On the day of your wedding, you would typically avoid seeing your significant other at all costs until the ceremony. If you plan for a first look, you’ll set aside private time before the ceremony to see your future bride/groom for the very first time on your wedding day. In a dramatic moment that makes for emotional wedding images, the first look builds anticipation for an exciting moment without taking away from the excitement and anticipation of your ceremony.
Wedding photographers love the idea of a first look between a bride and groom on their wedding day. We understand that some couples want to see each other the traditional way on their wedding day, but there are some things to consider before making your decision! Why would a bride and groom want to plan to see each other before the ceremony?
When you plan for a first look, you typically add 30% more portrait opportunity in because you have many (if not all) portraits knocked out before the ceremony rather than having to do all of them within your cocktail hour. If you choose to do a first look, you’ll spend time taking photos of you and your soon-to-be husband/wife together. Since you’ve already seen each other, you have the chance to take a ton of portraits before your guests arrive! We can have the bridal party meet you after your portraits are done and get all the formal and fun bridal party photos taken care of, along with some extra formal family photos as well! Doing these images before the ceremony allows you to actually enjoy taking them. There’s no frantic rush to check them off your wedding day shot list, AND you get to hang out with your best friends together.
This way, after your ceremony is complete, with most of the photos finished, you would only have to knock out any additional family formal groupings of relatives or friends that weren’t present earlier in the day, and take some “just married” portraits if you would like. But that’s it! You have the chance to mingle more with your guests and enjoy some of your cocktail hour!
Don’t worry, the ideal wedding day timeline is something I always discuss with my couples during their planning process. I can send along my recommended photography timeline very early on in the process, so long as I know what time you want your ceremony and reception start times to be!
Weddings in the fall and winter have the advantage of all the beautiful autumn colors and unique options for decor and style. However, you have to account for less daylight. So if you exchange vows at 4:00pm in the late fall in Northern Virginia, you’ll have to fit in your bride and groom portraits, bridal party photos, and formal family photos after the ceremony in dwindling light (or potential darkness, depending on the time of year) UNLESS you have your first look before the ceremony and take care of most of the photos then. Of course, we will always accommodate your wedding timeline as best we can. Evening portraits can be beautiful and romantic and we always bring along our own lighting. Just consider your timeline and the sunset time on your wedding day and whether a first look will help your day run a little more smoothly.
Many couples tell us that they felt less pressure after their first look and were able to experience all the excitement while staying in the moment. Your wedding day goes so fast and you’ll often hear from married couples that they felt like their big day flew by! A first look slows down the hurried day and lets you enjoy a few quiet, intimate moments with just you and your significant other. Plus, who is one person you want comforting you when you feel uneasy, nervous or anxious? I can almost bet that your best friend/future spouse ranks at the very top of that list. Being able to see each other privately and settle those nerves without the added pressure of 150 guests watching you can provide an opportunity for a more genuine, authentic reaction.
If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to be the center of attention or gets anxious thinking about standing in front of a group of people (even if those people happen to be your family and friends), a first look can help calm your nerves and relax with your future bride/groom. Truthfully, not all couples will be nervous in the moment, but not all couples would feel comfortable getting emotional in front of an audience!
We all love the photos of the groom’s face when he first sees his bride walking down the aisle. When couples have a first look planned before the wedding, we witness two emotional looks – the moment a bride and groom see each other for the first time with just a handful of people around them, and the moment a bride and groom see each other through their standing guests right before they say, “I do.” In my experience, couples are able to be far less nervous after seeing each other before the ceremony. By the time the ceremony rolls around, everyone is excited and ready to rock those vows out. When the music plays and you come walking down the aisle… the likelihood of you both being overcome with emotion all over again is very high. Both moments are meaningful and photo worthy and neither takes away from the other one.
If you want to loosen up the tight schedule in your wedding timeline, plan for a few private moments with your beloved, or relieve some of the pressure of the ceremony, consider including a first look on your wedding day. If you’re set on seeing your fiancé for the first time during the ceremony, that’s fine, too! As long as you’re planning your wedding to focus on the love between you and your future husband/wife (and hire a professional photographer to photograph your big day), you’re sure to spend the day in anticipation and excitement marrying the love of your life!
Bridal Details Checklist
Unsure of which items to bring for your bridal detail photos? Grab my free guide to make sure you come prepared for your photographer to capture all of those little details.