What is a first look? Should we do one? These questions are common and can often be rough waters to navigate, especially when it comes to more traditional couples (and of course their parents). While I would never try to sway you one direction or the other (this is your day, own it), I can certainly give some insight on what a first look typically entails. From there, hopefully you will be better informed to make the decision that's best for you!
What is a first look? To answer this question simply, a first look is when a couple opts to see each other prior to the actual wedding ceremony. I know what you're thinking, Mother of the Bride. Really, I do. I didn't do a first look on my wedding day, so I totally get it. I wanted the element of surprise at the altar and I am all about traditions if they are important to you.
Should we do a first look? Well, that's a little more difficult to answer. I always let my clients decide how their day will unfold, and while I do help them with a timeline, I very rarely suggest a first look. That's not to say that I don't enjoy them; they can be extremely helpful in the right situation; but I don't ever want to be telling my clients how their day should look. It's your day. Own it. I am perfectly happy with whatever decision you choose, as long as it's the right decision for you.
While I don't want to interfere with the way you envision your day, of course I do have some insight on the matter since I've seen both scenarios play out over the course of the past seasons. Below, I'll list some of the pros and cons of doing a first look and let you make the decision for yourself!
- You get to see each other before the chaos. I have seen this happen and honestly, every time it is absolutely beautiful. You see each other without hundreds of people staring at you. You see each other while you're both fresh faced and excited and peaceful.
- You can get any pre-wedding nerves or anxiousness out. I have some clients who opt to do a first look because they want that comforting embrace before walking down the aisle and just a little time to themselves.
- You can exchange gifts in person. Many of my couples exchange a little gift with each other prior to the wedding. While you don't need to see each other to do this, some couples prefer to do it this way!
- If you're probably going to shed some tears when you see each other, you'll have some time to recoup and freshen up before seeing your guests.
- You'll likely have more time for portraits. Immediately following a first look, most of my clients choose to do portraits to free some time following the ceremony, and perhaps even attend cocktail hour.
- You will have time to be in the moment with one another. I never thought I would be the one to say this, but on my own wedding day, my favorite part of the day, hands down, was the time during which my husband and I did our portraits together. It was just the two of us and one bridesmaid to help with my dress and any touchups. It was quiet. We got to talk a little and just be together without distraction. Some couples don't get this when everything is crammed into one hour between the ceremony and reception, and sometimes if they do, it's done in fast forward and can be stressful.
- You get to control your environment. You can choose where you want the first look to happen. It can be somewhere outside, in a gorgeous room; anywhere. More often than not, you cannot control lighting and location for your ceremony, but you can control where a first look takes place.
- Daylight. Are you having a winter wedding? Chances are, unless you are starting your ceremony at 12 noon, you are going to be running into some daylight issues. To be perfectly honest, I believe I excel with natural light scenarios and that much of my portfolio showcases my love for the outdoors. If you would like outdoor portraits when daylight hours are hard to come by, a first look can allow you to get outside and get some beautiful natural light portraits before the sun goes down.
The Not So Good
- You'll likely need to start getting ready earlier, be in your dress longer, etc.
- The morning of the wedding might not be as relaxing in terms of you hanging out with your respective wedding party. While you might have more time relaxing with your spouse, you'll potentially lose out on time with your girls/parents/etc prior to walking down the aisle.
- You won't actually be married in any portraits you do prior to the ceremony. This is a big deal to some people, others don't care. You won't actually be wearing wedding bands in your photos. Will you feel strangely about that? It's all up to you.
- You're traditional and the idea of seeing your spouse before the wedding just doesn't seem fitting. I can find a way to make portraits work, even in limited light. I don't want you to make a decision you might regret!
- Maybe you're extremely nervous about seeing your spouse for the first time, and you really don't want to be alone with a camera. Some couples can be awkward and shy. Maybe having more people around the first time you walk down the aisle makes you more comfortable. That's fine, too. We're all different!
- If hair/makeup/etc is running late on the wedding day, chances are, the first look will be the thing that gets cut. If you had your heart set on a first look and we are behind schedule and did not plan time after the ceremony for portraits, we might get into a sticky situation. The first look is always the thing that will get cut, so the ceremony runs on time, which can be stressful.
- There's a potential for the dress to get dirty. While I always try to be extremely careful with a bride during a first look or any other shots involving the dress prior to the ceremony, of course there is always the risk that the dress will get dirty. For someone having an outdoor wedding, this might be less of an issue since as soon as you walk outside, the dress will likely get dirty anyhow. Some brides would prefer a clean dress for portraits, others want to walk down the aisle of their church with a pristine gown. It's all a matter of preference.
What Clients are saying:
"Choosing to do a “first look” with my soon-to-be husband was one of my most memorable moments on our wedding day. We were both overwhelmed with excitement and emotion, and knew how quickly the day would pass by while celebrating with our many family and friends. Seeing one another before our ceremony was incredibly intimate and extraordinary. It was as if time stood still when it was just the two of us, even if only for a few moments. After privately sharing our laughs, happy tears, and releasing pre-wedding jitters, we both felt relaxed and ready to take on our blissful day." - Jamie
"As for our choice to not do a first look, that was more of Jacob's wishes. I was torn 50/50. He wanted to have that special moment of seeing me come down the isle towards him. Looking back, I'm glad we did it that way. We locked eyes and it felt like all my nerves of having everybody watching us/me walk were washed away and I honestly felt like it was just he and I together during the entire ceremony." - Lynette
"Being that I have always valued a traditional wedding, I never even considered having a First Look. I had always dreamed that the first time I would see my future husband on our wedding day would be as I was walking down the aisle. Then the reality of wedding planning and time restraints began to hit me. This was supposed to be the most important day of our lives - I wanted as much documented of the two of us as possible. Nicole suggested a First Look, and quite honestly I wasn't thrilled, but I decided logistically it would be the best decision. Let me tell you, the First Look was the highlight of our day. We both valued the few private moments we shared prior to the ceremony to see each other, express our excitement, exchange gifts, and say a quick prayer. Nicole captured our expressions, tears, and laughter so beautifully. I now encourage every bride-to-be to consider a First Look, it was one the best decisions we could have made." - Emily
So you see, there is no right or wrong way of doing things. Each couple is unique and so whatever works for you is perfect in it's own way. After all, it's not my day. It's your day. I'm here to document it the way you dream it.
Nicole DuMond is a wedding and portrait photographer based in the rolling hills of Stillwater, Pennsylvania and serving the surrounding areas of Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania, including Bloomsburg, Benton, Berwick, Red Rock, Stillwater, Danville, Lewisburg, Hunlock Creek, Sweet Valley, and surrounding areas. Nicole is also available for limited travel along the East Coast & Worldwide.
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