In my last "Tips for Brides" post about how to get beautiful wedding pictures I mentioned, well rambled on about, how much time a "First Look" can save you on your wedding day and improve the quantity and quality of your photos. I also talked about it in my wedding day timeline post.
Today I want to explain why it's one of the best decisions you can make. How it works. And what my couples who have done it have thought about the process.
First off, what is it? A "First Look" (I'm capitalizing it because it is that significant an occasion) is when the bride and groom see each other BEFORE the ceremony on the day of their wedding.
If you're like I was when I first heard of this, you're probably saying "wha!? there goes the magic!" but you're wrong just like I was.
I know that I wanted to see how Erik would react as I walked down the aisle, wanted to see his face light up, tears gushing down his face, or you know maybe see him pass out completely, utterly overwhelmed by my beauty ;) Most brides want that, though maybe not to such degree.
But Erik was like most grooms and kept a straight face, no tears, no freak out, just a normal sweet looking Erik who looked HAPPY, but Buzzfeed would certainly never feature that reaction.
I was by no means disappointed by Erik's reaction. It didn't matter at all on the day of our wedding and "First Looks" weren't really as big a thing when we got married. My wedding photographer was new to the business and probably had never heard of them either so we didn't discuss it at all.
This may or may not be true of everyone, but I can tell you that Erik can be very different when the two of us are alone. I think most couples are that way. Where are you most comfortable? Alone with your significant other or standing in front of 100 people? If that emotional reaction is what you want from your groom seeing you for the first time, I think seeing it in a public place is rare. I've shot a lot of weddings now and only at one wedding did I see a groom tear up and give that coveted reaction.
Here's the other thing... when you walk down the aisle, when your ceremony is beginning... it's YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY. Whether you've seen each other beforehand or not, it's going to be emotional and exciting and nerve-wracking.
Sorry to ramble on about it, but this is the #1 reason brides give me for not doing a first look and I PERSONALLY don't think it's realistic. Now, I never fight a couple on this. It's their wedding and I'm going to do things the way they choose, but if I don't share what I've learned from all these past weddings, there's no point in you hiring me as an experienced professional.
I remember when I explained to Kathleen and Dave what a "First Look" was and explained how I shoot it with my longest lens so that the moment is as private to them, while being photographed, as possible. I told them how it's a nice quiet part of the day where I don't get involved trying to pose them. They don't have family and friends trying to get their attention. It's just about them. Kathleen said, "That actually sounds way more special than waiting til the ceremony to see each other." And I really think it is.
I think it's nice when your groom isn't the last person to see you in your wedding dress, but one of the first. I think it's nice to have a moment to talk, hug, pray, comfort.
But mostly, I think it's a brilliant way of adding portrait time to your day without missing your reception for it ;) You would not believe the amount of photo time you can add to your day by doing this one thing. If portraits are important to you, and most people who hire wedding photographers seem to think so, then I think this is a no brainer.
My sister-in-law, Kat/herine ;) decided she wanted to do multiple "First Looks" because she loved the idea so much. One with her bridesmaids, her father and brother, and then with her groom, Chris.
I asked Kat this morning why she had chosen a "First Look" because, believe it or not, I didn't convince her to do it! She had already decided. Here's what she said:
"There were a lot of reasons that went into it, but I read many opinions online and what it came down to for us, was wanting that moment to be private. We wanted to be able to hug each other and say whatever we wanted. I don't know why you'd want to see your future spouse dressed up and not be able to hug them! It also gave us the ability to spend part of the afternoon together. Taking pictures together got all of our jitters out. And since we did our photos before the ceremony, our guests didn't have to wait as long for us at the reception. Once we weighed the pros and cons, there were so many positive reasons for it that the traditional way just didn't make sense anymore."
(Guys, this was a text message, and I SHORTENED it for the sake of my BLOG, the wordiest place you could find. Kat has lots to say on this subject ;) )
The ultimate advice I can give you is to look at your timeline. Think about what you want from your day. Thirty minutes between your ceremony end and reception beginning isn't realistic for photos unless you do some of them beforehand. I think there are a lot of great reasons to do a "First Look," but it's certainly not everyone's cup of tea.
I think every couple has to sit down and talk about what THEY want. If following a tradition is important to you, then by all means, do it. Just make sure that if photos are important too that you've left adequate time between the ceremony and reception to do them! And then reconsider that whole "First Look" thing... it's really pretty awesome ;)