As wedding planners, we try and help our couples navigate all of the different wedding "trends" out there. It can be very easy to get into the comparison mind game and brides often find themselves constantly questioning their wedding decisions. With as many trends as there are when it comes to wedding decor, flowers, dresses, there are just as many when it comes to photography. And when thinking of ways that we can help our brides, we find it often helps to go straight to the experts. That is why we wanted to start a new blog post series, "Ask the Photographer." These wonderfully talented professionals have the answers to all those questions you have been wondering.
One of the most important questions we ask our couples when planning their day-of wedding timeline is whether or not the couple plans on having a first look between the two of them before the ceremony. It really sets the schedule for the rest of the day's festivities so we try and determine that step first.
Many couples question whether or not they should or shouldn't have a first look, they worry that it could take away from the the magic of seeing each other for the first time at the altar and others worry that they will miss out on time with family and friends if they don't take the time to do photos before the ceremony.
Here is what the experts have to say:
"This is a topic that I discuss with every couple! I do not encourage couples one way or the other. I truly think this is a personal decision and each couple needs to do what is best for them! However, I do always make couples aware of their specific sunset time compared with their ceremony time. With winter weddings especially, ceremonies often end after sunset, leaving us without beautiful natural light for bride/groom photos. I do feel that it's important to make couples aware of this logistical matter. A first look is needed in some situations in order to get those beautiful, sunlit photographs! Ultimately, it's up to the bride and groom to make that decision! Some couples feel that those outdoor photographs are very important and for others, saving the first look for the ceremony trumps photographs. I respect either decision, I just try to help my couples make an informed decision!" -Ashley Seawell Photography
"This question arises for me at almost every wedding consultation! As a wedding photographer, I have a very strong opinion on the subject. While I ultimately want my bride and groom to do whatever they are most comfortable with, I am a huge advocate for doing a first look before the ceremony. When I tell brides-to-be my feelings, I sometimes see a look of fear sweep over their face. I understand - when I was engaged, I had the same mixed feelings. You want that story book moment where the doors open and your eyes meet your fiance's, and you are both overwhelmed with joy and tears. Here are a few reasons I prefer a first look:
1. Your walk down the aisle will be over very quickly. While it's a beautiful moment, let me tell you from experience: it's a blur. All eyes are on you. You're focused on walking at the right speed. You're doing your best not to stumble in your new heels. You're trying not to let tears ruin your (very expensive) makeup. It's really hard to soak up the moment because it's such an overwhelming one.
2. It may be hard for your groom to show his true emotions in front of a crowd. I've had brides turn down the idea of a first look because they really want their groom to cry when they see her. I can definitely say from my experience: if your groom is going to cry, it won't matter if he sees you during the ceremony or before. On the contrary, he's more likely to have a bigger, more genuine reaction when it's just the two of you. I've seen grooms with a very stoic expression when their bride walks down the aisle...and it's not because they're unhappy - it's because they're nervous.
3. You will have incredible pictures. As the photographer, my favorite part of the day is the moment the bride and groom slip away from the hustle and bustle and see each other for the first time. The images I get are always some of my favorites. Plus, now that you've seen each other, that frees us up to do some couples portraits before the ceremony!
4. It gives one sweet, intimate moment in an otherwise hectic day.You'd be surprised at how little the bride and groom actually see each other on the wedding day! Not only does doing a first look give you wonderful pictures, it allows you to breathe, talk to your fiancé, share your excitement, and remember what the day is truly about." -Whitney Wysong Photography
"Well, it’s never my place to make this decision for my couple - but I do think it IS my job to educate them on the benefits of both ways. Primarily, a first look can make your wedding day timeline and overall experience much more stress free. Getting to see your fiancé before the ceremony allows you to calm your nerves, share that moment together in private, get extra portraits of you both together, and take care of nearly ALL formal and group photos before the ceremony, so that afterwards you can relax and/or spend more time with your guests at cocktail hour." -Britt Croft Photography
"I’ll celebrate my 5-year anniversary in March 2017, and I still remember that debate like it was yesterday. You see, our wedding date was on daylight savings time. The evening after the most epic dance party of our lives, we gained an hour… which meant that if I wanted portraits in daylight, I needed to do a first look. I had always envisioned walking down the aisle to my soon-to-be-husband with him seeing me for the first time that day, but I knew that I prioritized beautiful portraits more than that vision. And I will tell you: still to this day, both of our favorite memories from our wedding day was that beautiful moment of our first look. We were in a gloriously sunshiney field with horses grazing in the distance, tears filling our eyes, praying together over the lifetime ahead. It was just us, our photographers… and the horses. ;) It’s almost like our little secret, and I’m still so grateful for it to this day! Plus, it eased the nerves in an instant and meant we got to spend so much more time together on our wedding day… and had more portraits because of it! #winwin
However, I also understand and respect the decision of couples to wait for the big moment of walking down the aisle. While the first look didn’t make that moment any less exciting for us, I encourage couples to do exactly what feels right for them! If the first look doesn’t quite fit, then plan ahead and talk to your photographer and venue to choose a ceremony time that will allow for ample time after for gorgeous portraits of the two of you before sunset! Elect for a longer cocktail hour, some tasty passed hors d’oeurves and delicious signature drinks, and your guests will enjoy the party while you capture once in a lifetime memories!" -Lauren Carnes Photography
"We love it either way. A first look can often take off some of the stress of the day, and give you more time “together” on your wedding day. However, we have had brides and grooms wait until an after dark ceremony to see one another and their images are still incredibly beautiful and the moment walking down the aisle is everything that they have ever dreamed it would be. I can’t say that we encourage one over the other, because they both work very well. For our weddings, Marielle did a first look, and Julianne did not. Both wedding were incredibly beautiful. My only suggestion for waiting to take photos until after the ceremony is that some form of a cocktail hour or 30 minutes is nice to keep the guests from waiting." -Mark Williams Studio
Image by Lauren Carnes Photography