To look or not to look. THAT is the question.
"First look" is a term that has developed in the modern age of wedding photography to describe the moment when a the couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day prior to their ceremony. Whether or not to have a first look is a decision that many couples struggle with. While this is a personal decision that they need to make together, we always try to make sure that my clients are as prepared and educated with their options as possible.
Consider whether you have your hearts set on not seeing each other until the ceremony. If you are more traditional in this sense, let us hare a little background with you on this tradition.
In the past, the groom waited to see his bride on the wedding day, with his first look as she walked down the aisle. This tradition originated with arranged marriages. When a couple was chosen for one another they were not allowed to see each other until the ceremony so that they wouldn't have the chance to back out once they saw what the other looked like. Not the most romantic origin, if you ask us. Even though couples marry for love today, some still prefer to uphold this tradition. These days, about 25% the couples we plan weddings for choose to wait until the ceremony. However, more and more couples are deciding to spend more time together on their wedding day. This means seeing each other beforehand. If you chose this option, here are some positives for you to focus on:
1. You get a chance to connect with one another before the craziness of the day takes over.
If you don't see one another before the ceremony, you could easily spend your whole wedding day without getting a chance to share a few words or intimate moments with the most important person in your life. You will see each other during the ceremony, but then you are both swept away by the schedule of the day and by the joy and love of your family and friends. If you choose to have a first look before the ceremony, you are able to have that private moment together. This will be a chance to see each other for the first time while you are alone, and to connect in a meaningful way away from the bustle of the day. You are able to react to one another verbally and much more openly because you aren't standing on display in front of everyone you know.
2. Your stress and anxiety are dissolved before the ceremony.
With nearly all couples, we find that they experience some type of anxiety as they prepare in the morning. All of their months of planning have led up to this single most important day. The couples who see each other before the ceremony are anxious, but as soon as they see their best friend, the love of their life, they have a a chance to hug, talk, and connect, any stress that they were experiencing completely dissolves. From that point forward, they are completely themselves. They are at ease as they experience their wedding day together.
3. Your portraits will be as quick and painless as possible.
If you choose to see each other before your ceremony, you now have the option to get all of your formal portraits taken care of prior to the ceremony so that you are free to do what you and all your guests really want to do after the ceremony... CELEBRATE!
This can also be a large stress reliever for you and your new spouse. By having additional time beforehand to photograph many of the images on your shot list, you avoid the heightened stress many couples find themselves dealing with when portraits are held off until after the ceremony. Gathering people before the ceremony is easily done through good communication before the wedding day. There are no additional guests present to work around. After the ceremony, however, all of your guests will just want to love on you and congratulate you and get to the bar. It makes gathering family for portraits considerably more difficult. Time will be wasted gathering people, and your photographer will have a difficult time getting everyone's attention to accomplish the task at hand. And honestly, wouldn't you rather enjoy your cocktail hour WITH their your guests?
4. You can plan your wedding near sunset.
So many couples want their ceremony to be held at sunset. Keep in mind, though, that natural light is vital for quality portraits. If you take care of all of your portraits before your ceremony, you have the flexibility to plan your wedding near or even at sunset. Natural light will not be needed after the ceremony. If you wait to see each other, that's ok, just plan your wedding earlier in the day so that there is at least 2 hours of daylight post-ceremony for your portraits.
These are some of the ways in which the decision of whether to have a first look or not can greatly affect your photography. But photography aside, we also truly believe that these factors can also have a major impact on your stress level and general enjoyment of the day. Keeping your best interests in mind and choose what is right for the two of you. Try to not let family members sway your decision if you chose the more non-traditional route of a first look. With all that said, keep in mind that the majority of photographers will encourage you to have a first look but we are here to reassure you that it is ok to say NO if it is really not for you. Don't let vendors sway you into doing something you truly do not want to do. What you really want is to have a traditional "no-peaking-until-I-walk-that-aisle" then we support your decision. Good photographers can work with these circumstances just so long as they are given additional time for pictures after the ceremony. Yes, the sun light may not be perfect, but again, they can make it work.
Here are some great alternatives to the "First Look" & traditional "No Peeking".
1. Meet you beloved behind a door.
You have probably seen this on Pinterest, but there is no denying it is such a sweet time for the bride & groom. They can hold hands and just breathe together. It gives them a quiet moment to speak, pray, or share a laugh.
2. Have a First Look with Your Father.
This can be so sweet especially if your Dad has not seen you in your dress yet. I promise, your father's reaction will be priceless! But be forewarned, you might have to keep each other laughing hold back the tears. This is always such a sweet moment.
3. Blindfold the Groom.
You can still have that private moment to talk, pray and even hold each other prior to meeting at the alter. You can still have that moment where all your fears and anxieties of the day will simply slip away, while at the same time preserving that moment when your future spouse sees you coming down the aisle. This can be one of the most meaningful moments of your lives.
4. Send each other a letter or short video.
We planned a wedding for a lovely couple where the groom texted a short video he shot on his iPhone for the bride. She watched it and by the end, everyone in the room with her was crying! She was so excited to see him and hear how excited he was for the big day!
5. Do a timed first look.
Have your photographer you both only a handful of minutes together before separating you again. This way, it still keeps your excitement and anticipation up! You will still have a chance to snap some pictures and see each other before the ceremony.