Today’s blog post is about the number one thing that my couples ask me about during their consultation – the first look. So many questions surround this part of the day including how it works, how it will change their timeline, etc. Today’s post is full of tips related to a first look and how it can impact your wedding day! I’m sharing the advice I give my own couples PLUS my experience with a first look at my own wedding. I’ve seen it from both sides!
The First Look
First, let me explain exactly how a first look works.
After the couple is dressed and the getting ready part of the day is over, we go straight into individual portraits of each of you. After about 15-20 minutes of that, we find a beautiful location with great lighting AND privacy, bring the couple to this spot (with the groom blindfolded) and position them for a first look. Most of the time the couple hasn’t spoken yet, so a ton of emotions come out during the moments right before the first look happens. (Joy, giggles, tears, and lots of anticipation!)
There are a few ways to do a first look. Three options are having your backs to one another before turning around, the tap on the shoulder, and the “you can look now” cue. Regardless of how it is done, it all unfolds in about the same way! We shoot from a distance in order to give the two of you as much privacy as we can. Other than me letting you know that you can start, we stay quiet during the first look so that it can unfold naturally. Most first looks last about 5-10 minutes before we go into the couples portraits!
During a first look, there won’t be 150 guests looking at you the way they will be during the processional. Instead, it will only be the couple, photographers, and videographers. This is so the moment can be as intimate as possible while still being captured on camera.
I ALWAYS encourage for the first look to be as private as possible so that it can truly be a moment for just the two of you. (This was super important to us, and I’m so glad that we had this private moment. To be honest, I completely forgot our photographers and videographers were even there once it started!) This way, you can enjoy this first moment together on your wedding day without the distraction of other people. You can tell each other just how excited you are to become a married couple! This is something that can only happen without a first look. You can also exchange gifts or vows if you’d rather have that moment be private as well!
A big question from a lot of my couples is whether or not the first look will change how they feel during the processional. For me personally, my first look at my own wedding did not change the ceremony for us at all! My husband and I were still just as excited to see one another when I walked down the aisle. We still both cried during that moment the same way we would have if we hadn’t seen each other yet. (Trust me, we sobbed.) It was so comforting to see him at the end of the aisle and already know how he felt since we’d had time to ourselves before that public moment.
The words we were able to say to one another during our first look wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had one. A first look is a private moment, while the moment where you walk down the aisle is actually the most public moment of the entire day.
One of the biggest perks of having a first look is how it will impact your timeline. Whether you like it or not, wedding days can become chaotic when you’re trying to fit so many portraits into a small chunk of time. When you choose to do a first look, we are able to do up to 100% of your wedding day portraits before your ceremony! (Yes, even family photos!)
At my own wedding, we did our first look, bride + groom portraits, wedding party portraits, and all of our family photos before the ceremony. After the ceremony was over, we took sunset photos of just the two of us while our guests were getting their food and eating. It was so relaxing not having to worry about family or wedding party photos since we had already taken care of them hours before! (Plus, it meant our families got to relax right after the ceremony was over instead of hanging around for photos.)
If my couples leave any photos until after the ceremony, it is usually either all of their family photos or just the extended family photos. Since most of your immediate family members will be at the venue during the getting ready time, it’s typically really easy to do most of your family photos before the ceremony, even without a first look.
If you choose to not do a first look, we will do 50% of your portraits before the ceremony, and 50% after. This is totally doable, but will mean that we will need at least one hour after the ceremony for your family photos, photos of the entire wedding party together, and your bride + groom portraits. (This is why it is SO great to have a cocktail hour – even if you aren’t serving alcohol!) Before the ceremony, we will do any photos possible without the two of you being together, such as the bride with her bridesmaids, the groom with his groomsmen, individual families, etc.
If you want to have a special moment together before the ceremony but you don’t want it to be a first look, there are other options! I’ve had couples decide to speak to one another and pray together before the ceremony begins without the bride being seen, and it’s totally doable. This is a way that you can have a private moment together before the ceremony while still having that “first look” moment as you’re walking down the aisle.
Do What is Best For You
In the end, I let every couple that books me for their wedding day make this decision on their own. If they ask me my opinion, I give them all of the information I’ve listed above, but at the end of the day it is completely their decision! Your wedding day is about you and how you want to start your journey as a married couple. There are perks to having a first look, but if you’ve always wanted that moment to only be when you walk down the aisle, then I completely understand if you want to do a more traditional timeline!
Want more wedding planning tips? Click here!
I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee but available anywhere. If you have questions about booking me for a session or wedding, click here! To follow me on social media, check out my Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.