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Top 10 considerations for having a first look

As a wedding photographer, one of the questions I get asked most is “should I do a first look?”. My answer, is usually, “it depends” and, well, it truly does (frustrating isn’t it?). There are many factors to consider when figuring out if you should or shouldn’t do a first look on your wedding day. One of the biggest factors I remind my clients of – it’s your day! No one will ever come back and say “I can’t believe they saw each other before the ceremony”, so deciding on whether to do a first look should be between you and your fiancé.

Before I get into the list, what actually is a first look? It’s when you decide to see your fiancé on the wedding day before the ceremony begins. Sometimes it’s a quick visit and other times it can be more involved. There are quite a few different factors to consider when weighing the pros and cons of having one. With that being said, please find the top 10 considerations from a wedding photographer’s perspective when deciding on doing a first look.

  1. Do you WANT to see each other before the ceremony?
  2. Are wedding traditions important to you?
  3. Do you have a special place you’d like to visit on your wedding day?
  4. Are you nervous about your reaction in front of everyone at the ceremony when you see your fiance?
  5. Can you get ready early?
  6. Can you get your family ready early?
  7. Would you like to spend more time with your guests?
  8. What are your feelings about other people seeing you before the wedding?
  9. Do you have a very large photo list?
  10. Would you like to see your reception room before everyone comes in?
  1. Do you WANT to see each other before the ceremony?
    Ok, so while this seems like an obvious question, it’s one that often times doesn’t get answered when initially thinking about having a first look. While wedding traditions are great, most come from simply a different time in our history. The wedding superstition of not seeing each other before the ceremony on your wedding day comes from when arranged marriages were commonplace. It was so the groom to-be would still go thru with the marriage regardless of the bride’s identity or appearance.
  2. Are wedding traditions important to you or your family?
    For some of my clients, the origins of a tradition aren’t important but they enjoy honoring those traditions anyway. Not seeing each other before the ceremony is a great way to build up emotion & anticipation.
  3. Do you have a special place you’d like to visit on your wedding day?
    An opportunity that having a first look gives us is some “off the clock” time you can spend with each other that doesn’t come at the expense of time with your family and friends. One of my favorite suggestions for a location is anyplace that may be special to you (given that it is convenient). Maybe where you had your first date? Where you first met? Etc. Choosing a special location can truly makes your first look or portraits special & unique.
  4. Are you nervous about your reaction in front of everyone at the ceremony when you see your fiance?
    Some clients prefer to not be the center of attention and would prefer to get the butterflies out prior to standing in front of an audience. A first look is a perfect way to have that special one on one time with each other away from the larger crowd.
  5. Can you get ready early?
    This is an often overlooked aspect of having a first look. It does require you to be ready earlier then normal so you have time to meet your fiance. How much depends on your plans of course but you’ll want to check with your hair & makeup artist(s), photographer, transportation, location where you are getting ready and where you plan on having the first look to insure it works with everyone’s schedule.
  6. Can you get your family ready early?
    So this may not make sense to consider at first, but it will. When the happy couple see each other before the ceremony, it gives your photographer a great opportunity to photograph not just the both of you but your families as well. This type of “front loading” requires planning and coordination with everyone but it also frees up time after the ceremony.
  7. Would you like to spend more time with your guests or alone with each other?
    As we finished off above, having a first look gives your photographer the opportunity to photograph the formals and portraits of you and your fiance as well. Once those are done, you’ll find you have some “free time” after the ceremony is done that you can choose what to do with. Some ideas are going to a special location for photos, spending time with family & friends at your cocktail hour, starting your reception early or spending time with each other alone.
  8. What are your feelings about other people seeing you before the wedding?
    One of the biggest considerations I have from my clients are others seeing them before the ceremony. Wedding guests may start to arrive up to an hour before the ceremony. So if your first look is going to be somewhere your wedding guests are (a hotel) or are going to be (your ceremony location), consider how you feel about being seen by others. While there are many ways to mitigate those possibilities, there’s only so many things that can be done to guarantee it won’t happen.
  9. Do you have a very large photo list?
    Do you have a large family, have many important people coming from out of town or just a LOT of friends you want photos of? A first look may be for you. By doing this you can gain some time on the wedding day where you and your photographer can arrange for all of these important photos. The last thing clients (and most photographers) want to do is keep your guests waiting at the reception for hours on end while you are taking photos.
  10. Would you like to see your reception room before everyone comes in?
    Receptions are expensive and consume a LOT of your time in the planning process. With traditional wedding timelines it’s hard to find the time to see your reception venue decked out with flowers, candles and setup to welcome your family and friends. Having a first look can give you a window of time to see everything before the guests arrive.

I hope the above top ten list was helpful in explaining the pros and cons of having a first look. If we missed something, let us know below in the comments! If you’d’ like to chat with us about your becoming your wedding photographers please reach out to us here!

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