Should I Do A First Look: A Photographer’s Perspective

February 12, 2019

One of the most challenging dilemmas for couples planning their wedding day is choosing the ‘First Look’ option that is right for them. The First Look is the pivotal moment when the couple sees each other for the first time, dressed in their wedding best on the big day. Whether it happens before or during the ceremony, the moment has all the feels: Fireworks. Relief. Tears. Wonder and amazement. It’s that good.

Should you go the traditional route and wait until the most dramatic moment of the wedding day, the bride’s procession down the aisle? Or do you choose a more private moment before the ceremony? I have heard this debate with almost every couple I work with, and it’s rarely an easy one.

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If you are having THAT CONVERSATION with your beloved now, I can help.

First, keep in mind that a wedding day should ultimately be about the EXPERIENCE a couple wants for themselves and their guests. How do you want to spend your day? Some couples have a powerful connection with family and want to be connected to them throughout the day, off script, with emotion close to the surface. Any time spent away from their people is wasted time. For others, a wedding day is more about the performance of a ceremonial rite, following the established script of tradition. Royal weddings are a perfect example of this approach: every event, each considered detail, is steeped in meaning, gravitas and the commitment to tradition. Whether it’s fun or not is irrelevant.

A large majority of the couples I work with choose to have a First Look moment before the ceremony because it’s a better fit for how they want to EXPERIENCE their day. The ceremony is the pinnacle moment that culminates months of planning and anticipation. As soon as that crescendo has peaked, it’s time to CELEBRATE! These couples prefer to immediately join the revelers and get the festivities started. That’s the EXPERIENCE they most value. They don’t want to leave their guests and and pull family members away from a cocktail hour to spend time taking necessary pictures.

The minority who choose their First Look during the ceremony choose it because that is the experience they value. Weighed in the balance, the impact of that ONE MOMENT (when the bride takes her first step down the aisle) far outweighs the logistical inconvenience of being absent for the cocktail hour. Also, that powerful First Look moment is accessible and on view for the guests, allowing them to participate in that long-awaited moment.

And then, there is the hybrid approach: imagine being together but visually separated from your soul mate, feeling your way around an open door or across the trunk of a tree, reaching out for your love’s hand. Connected only by fingertips, you share an electrifying moment to exchange a love note or have a private prayer just before the ceremony. It’s hybrid experience, with tradition preserved and personal connection accentuated. There’s no better way to ramp up the anticipation factor, give each a shot of encouragement and prepare for that walk down the aisle.

Many times it’s the groom who wants to preserve the impact of the moment looking down the aisle to see his bride appear and move toward him. My experience has been that even when a couple chooses a First Look moment before the ceremony, the moment of her approach at the beginning of the ceremony is never diminished. It still wallops him in the feeler as if it were the first time he has seen her in weeks.

No matter what you decide, as long as you prioritize the way you want to experience that moment and how it fits into the whole day, you will not look back with regret.