Should I do a First Look?

To first look or not to first look. That is the question. It gets brought up for every wedding. To those who aren't married, you may ask the question, "what's the big deal?" It's a big deal, no question about it.

I'm as sensitive to this subject as I possibly can. As a photographer, having a first look can do a lot for a wedding day... but did I have a first look for my wedding? The answer to that would be no. However, I got married almost 5 years ago and my knowledge of what a first look can do for a wedding has grown considerably. Plus, my wife and I got married in Costa Rica, so we had a whole week together before our wedding day and that moment was definitely special. I digress.

When I meet couples to discuss their vision, I run into quite a few people who want the traditional "down the aisle" first look. Dare I say MOST couples want that. But, by the end of the meeting MOST of those couples walk away wanting a first look before the ceremony. Why? Well, most couples don't have the perspective of someone who shoots almost 30 weddings a year... and why would they?! After shooting as many weddings as I have, I have seen what a first look can do for a wedding day. Let's take a look at the PROS and CONS of a first look:

PROS

  • It is intimate. During the first look, it's just you and the love of your life... and two other people with cameras, but we put our long lenses on and let you stay in your moment. If you see each other down the aisle for the first time, you don't get to enjoy that moment as much. You have to stand there quietly just longing for the moment that you get to embrace each other. During a first look, the two of you can react genuinely since it's just the two of you!
  • It opens up your timeline for more photos. After a ceremony, most couples allow a cocktail hour that is a literal hour. All the photos in one hour you say? Who wants to take pictures for longer that that? Well the things you need to shoot after your ceremony without a first look are ALL family photos, FULL wedding party and then whatever is left over of the cocktail hour is left for the two most important people... The Bride and Groom! I've made magic happen in 15 minutes but the more time, the better the photos!
  • Wedding Party gets to do what they do best. Party. After the first look, we'd do a few minutes of just the Bride and Groom and the introduce the whole wedding party. Everyone gets the elation of telling everyone how good they look **Que the Ron Burgundy Quote** and their photos are done for the rest of the day. When you do wedding party photos after the ceremony, you'll have everyone looking at the cocktail hour wishing they had a drink in their hands instead of smiling in front of a camera. It shows in the photos.
  • It simply "De-Stresses" your day. There is nothing worse than feeling rushed on your wedding day. You invested thousands of dollars to get great photography and great photography takes time. If we have only 15 minutes... then I am going to make the most out of those 15 minutes and boss you around to get the most out of it. That shows in photos as well. If you're relaxed and enjoying the process, your photos will be better.
  • You can actually ENJOY your cocktail hour... what a concept. If all of your photos are taken during cocktail hour then obviously you wont be able to be there. This takes time away from your party and reception because you have to at least acknowledge your guests and if you can't do any of that during the cocktail hour. The only other time to acknowledge guests is during dinner or later in the reception when you should be partying. 
  • The "moment" isn't lost. Most people that ask about a first look are under the impression that the "moment" is lost during the aisle walk down if you've seen each other. I couldn't disagree more. The Grooms that are emotional during the first look are usually emotional during the ceremony walk down as well. Regardless of whether you have seen each other or not, when a Groom sees his Bride walk down the aisle, it is an extremely special moment. Especially with everyone else there witnessing that special moment. The energy builds, no question about it.

CONS

  • It isn't traditional. Weddings are built on tradition and I can sympathize with keeping those traditions.
  • Not all of your photos are in "prime light". With a first look, you'd be shooting earlier in the day which isn't as "ideal". However, I have two points about that: 1. It is up to me as a professional to find the best light no matter the time of the day. Even if you shot at high noon, your photos wont have shadows under everyone's eyes. That is my job as a professional photographer to ensure that you will have great photos. 2. Even if you did a first look and did most of your photos in earlier light, I almost always take the couple out at sunset-ish time to get some killer and epic portraits. That usually doesn't take any longer than 15 minutes of your time and you get the best of both worlds.

So, that's it. I can't think of any other CON other than those two. However, I always tell my clients to never let anyone dictate how you want your wedding to be. Including me. A wedding is a culmination of two people's love and those two people should be making the decisions of how they want their wedding to be. For any future Bride and Groom's reading this, simply use this as a resource for your own individual wedding.

Below are a few shots of my favorite first looks... you can be the judge if these moments took away from anything.