It’s an often debated topic, and understandably so. There are a lot of pertinent questions surrounding the decision of whether or not a bride and groom should see each other on their wedding day before their ceremony. Weddings are wrought with tradition. That’s not a bad thing. And traditionally speaking, brides and grooms typically do not see each other before the bride walks down the aisle at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. However, it has becoming more and more common for the bride and groom to do what has become a buzzword in the wedding industry… A “First Look.”
First, let me say that we firmly believe that this decision rests solely upon the bride and groom. We, as the photographers, are there for the predominant reason of telling the story of your wedding day. That story should unfold exactly how you want it to, and our job is to support you in making that happen, and to make creative decisions on how to best document that singular story in a multifaceted way, and in the ordered segments, that make the most sense for YOUR particular story. I have heard of photographers giving their clients the ‘ol hard sell trying to convince them that they know what is best. Be assured, that is not what I’m trying to do here. I am simply laying out a few things to think about when it comes to making that decision. These items are based both on our experience as well as on the many conversations that we’ve had with many different engaged, and newly married, couples.
So, here are a few reasons based upon which we generally recommend that a bride and groom do a “first look” before the ceremony:
1. SCHEDULING A FIRST LOOK CAN LOWER YOUR WEDDING DAY STRESS
Possibly the most important reason is this: A first look can, and almost always does, make the day less stressful for you, and in many cases your parents as well. Since you’d be getting a large chunk of the photography completed before the ceremony, you will gain much leeway when trying to fit events into what can be a very limited window of time between the ceremony and the reception. We almost always still schedule time for a photo session after the ceremony, but if we’ve already had time for photography beforehand, this session can easily be much shorter without sacrificing that particular element of your story. If this secondary photo session is, thus, much shorter, you also don’t have to fret about your guests waiting and waiting for you and your wedding party to arrive at the reception (we all know what happens when Uncle Bob has too much to drink before the food is served).
2. A FIRST LOOK ALLOWS YOU TO DOCUMENT ANOTHER FACET OF YOUR STORY
There’s a marked difference in the emotions of the bride and groom before vs. after the ceremony. Both are amazing, and both are real, and I love to photograph it all, but there is almost always a subtle difference in facial expressions as well as interactions between the bride and groom before the ceremony vs after. I chalk it up to a sort of nervous energy. One has never, in my experience, been diminished by the other, but they are different enough that it’s a pretty great way to document your progression throughout the day and to tell the whole story. There’s a special kind of excitement in the air when you see each other at that moment. There’s the anticipation of becoming husband and wife, yet you’re not married yet. It’s a private moment, without anyone watching… except us :), and one that can be savored for an extended period of time. Most importantly, it’s one more thing that you will never get to do again: be with each other, on your wedding day with no one else around. It is a VERY special moment.
3. EMOTIONAL RESPONSES ARE NEVER DIMINISHED AS A RESULT OF HAVING A FIRST LOOK
Some people, and understandably so, fear that the emotion that will overcome them as they see each other for the first time at the start of the ceremony, will be somewhat diminished due to the fact that they’ve already been together that day. Again, based on my experience (as well as everyone we’ve talked to), I would tell you this: nothing can change that moment. Even though a bride and groom may see each other earlier that day, there is absolutely nothing like watching your bride, soon to be your wife, walk toward you, ready to take you as her husband. And there is nothing like being a bride and walking toward your husband. Nothing changes that moment.
4. ALL SAID AND DONE, A FIRST LOOK GIVES YOU MORE PHOTOGRAPHY
The final, and most obvious, reason is that a first look gives you more photography from your wedding day. Wedding Day timelines are often fairly tight… they often have to be in order to fit everything in that you want to do. There are a lot of important things to schedule in a relatively short period of time. However, when a bride and groom do not see each other before the ceremony, many of those things end up being stacked end-to-end. Without a first look, you’re typically jumping from the ceremony right into family portraits (when all you really want to do is be together and revel in the fact that you’re married). By the time that is said and done, usually your guests are already arriving at the reception. A cocktail hour is a great solution to that, so that your guests don’t have to sit around and wait, but even that puts you on a tight time frame because your guests start to get hungry. And when people drink too much before dinner, you may be in for a different sort of trouble (need I mention Uncle Bob again?). You’re probably looking at about an hour or so window after your done with family photos, before you want to get back to your guests at the reception. Not having been able to take photos with your new husband/wife before the ceremony, that could leave you pretty pressed to get a few images at a great location before you need to be entering your reception.
...Okay, ‘nough said :)
Take it for what it’s worth.. think about it, talk about it with your spouse-to-be, ask others who have been through the process, and by all means, hit us up with a phone call or an email and pick our brains too. We’ve seen it unfold both ways, many times.
If you choose to work with us to capture your wedding day, we will never try and pressure you into something that you don’t want to do. We simply see it as our responsibility to make sure that you receive the absolute best photography of your wedding day as is possible. Part of that, for us, is making sure that all expectations are heard and that they are met to the absolute best of our ability. Regardless, we will work with whatever you decide to do, and the day is going to be amazing either way.