First looks are becoming more and more mainstream for wedding days as couples are prioritizing their own visions for their wedding day over other traditions their families may have followed in the past. They are an awesome option for couples who want to spend more time together on their wedding day and also are looking for a wider variety of portraits throughout. Should you have a first look on YOUR wedding day though?
First looks aren’t for everyone, it really comes down to what you want the structure of your wedding day to look like and your personal preferences, which is why I am breaking down the different things to think about when deciding if you want a first look on your wedding day.
A first look is a time set aside on a wedding day for the soon-to-be newlyweds to see each other for the first time before heading to their ceremony. Most of the time couples will do their first look after they are dressed and ready for the ceremony and follow their first look with some couples portraits with their photographer.
Here are the pros to both First Look and Non First Look Wedding Days
There are a lot of different emotions that you will feel throughout your wedding day. With having a first look, you are able to break up your photos throughout your wedding day. This means you’ll capture a variety of emotions between you and your spouse, and you’re going to be able to have quite a few more photos other than the traditional smile at the camera and walk dramatically into the sunset ones.
Though your wedding party will have to start their day a little earlier, they will be able to let loose and be done with their general responsibilities as soon as your ceremony is over. They will be able to hang with other guests, get a couple of drinks and be a part of the party as soon as y’all say I do!
For some people, the idea of seeing your spouse for the first time on your wedding day with 100 people staring at you is less than ideal. Having a first look allows you to see your partner before the festivities of your day begin and allows you to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling without holding back.
If you opt to have a first look on your wedding day, we will need about 1.5 hours before the ceremony depending on travel. You’ll want to let your hair and make-up artist(s) know what time you and your wedding party will need to be ready to leave.
When you have a first look scheduled for your wedding day, I generally suggest having a second shooter for a few hours during this time. That way I can hang with one of you and my second photographer will hang with your partner throughout the morning and then once we meet all together for your first look we are able to capture both of your emotions as you see each other for the first time. For an in-depth look at a wedding day timeline check out my timeline breakdown here.
Without a first look, most couples usually end up going most of their wedding day without seeing their spouse. If you also spend the night away from each other you end up REALLY building up to the point when you do finally see each other walking down the aisle. This can end up creating a lot of emotional build-up and excitement for when you get to see one another which is a LOT of fun.
With you not having to be ready until your ceremony, you and your partner will not have to start the getting ready process as early. You and your wedding party will be able to sleep in and start your wedding day only a few hours before your ceremony or get up reasonably early to really take your time getting ready.
If you envision sharing the first moment you see one another surrounded by family and friends, you’re going to want to wait until your ceremony to see each other on your wedding day. Surrounded by friends and family as you or your spouse walk down the aisle before you say yes to forever can be a SUPER emotional moment, and a great option if you envision your family being there for that.
Depending on your ceremony setup, you may need two photographers. In most cases, I will be at the front of the aisle with my camera pointed first at the partner standing at the end of the aisle and then next on the partner walking down the aisle. If you have a second shooter though, we can have a camera on both partners at the same time in order to capture both reactions.
Following the ceremony, between your family photos, wedding party photos, and couples portraits, you’ll want to plan for around 2 hours to photograph everything. During this time your guests will more than likely travel to and enjoy cocktail hour and get seated for your grand entrance and mingle amongst one another until you’re done and ready for the rest of your evening.
Amanda and Kraig spent their mornings getting ready for their wedding parties. Amanda at a local hotel with her bridesmaids and Kraig at his best friend’s house with his groomsmen. Opting for a first look on their wedding day, we met at a local forest preserve about 5 minutes away from Kraigs getting ready location. Kraig arrived first and I had my second shooter position him so that he was facing away from the entrance that Amanda was coming in on.
Filled with nerves and excitement Amanda hopped out of her car and walked up behind Kraig to see him for the first time on their wedding day. We let Kraig know that when Amanda walked up and touched his shoulder he would be good to turn around and see his bride for the first time.
I had my second shooter standing a couple of yards away from the two facing Amanda, while I was on the other side a couple of yards away facing Kraig. This setup allows for Amanda and Kraig to have a moment of time alone together while still capturing the moment for them to look back on in their wedding album for years to come. I like to give my couples some space on their wedding day for them to experience this time together. It’s often the only time during a wedding day that a couple will have alone.
After they spent some time together we called over their wedding party who were waiting by their vehicles and took their wedding party photos. Once we had plenty of wedding party photos we asked their wedding party to head back to their vehicles and we spent some time grabbing some portraits of Amanda and Kraig before heading over to their ceremony.
Laura and Kevin opted not to have a first look on their wedding day. They spent their mornings getting ready with their wedding party a couple of hours before the ceremony. Upon arriving at their ceremony location we were careful to make sure they didn’t cross paths so that they would not see each other before the ceremony.
Kevin greeted some guests and then once it was time for their ceremony he went ahead and stationed himself at the end of the aisle while he waited for his bride to walk in. Laura entered the ceremony space inside the church where they shared their first look surrounded by friends and family.
After their ceremony we did their family photos almost immediately inside the church, then went off with their wedding party to take some portraits and wedding party photos outside of their ceremony location while they got ready to head over to the reception.
We spent about 20 minutes taking wedding party photos before they left to get ready for the session, and then we spent another 20 minutes or so taking couples portraits for Laura and Kevin outside the Church. As this was their first time alone together as newlyweds I also made sure that they had a few moments truly alone together before we headed back into their venue so we could take some more couples portraits on the Golf Course.
Ultimately when it comes down to it there isn’t really a right or wrong answer to whether or not you should have a first look. It’s Important to talk with your soon to be spouse about what you both envision for your wedding day. Do you want your first moments to be all to yourselves or do you want to share that moment with your closest friends and family at your ceremony? Whatever you end up choosing make sure it’s totally you and something you both want!
If neither of these options really feel like you The Knot has a great article of some first look alternatives that you can check out to help get your inspiration flowing.
an illinois Boudoir and Wedding photographer based in bloomington, Il.
Available for travel throughout Chicago, Peoria, and the midwest!