Today’s post covers one particular subject that comes up quite often when we meet with potential JWP brides, and it has to do with whether or not you should have first look. We get asked about first looks A LOT and often times it comes from couples who aren’t sure whether they want to do one. Before I go any further, I should probably explain what a first look is for those who haven’t heard of the term before.
A first look is when the bride and groom have a special time early on in their wedding day where they see each other all dressed up for the first time. Hence the name, first look! When couples choose to have a first look, they are foregoing the more traditional concept of waiting to see the bride as she walks down the aisle to the groom during the ceremony.
There are many reasons couples choose to have a first look, and equally as many reasons people choose not to. There’s no right or wrong decision, however we do tend to be Team First Look in most situations.
Here are a few reasons why we think you should do a first look, followed by one reason you shouldn’t!
You get more time together as a couple on your wedding day when you have a first look.
This is the number one reason I recommend all couples consider a first look! When you see each other earlier in the day, you get more time together. And most people who are in love and getting married want to be together, particularly on one of the most significant days for them as a couple, so it just makes sense. Why spend half of the day separated if you don’t need to? It’s so much better when you get to spend time together with the person you love. Your wedding day will go by super fast (trust me!) and it’s so much more fun to live all those great moments TOGETHER!
Less stress and calmer nerves.
If you’re the kind of person that is easily stressed out thinking about everything that is happening on your wedding day (particularly if you’re a Type A DIY planner type!) this is for you. I highly recommend a first look because more likely than not, the one person that will put you at ease is your soon-to-be-spouse. I’ve seen brides instantly relax once they get past having a first look, and it truly changes the way they feel during their wedding day. Being with the person you love impacts your mood, your stress level, and your nerves, so it’s definitely nice to have them involved in more of your day by having a first look.
A calmer groom.
For grooms, this alleviates a LOT of the nerves that happen when standing at the front of the altar with everyone you know staring at you. That’s a pretty intense feeling, and the one nice thing about a first look, is it tends to lower those nerves a bit because you’ve already seen her. (And I’ll get to the objection about “ruining the moment” in just a minute!)
You can actually express your feelings, hug, and talk when you see each other!
My husband and I did not do a first look on our own wedding day. One of the things that was so hard was I got up to the front of the church, and there were 150 people looking at us and a ceremony to begin…and I couldn’t say anything or hug him without feeling embarrassed! We didn’t have a moment to share our feelings and express anything until after our ceremony was over, and then we were being whisked off for all the photos we needed to do (I’ll get to that too!)
While we did have that traditional moment walking down the aisle, I wish we could have had privacy as well. For couples that may be more introverted, this is a huge thing to consider. Having a first look means you get to say how beautiful your bride looks and actually hug her without everyone peering over your shoulder. You are much more free to enjoy that moment together and the “Eeeeek! We’re getting married!” feelings when you have a first look than if you do not.
More time for photos!
I know, I’m a photographer, so I get to say this: for 75% of weddings, having a first look means you get more time for photos since we can start earlier. Instead of cramming everything into 30 minutes after your ceremony like I did on my own wedding day (one of my HUGE regrets) you can take your time, maybe stop at a pretty spot, and not be rushed. I think for couples who want to have a relaxing day, having a first look would contribute greatly to achieving that goal.
You’ll look your best
Having a first look means your portraits are taken earlier in the day when your makeup and hair is fresh. You won’t have messed up hair from hugging everyone and no drippy makeup after sweating half of the day either. Your flowers will also be at their best too! And furthermore, so will your bridal party. If you have a crowd of friends that likes to party, starting photos earlier, before things potentially get out of hand, is a really good idea.
More time with your friends and family
One of the values we share with JWP brides is how important their family and friends are to them. Their parents, best friends, roommates, teachers, longtime friends…the list goes on. These people have impacted your life in a significant way, and we often hear from couples when they inquire with us that they are most excited about celebrating with everyone and just having everyone together. Having a first look means you get to have more time with your guests and even have the opportunity to mingle during cocktail hour!
When NOT to do a first look.
We are always a fan of a first look followed by group photos and family photos, but there are a few specific instances where having a first look isn’t necessary that we want to make sure we cover.
One scenario where we recommend a brief first look yet saving most portraits for after the ceremony is when there is a longer gap between the ceremony and reception. This is most common with Catholic weddings and some Indian weddings. Typically for Catholic weddings, I let couples know that we need about 90 minutes total to complete group portraits with family and bridal party, plus photos of the bride and groom. If your ceremony is at 1 PM and lasts an hour (a pretty common scenario) and you aren’t expected for a grand entrance until 5 or 5:30, that is a LOT of time. So generally, I have couples do most of those photos during that time, and they still get to have time to ride on the party bus or stop at a bar if they would like. May couples still choose to have a first look so they have a special moment together, but it’s briefer than most other wedding day timelines.
While many of our couples do opt to see each other before their ceremony, it is not required and we will absolutely adapt to your preferred sequence for the day. It is YOUR wedding day, after all, and you should be able to enjoy it the way you have always envisioned!