To First Look Or Not To First Look
January 16, 2018

To First Look Or Not To First Look

To First Look or not to First Look. THAT is the question.

“First Look” is a term that has developed in the modern age of wedding photography to describe the moment when a Bride and Groom see each other on their wedding day before their ceremony. Whether or not to have a First Look is a decision that many couples struggle with. While this is a personal decision that they need to make together, we always try to make sure that our clients are as prepared and educated with their options as possible. We often start out the conversation by asking them if they have their hearts set on not seeing each other until the ceremony. If that describes you, let us share a little background on this tradition.

To First Look Or Not To First Look

In the past, the Groom waited to see his Bride on their wedding day until she walked down the aisle. This tradition originated with arranged marriages. When a couple was chosen for one another they were not allowed to see each other until the ceremony so that they wouldn’t have the chance to back out once they saw what each other looked like. Eek! Not the most romantic beginnings! Even though couples marry for love today, some still like to uphold this tradition. In about 25% of the weddings we photograph, the Bride and Groom choose to wait to see each other until the ceremony. But more and more couples decide to spend more time together on their wedding day… which means seeing each other before the ceremony. We really believe having a First Look is the best option for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:

1. You get a chance to connect with one another before the craziness of the day takes over.

If you don’t see one another before the ceremony, you could easily spend your whole wedding day without getting a chance to talk with the most important person in your life. You see each other during the ceremony, but then you are swept away by the schedule of the day and by the joy and love of your family and friends. If you have a First Look before the ceremony, you are able to have a private moment; a chance to see each other for the first time while you are alone, and to connect in a meaningful way away from the bustle of the day. You are able to react to one another verbally and much more openly because you aren’t standing on display in front of everyone you know. I absolutely LOVE this part of the day when couples first see each other before the ceremony. We are able to capture some amazing emotions as the couple sees each other for the first time and then we walk around the venue shooting portraits of the two of them.

To First Look Or Not To First Look

2. Your stress and anxiety are dissolved before the ceremony.

We’ve observed over 200 couples on their wedding day, and for the most part they all experience some type of anxiety as they prepare in the morning. All of their months of planning have led up to this most important day. The couples who see each other before the ceremony are anxious, but as soon as they see their best friend – get a chance to hug and talk and connect – any stress that they were experiencing completely dissolves. From that point forward, they are completely themselves and at ease as they experience their wedding day. This is something we’ve seen time and time again, and we want this freedom and joy for each of our couples.

3. Portraits will be as quick and painless as possible.

If you see each other before your ceremony, we can get all of your formal portraits out of the way before the ceremony so that you are free to do what you and all your guests really want to do after the ceremony – celebrate and enjoy your cocktail hour/reception! Consider these two options.

Portrait schedule if you see each other before your ceremony:

3 hours before ceremony: First Look and Bride and Groom portraits alone together
2.5 hours before ceremony: Portraits with bridal party
1.5 hour before ceremony: Portraits with families
1/2 hour before ceremony: Completely done with portraits as your guests begin to arrive – giving you time to go inside and freshen up.

Portrait schedule if you don’t see each other before your ceremony:

1.5 hours before ceremony: Portraits of Bride with bridesmaids
1 hour before ceremony: Portraits of Groom with groomsmen
1/2 hour before ceremony: Temporarily done with portraits as your guests begin to arrive – giving you time to go inside and freshen up.
Immediately after ceremony: Portraits of Bride and Groom alone
30 min. after ceremony: Portraits with families
1 hour after ceremony: Portraits of bridal party
1.5 hours after ceremony: Completely done with portraits

As you can see, portraits can be taken care of before the ceremony in 2-3 hours. If you don’t see each other before the ceremony, portrait time will take up 2.5 hours of your day. In addition to the quantity of time being extended, the stress is also heightened when portraits are held off until after the ceremony. Gathering people before the ceremony is easily done through good communication before the wedding day. There are no additional guests present to work around. After the ceremony, all of your guests will just want to love on you and congratulate you… and get to the bar. It makes gathering family for portraits SO much more difficult. So many times during portraits after the ceremony, no one can find uncle Bob. Time is wasted gathering people, and the photographer has a hard time getting everyone’s attention to accomplish the task at hand. It’s just more stressful on everyone. And notice that in the sample timeline with a First Look that the Bride and Groom get to actually enjoy the cocktail hour WITH their guests.

To First Look Or Not To First Look

4. You can plan your wedding near sunset.

So many brides and grooms want a sunset wedding. But natural light is vital for quality portraits. If you take care of all of the portraits before the ceremony, you have the flexibility to plan your wedding near sunset. No natural light is needed after the ceremony. If you wait to see each other, that’s ok, just plan your wedding earlier in the day so that there is at least 2 hours of daylight post-ceremony for your portraits.

These are some of the ways in which the decision of whether to have a First Look or not can greatly affect your photography. But photography aside, we really believe that these factors also affect your stress level and general enjoyment of the day. When we talk with Brides and Grooms about the options, we’re really keeping their best interests in mind.

If you are planning your wedding, we hope that we’ve shed a little light on the subject and helped you to decide whether or not a First Look is for you!

About Adam and Keli

Creative. Clean. Different. We are a team of creatives in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky with a passion for storytelling. Founded in 2006, our studio has been recognized as one of the best wedding photographers in Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky by various publications, websites, and groups. We’d love to show you our studio and walk you through our albums, canvases and other print photography products. We can also provide more information on our Wedding Collections and introduce you to our team! We’d love to help, connect with us now.

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