should you do a "first look"?

It is safe to say that one of my most-asked questions from my couples revolves around whether to do a First Look or wait until the ceremony. People tend to have very strong opinions when it comes to this topic! I enlisted the help of some photographer friends to gain some insight from their perspective, and share some photos.

My contributors were Beki Andreason (Beki Dawn Photography), Marin Rosche (Marin Rosche Photography), and Hillary Lachman-Gardner (Stills by Hill Photography).

Beki says "Many factors play in when deciding to do a first look or waiting to see each other during the ceremony. Some couples have always dreamed of seeing each other the very first time when the bride rounds the corner and the audience all stands admiring her beauty. The groom being brought to tears by the emotions and magic of the moment. Others love the anticipation of standing back to back and counting 1...2...3 and turning around to see their soon-to-be spouse looking better than they could have ever imagined. I love doing First Looks, and I also love the traditional way of waiting until the ceremony.

I totally understand when the couple wants to hold off and wait until they see each other coming down the aisle (that's what we did), but that's not for everyone or every wedding schedule. Light can definitely be a determining factor for which way the couple chooses to first see each other on their wedding day. If there is a late ceremony and it is going to be close to dark by the time we get around to the pictures of just the couple, then I will offer the option on doing a "First Look". Some couples agree and are even more excited about doing the first look. Others want to stick with their original plan and see each other at the alter. Either way is totally fine with me, but I do let them know before hand that if it is dark I will be using flash...which is a totally different look for their pictures. I personally would choose ambient light over flash for any shot that I take, but sometimes you have to work with what you have.

The way I set up a First Look is to have the groom facing towards me with his back to his bride. The bride will come up behind the groom and surprise him with a hug, a sweet nuzzle, or even just a tap on the shoulder. The groom anxiously spins around to take the first look at his stunning bride. It is a very special moment to capture between just the 2 of them without a whole audience staring at them.
So, when it comes to deciding between the 2...I think ultimately either is fine unless lighting or timing is a factor on your wedding day."

Here are some First Look photos from Beki:

Marin- a newlywed herself- says "Perhaps the most significant aspect of a wedding day – the bride and groom seeing one another for the first time.

A First Look allows for the bride and groom to have an intimate, private moment with one another, without distractions or interference. The moment is completely for them, and they are not on display. The anticipation still rivals that of a traditional wedding, as the emotion and initial reactions are still there, though they are not there for the guests to see. After all, the day is for the bride and groom, and no one else, right? Further, formal photos can be “checked off the list”, allowing for the bride and groom to celebrate the rest of the day with their family and friends.

A tradition is a tradition, because it works. The bride walking down the aisle is a vision that warrants incredible emotion, for the groom and the guests alike, and it feeds the anticipation that has been brewing until that very moment. The groom is emotionally involved, the family is emotionally involved, and the friends are emotionally involved. Everyone is invested in that moment. However, when my husband saw me walking down the aisle, undoubtedly, we did not hear the music, or see our guests. We only saw one another – it was like tunnel vision – and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was the best of both worlds; my husband and I had our emotional experience, while our family and friends had theirs.

One might say I am a bit partial to tradition, but every wedding is different, and every wedding is relative to the bride and groom’s style, perspective, how they want to experience the day, and how they want the day to be remembered."

Here are some photos from Marin of a couple who waited until the ceremony:

Hillary says "I always encourage brides to do a first look. A lot of brides follow the old superstition that you should not see each other before the wedding, but I don't think they realize that photographers NEED that time! Not only do photographers need that extra time, but the bride will appreciate it when she sees her pictures that she saw the groom before. I love when I have plenty of time to photograph the couple together, not stressed and rushed to get to the reception, and get those needed shots BEFORE the reception. Then, after the ceremony, (where if you aren't seeing each other you need to cram in not only family pictures but bridal party AND solo bride and groom shots) you are not rushed on time to get everything under the sun in a 50 minute period.

A typical first look will involve communication in making sure the groom is facing me (the photographer). I then have my assistant have the bride walk up behind him and tap him on the shoulder... this is when we capture the "first look."... during a ceremony, it's not always possible to capture the groom's first reaction to seeing his bride for the first time.

Not only for time constraints is it wise to do a first look, but it makes for a beautiful spread in your album along with a fun progress shot in your slideshow."

Here is a progressive First Look collage from Hillary:

I was so glad to get these opinions from some very talented photographers! I do think that this proves that First Looks CAN still have that magical and emotional moment that waiting until the ceremony can; and that the lighting might definitely be something to consider, depending on where in the year your Big Day falls.

For what it's worth, my husband and I waited until the ceremony. For some reason, that tradition was one of the only ones I cared about!


Beki Dawn Photography-

Marin Rosche Photography-

Stills by Hill Photography-