What are the pros and cons of doing a first look vs. waiting until the ceremony? This is my advice for engaged couples unsure if you should do a first look or not. This will give you an idea of the logistics behind both and how it effects your wedding timeline.
I’m going to preface this by saying, I didn’t do a first look for my own wedding. We wanted that down the aisle moment and were afraid a first look would ruin it. So when couples tell me they don’t want one, I’m very low pressure to sway them the other way. But, after photographing so many of weddings with first looks and waiting until walking down the aisle, I’ve been able to see things more objectively, so I like to give everyone the facts!
Instead of waiting until the ceremony to see each other on your wedding day, you can opt to do a first look. First looks have become a modern tradition of having a private, coordinated time to see each other before the ceremony. After the initial moment takes place and I’ve photographed their reactions, I offer my couples some space if they want it. If they want this photographed further away for a few or some privacy all together, that’s okay! We usually start taking couple’s portraits shortly after.
It can feel awkward when all eyes are on you. A first look helps some people have a more honest reaction and be able to say things they wouldn’t in front of everyone at the ceremony. This also gives you a chance to calm your nerves and slow the day down a little. Because now it’s just you and your fiance. Wedding prep and details can be put aside, and you can just enjoy the moment.
Many weddings have a cocktail hour that runs from the end of the ceremony to the beginning of the reception. This gives us time to take family photos and extra couple’s portraits if you want them! If we end early enough, you could actually go to your own cocktail hour or have extra time to bustle your dress.
Without a first look, we’re now fitting family, full bridal party, and couple’s portraits into cocktail hour.
When couples decide to not have a first look, I encourage them to not have a receiving line. Receiving lines can take a long time to see every guest and make for a very fast paced portrait time. It definitely depends on your guest count how long a receiving line may be. But, what I recommend is allowing your guests to go straight to cocktail hour and then visit them during your reception. This will give you more flexibility and them time to grab a drink and a snack. It’s not uncommon to go table to table, or just simply wait to have fun together on the dance floor!
If you’re waiting to see each other until the ceremony and want a little more portrait time, sneaking away for golden hour can be super helpful. Start by looking up the sunset time for your wedding venue’s city. I usually like to take couples out 30-40 minutes before sun actually sets and keep them no longer than 20 minutes. This gives us enough time to get in place and have glowy light for portraits. And, it’s a nice time to take a breather together.
Want to know more about golden hour portraits? Check out my blog here!
Having worked with couples doing a first look and not – I’ve never not seen that down the aisle moment happen. Walking down the aisle is a surreal moment of “Wow, this is it! This is who I’m spending the rest of my life with!” All of your friends and family are still gathered around you. You’ll still have this sense of overwhelming joy. I’ve seen grooms cry for both a first look and when the bride walked down the aisle. I’ve also seen people not cry at all. Some people just aren’t criers!
Everyone is different and has ultimately knows what’s best for them. Even though I tend to recommend a first look, it’s not my day. This is your day. So weigh the options and find the right choice for you.