Wedding: First Look of the Bride and Groom

First Look of the Bride and Groom

As a bride-to-be recently asked me, “Do you have had a lot of weddings where people take photos of the bride and groom before the actual ceremony?”  She mentioned to me that she was explaining to her fiance the benefit of doing a first look of the bride and groom before the ceremony, but her groom had never heard of doing that.  As couples are planning their wedding day, I thought I would share my personal experience with this topic on a question that is being asked. 

I do have about half of my couples that do a "First Look" or "Couple Moment" of the bride and groom before the wedding ceremony where they see each other prior to the wedding day.  An idea that’s recently become quite popular, it’s a time where the bride and groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day before the ceremony in a private, intimate setting. The other half like to keep the tradition of not seeing each other prior to the wedding day. What is interesting is that the tradition of waiting to see each other when the bride walks down the aisle stems from the days of arranged marriages when brides and grooms would not actually meet each other for the first time until their wedding day.
I have photographed many brides and grooms doing a First Look and also many couples that wait to see each other until the bride walks down the aisle.  Most couples are familiar with the traditional not seeing each other prior to the ceremony, so I don’t have to give as much information on that topic.  However, there are many couples out there that aren’t aware of the benefits of the First Look.  While I do not ever try to persuade my clients to choose one way or another, I like to educate them on what the First Look is all about and provide it as an option. 

Here are three leading reasons I see couples choosing to have a First Look:

  • Ability to share a few private moments when you see each other for the first time on your wedding day

My second photographer and I pick a beautiful private spot with perfect lighting, and we set up the groom with his back turned to the bride. We will get the bride set up so she looks stunning (dress and hair in the perfect spot, bouquet ready, makeup touched up), and then we back away, shoot with long lenses to give them space, and the groom will get to turn around to see his beautiful bride for the first time.  

Wedding days can often be a bit busy, stressful and emotional. The First Look provides the opportunity for the bride and groom to see each other for the first time on the big day without a ton of other people watching and can really help to get rid of any pre-ceremony jitters.  There is a scheduled amount of time for the bride and groom, so we can let the couple relax and enjoy hanging out with each other.  They get to laugh together, cry together, and just be together. The groom will have the space and the freedom to feel his emotions, talk about the day, check out his bride and hold her close. The bride has the time to check out her soon-to-be-hubby, show off her gorgeous dress, and laugh through her tears of joy. It’s all completely private, and completely theirs.  We capture several candid, emotional moments during the First Look simply because we allow time for the couple to relax, feel their emotions, talk about the day, and live in the moment.  As the photographer, my goal is capture the bride and groom’s first moments from a distance, making sure to give the bride and groom their space until they are ready to move forward with their portraits and getting to hang out together for the rest of their wedding day.
  • Be relaxed and enjoy your time after the ceremony

Some couples feel they will be more relaxed if they see each other before the ceremony.  Taking formal pictures pre-ceremony, when everyone's freshly done up and like that special time alone with their beloved calms them for the main event.  When couples see each other before the ceremony we usually get almost all of the photos, including all of the family pictures, completed before the ceremony begins.  This generally makes the time period after the ceremony much more relaxed, as couples are able to focus on spending time with their guests and can even join in with their cocktail hour if they choose.

Without doing a First Look, all family portraits, pictures of the bride and groom with their wedding party, and pictures of the bride and groom together take place after the ceremony, before heading to the reception. Unless planning a large chunk of time in between your ceremony and reception, this time can often feel rushed, generally trying to fit in a whole bunch of pictures into a small amount of time.

  •          More time for creative photography
The First Look provides the opportunity for more relaxed, naturally lit photos of the bride and groom. If you are doing a destination wedding or you have planned special activities for your guests after the ceremony, the overall time spent taking photos of the newlyweds (the newlyweds with their bridal party and family) without a First Look is less than what you could have if your photos were taken before the ceremony. Most couples don’t want to leave their guests waiting around for a long time at their reception site, so the time schedule is generally pretty tight after the ceremony.

Another item to consider, depending on the time of year that your wedding is in and the time you want your ceremony to be, a First Look is sometimes necessary in order to have naturally lit photos of you and your new spouse.  For example, you may want to have the ceremony taking place on a spring day as the sun is setting or planning a winter wedding where sunset in Indiana during the colder months happens around 5:00 or 5:30 pm.

While a First Look is not for everyone, it’s definitely something to consider as you think about what you want the experience on your wedding day to be like.  As I see lots of couples pinning on Pinterest, and wanting specific photos for their wedding day, the more time for photography definitely allows for more creativity. 
Personally speaking, my husband, Dean, and I did choose to have a First Look when we got married six and a half years ago.  This was before the First Look was even a very popular or very widely known concept.  I decided to see him, because of my love of photography and ensuring we got some of the creative pictures I wanted.  It was a personal decision and just helped give more time for us to enjoy each other and our day.  As I walked down the aisle with my dad, I was very nervous and everything went by so fast.  One moment that I remember very vividly from our wedding is the First Look I had with Dean.  I remember the huge hug, talking to him and the feelings I had at that exact moment on our wedding day. 

I have a sister that got married ten years ago that did not see her husband before walking down the aisle.  She says that she saw the moment of Dean and I before the wedding and looking back now, wishes that she had done the First Look.  I have a friend that did not know much about it when they got married four years ago, having never seen it done, and they ended up going back to their photographer and getting more photos of just the two of them in their wedding attire after their wedding because they were really rushed after the ceremony and were not able to get as many photos as they wanted.  Looking back, a First Look probably would have been a better fit for them what they were wanting photo-wise out of their day.
Now, all of that being said, you don’t have to see each other prior to the wedding to get the creative photography.  We provide the best experience and the most beautiful photographs that we possibly can on their wedding day.  Many couples adhere to the not-seeing-each-other custom because they feel it adds excitement and anticipation to the ceremony itself.  They look forward to that ‘walk down the aisle’ moment when the groom sees the bride coming up the aisle. That anticipation of the day and not seeing each other definitely builds throughout the day and walking down the aisle to your man.  Allowing plenty of time prior to the ceremony to do photos of the bride and groom separately with their families and bridal parties will allow capturing some creative photos from the “must-have” photo list and will help with the timing after the ceremony.  
This topic is a personal decision and you have to decide for yourself what works with your wedding day and what is most important to you.  Educate and ask others for their opinions in helping make your decision.  I do not want a bride and groom to go through their wedding day, not know this First Look option and look back to wish they had done it. It's completely up to you two. If you'll be bummed out that you didn’t get a certain picture, then you should consider the First Look.    And if you really want to lay eyes on your man when you walk down the aisle to him, then that is what you should do!   

XXOO, Kristin

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