Lots of couples are not sure what exactly is the first look or whether or not they should plan one for their wedding day. Personally, I have a lot of pros and pretty much no cons for this “newer” tradition that we have been seeing more and more in the wedding industry.
To start, let’s explain what exactly a first look is. Traditionally bride and groom get ready in different locations, so they do not see each other in their wedding gowns until the big moment — when the bride walks down the aisle and all eyes are on her, including the ones of her very soon to be husband. Lots of couples like to keep it that way as this is a unique moment and I can certainly understand that point of view!
However, a first look can be much more private and therefore much more emotional. A first look is usually a set-up situation where the groom waits at a beautiful and quiet spot with the back towards the direction where the bride comes from. This can be at your home or in a park or directly at the venue where the ceremony will be held for convenience. As long as it is a spot where you can be just you two (and me) and you can have some moments together right before spending the day with your loved ones.
A first look is always done before the ceremony, right after the getting ready. Here is where a photographer comes in handy as well, as we can manage the whole thing (aka turning the groom away, letting the bride know when she can come, telling the groom over which shoulder he should look so we can perfectly capture their reaction etc.) It is also helpful to have a family member help coordinate.
I also had some of my couples prepare a little text that they would read to each other for the first look, something intimate that is just meant for the ears of the two lovers. This can be a memorable and calming experience right before the big yes!
So as I mentioned before, in my opinion there are pretty much only advantages of a first look. Often times couples are less stressed than in front of hundreds of their friends and family, so the emotion can come out more and I am better able to capture true and raw emotion — the true love in between the couple.
It is also a moment of just the two of you which is rare on a wedding day as there are so many guests and family members that will want to celebrate with you. This is beautiful but can also be exhausting. Being the centre of attention for a full day is not easy for everyone, so a moment of calm before the storm can be a welcome little recharging break.
Having a first look can release some nerves and let some tears out while still having enough time to touch up the make-up before the ceremony.
On top of all of these advantages, you can have your couple photos taken before the ceremony which saves you some time that you can spend celebrating later on. Some of my couples even chose to do a first look and then family photos before the ceremony, so the formal things are out of the way and they could just focus on the party!
Now why would you decide against a first look? I do not have many cons but there are still some and in the end the decision lies of course with the couple. On one hand the couple will have to be ready earlier as you need minimum 30 minutes for a first look. If it is done in another location you will need to calculate travel time as well.
Then there is tradition, which some couples really want to keep and I can totally understand that! Some cultures also do not allow a first look as the ceremony is held different from for example a typical Christian ceremony. There is more 'drama' to it if you decide to see each other for the first time in front of the altar so there are certainly some people that prefer that!
All in all however I really like to recommend a first look to the couples that book with me as I love capturing these intimate moments and the raw emotion that you can get out of there!