One of the biggest decisions I see newly engaged couples struggle to work through during wedding planning is whether to do a first look or go the traditional route of waiting to see each other for the first time at the ceremony. While I’m totally happy to help plan a timeline for whichever option my couples choose, I strongly encourage doing a first look for the following reasons.
Doing a first look lets you get so many more of your group photos done before the ceremony, which means you will be much less stressed by the time you get to say “I do”! That way, once you get to the ‘walking down the aisle’ part of the day, you can truly relax and enjoy the reason you gathered everyone together. Otherwise, you’re more likely to be worrying about how much you still have to accomplish in a short amount of time afterwards while your guests are waiting for you.
Usually if people want to do the traditional timeline, they are hoping for an emotional reaction from the groom when the bride walks down the aisle. However, in my experience, if the groom is the type of person to have an emotional reaction, he will still have one even if you do a first look because the bride walking down the aisle is when it all sets in and finally starts to feel real!
Plus, you’ll still get to capture and enjoy his initial reaction too!
This moment is so special to be able take in the emotion of the day and simply take a breather together after the hustle and bustle of getting ready on time and before the whirlwind of being around so many people. It’s often the only time they truly get to themselves to savor the significance of the day. Right before the first look, I always tell my couples to just pretend I’m not there and I stay farther back with a long lens so they can cherish the moment. If we need to re-pose something afterwards, we always can, but that is THEIR time to enjoy and I try to take more of a ‘fly on the wall’ approach to those few minutes, while still capturing the precious moments to help them remember it forever.
Seeing each other earlier in the day allows much more time for couple photos, full bridal party photos, AND family photos if needed. If photos are one of the things you value most, this is a great way to maximize your time with your photographer, instead of trying to fit family, full bridal party, and ALL of your bride/groom photos (you know, the ones you want the most of!) into one hour during cocktail hour (or less because you have to account for the time it takes to gather family at the beginning and bustle the bride’s dress before getting set to be announced into the reception).
You may not ever have this many of the most special people in your life all together in the same place at the same time again. It’s just the truth! I know for myself that at the end of my wedding day, I wished I’d had more time to spend with my loved ones, many of whom traveled from around the country just to celebrate us! When my couples do a first look, they’ll often do just extended family photos right after the ceremony since everyone is already gathered in one place and it’s easier to round everyone up. Then they have the chance to mingle in cocktail hour and enjoy some relaxed time with their friends and family before hiding away again while guests are seated for the reception.
If you plan on doing the traditional meal, dances, toasts, garter/bouquet tosses, cake cutting, grand exit, etc. there is often so much going on during the reception that it flies by. Cocktail hour is a great time to make sure you get a chance to chat with your favorite people so you can spend more time on the dance floor at the reception!
Whether you decide to do a first look or not, be sure to consult your photographer about your timeline BEFORE you set your ceremony time to make sure there is enough daylight for all the images you desire!
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