Okay, okay, I know it’s not that simple. You want an explanation, and I’ve got four for you in this post—because, full disclosure, I’m a big fan of the first look. And, no, not just as a photographer but as a bride, too.
If you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is a first look?”, I got you: It’s when the bride and groom meet each other in private before walking down the aisle. It’s an opportunity for photos and one-on-one time before the “I dos.”
Most of my couples think they want to hold out for the ceremony before they see their bride or husband-to-be for the first time. And those same couples typically change their minds when I break down all the pros of a first look. Shall we?
- You’ll get a better reaction
It’s okay, you can admit it: We don’t nix the first look because we’re all that traditional—we nix it because we want a reaction, and we think walking down the aisle will get it. This is myth at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. The truth is there’s a lot of build-up to walking down the aisle—and with build-up comes nerves. 9 times out of 10, we don’t capture the reaction you’re hoping for because the groom is too damn nervous.
When you opt for a first look, you get to share your reactions in private. There aren’t 50, 100 or 300 eyes on you, waiting for a reaction. It’s just you and the person you love most in the world getting the chance to share your reactions, your vulnerability, in a safe space. By the time you do walk down the aisle, the pressure is off! You get to have genuine reactions that aren’t weighted down by eye balls. Reactions are always more relaxed and natural when my couples share a first look.
- You’ll actually get time together
Couples typically don’t realize how little alone time they get on their wedding day (if any). From dawn until dusk, you’re whisked from friends to family, and you don’t actually get to just be with each other to take it all in. But a first look gives you this sacred alone time to whisper sweet nothings, cry, laugh, whatever you two need to do to connect and be present on your wedding day. With how fast the day flies by, this time together is precious.
Our first look was an experience I will never forget (or regret agreeing to!) The experience literally took my breath away. I would recommend it to everyone getting married. —Eric, Groom
- 40% more portraits
Let’s be real: Family portraits are necessary, but it’s portraits of you and your love that will adorn every frame in your home. With a first look, you get 40% more portraits. Why? Instead of squeezing portraits between the ceremony and reception, we schedule them before the ceremony. So, instead of an hour, we can take up to three hours for portraits of you, your love, your wedding party, and families. Not only is it more relaxed, it means more photos.
- Attend your cocktail hour
You may not realize this, but attending your cocktail hour isn’t likely without a first look. You’ll get shuffled off to your portraits between the ceremony and reception while your guests down your custom cocktail without you. Given the reception is packed with speeches (and eating) with dancing on its heels, you won’t have much time to catch up with your guests, unless you skip eating to do table-to-table hellos. But with a first look, your portraits are done before the ceremony even begins, so you get to catch up over cocktails with your favorite people on the planet.
Truth is: At least half my couples who have opted for a first look were skeptical about it—then gushed about it after their big day. Whether you opt for a first look or not, no judgement. This day is about you two lovebirds, and I will always support your wedding day choices 100%.
If I could share any final wisdom after photographing 200+ weddings, it would be this: Brides, first look or not, save your groom the pressure, and allow him to experience the day in his own way. If he doesn’t cry or react the way you’d hoped, that’s okay. The kindest thing you can do is allow him to express himself naturally. And grooms, remember this day isn’t about anyone but you and your bride. Forget the eyes on you, and let yourself feel what you feel—no performance necessary, ok?
This blog post is also featured on Southern California Bride!