To First Look or Not to First Look?

One of my favorite moments at a wedding is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time, either when she is walking down the aisle or before the ceremony during the first look.   It's a moment of true honesty, whether it's been planned or a natural part of the beginning of the ceremony.    The intimacy and realization after seeing each other in wedding suit and gown for the first time stirs unique feelings in all of us.  It's also a moment, as a photographer, I'm uniquely sensitive to witnessing and capturing.  

I bring a documentation perspective to my wedding photography; I never want to dictate the flow of the day but do always want to shed light on the benefits and drawbacks of different events throughout the day.  There may be something magical in not having a first look prior to wedding and waiting for that first eye contact between the two of you when the bride walks down the aisle. However, a first look, in itself can be its own unique moment.

The first look allows for you to have a private and perhaps a more contemplative moment to fully enjoy each other together before the ceremony and reception.  Looking back on my own wedding day, my wife and I planned a first look and my wife exclaimed that it was a great way for us to start the day together and get a lot of the jitters and anticipation out, which helped her better be present and enjoy the ceremony.

Other than that moment itself (and the wonderful photographs to document it) a first look can have benefits to the flow of the day.  If you're moving directly from ceremony to cocktail hour or having a receiving line, this limits the time you have to get your portraits as a couple as well as getting your family portraits completed.  If you're forgoing a first look you may miss all or most of your cocktail hour completing portraits depending on your expectations for both.  Having the first look prior to the ceremony allows for you to get some great portraits of yourselves and, with planning,  family and bridal party portraits completed.  This way after the ceremony, you can enjoy mingling with guests during cocktail hour at your leisure (isn't this why you invited all your closest friends and family!).

If you are considering a first look, here are a few tips to consider to ensure that it goes smoothly:

Planning Planning Planning - Ensure that you build the first look into your timeline.  Consider the exact time you would like the first look and location.  This should be scheduled on your timeline directly after you're both scheduled to complete getting ready.  As this is typically one of the first events at the wedding, build in adequate time for logistics (i.e. if you're traveling to the location from where you getting ready), as well as a buffer if your getting ready is running behind.  Typically, I would recommend 15 minutes for scheduling a first look, often it is only just a moment, but building in buffer time and a few minutes to just relax together before you start portraits works best.

Location - Start with your preferences and work with your photographer before the wedding day to determine what works best.  Ideally you want a location that has low traffic to ensure that your pictures are free from venue staff, pedestrians (if you’re in the city), arriving wedding guests, etc. and to also ensure an intimate moment between the two of you.   Also, think about the aesthetics of the location to ensure that this beautiful moment is also captured in a place of beauty.

Participants - Some couples prefer this moment to be completely between the two of them, others may invite family and friends to participate and look on.

Although it's a planned moment, be present in the moment and enjoy.  You've been planning and anticipating your wedding for a long time and this is the start of your life together!

 

Allison and Josh share an intimate moment during their first look.

Allison and Josh share an intimate moment during their first look.

W Hoboken Wedding
W Hoboken Wedding
Alyse and Max choose a street location outside the Bowery Hotel for their first look.

Alyse and Max choose a street location outside the Bowery Hotel for their first look.

Bowery Hotel Wedding
The roof of the Andaz hotel in lower Manhattan proved to be a wonderful place for Frankie and Scott's first look.

The roof of the Andaz hotel in lower Manhattan proved to be a wonderful place for Frankie and Scott's first look.

Andaz Wedding New York
One and Only Palmilla Wedding
First looks can also be shared with family and guests, like here under a cool tree in Baja, Mexico

First looks can also be shared with family and guests, like here under a cool tree in Baja, Mexico

Amanda and Daniel had their first look on the gulf club grounds near there ceremony.

Amanda and Daniel had their first look on the gulf club grounds near there ceremony.

Canoe Brook Country Club Wedding New Jersey
Canoe Brook Country Club Wedding New Jersey
A cold December day didn't stop Taylor from enjoying this moment with groom Adam.

A cold December day didn't stop Taylor from enjoying this moment with groom Adam.

Alex with genuine surprise happiness her his and and Emily's wedding in Turks and Caicos

Alex with genuine surprise happiness her his and and Emily's wedding in Turks and Caicos

Gansevoort Turks and Caicos Wedding
Chris sees Bernadette for the first time as she walks down the aisle at the chapel of Forham University. 

Chris sees Bernadette for the first time as she walks down the aisle at the chapel of Forham University. 

Fordam Wedding New York