments though real, didn’t always hit home. As any parent will attest, your life changes forever when you have a children, and these are the days that you dream of for years on end. Specifically, I see myself now in every father-daughter dance and FOB toast, which never was the case before. You spend the whole morning with your girls getting ready, laughing and sharing memories as you transform into a bride, but I think it’s important if logistically possible to arrange a first look opportunity for your dad too. You will be a beautiful bride in a gown to most everyone else in the room, but that’s far from all he sees, and I assure he’s lived for and dreaded that moment in equal proportions for a long time. He’ll never forget it though, and neither will you…
DAD FIRST LOOK
Heart melters, really.