The First Look

February 21, 2016 / portraits, preparations, wedding

What is a “First Look”? No, it is not a pre-arranged marriage ritual where the lucky couple gets to see each other for the first time when he lifts the veil (think Jacob, Leah & Rachel – Genesis Chapter 29).  Rather, it is a very special time on the wedding day where the bride and groom get to see each other for the first time in a setting as private or public as they want it to be before the ceremony begins.  I have had the full spectrum when it comes to the first look.  Some couples absolutely refuse to see each other until she walks down the aisle in her glorious gown, and he cries like a 3rd-grade school girl.  Other couples make a day of it:  they spend then entire day together enjoying time with their friends and family, taking all their photographs before the wedding starts, and then enjoying the rest of the day without having to worry about everything from hair to makeup to clothes “looking right” for the pictures.  One couple even did a combination.  They spent the whole day together, but only after they did their First Look in complete privacy; they didn’t even let me in for it!!!!  But that’s OK.  It was their day and it was what they wanted.  When it is all said and done, I work for the couple and it is my job to make their wedding day as memorable as possible in their photographs in accordance with their wishes.

What is the purpose of a First Look? There are a couple of reasons to do a First Look. First, in this setting a couple can feel free to express the overwhelming emotions that always accompany this event without a crowd of people looking at them, unless that is what they want. Some couples want no one other than their fiancé and the photographer present at this special moment.  Other couples have done it with the bridal party gathered around for the support and to share in the joy of it all.  Second, a First Look will often smooth out the timeline of the wedding day. Most wedding days are 3 pounds of craziness in a 2-pound bag. If a couple does their First Look before the ceremony it will give the photographer time to make those beautiful photos that everyone wants without the time constraint of having to fit that in between the ceremony and reception.  And forget about any photos happening after the reception, it simply isn’t going to happen.

First Look on the Stairwell

A beautiful couple have a first look on the stairwell.

Of course, if a couple wants to see each other for the first time during the ceremony, that is completely acceptable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that first look happening as the bride walks down the aisle to her groom.  The emotions will still be there, and I will still capture them. This is a very traditional approach, particularly here in the South.  We just have to make time between the ceremony and the reception to make the couple portraits, family portraits, and bridal party portraits.  I have done it both ways; making it work is just a matter of good communication, honest expectations, and realistic goals before the wedding day.  It is imperative to communicate with your photographer as he or she is aware of how long it will take to do each portion of the wedding.
Consider very carefully having a First Look during your wedding day. I have not had a couple yet sorry that they did it; rather, several have come to me after the wedding and said “We are so glad we listened to you and saw each other before the wedding.” Here is a sample from a First Look during a recent wedding.

And, yes, he still cried when she walked down the aisle.