Let me start by saying this is in no way complaining about my clients who chose not to do a first look. Your wedding day is just that, YOURS, and you should do things in exactly the way that feels right to you. This post is more about making sure that you make an educated decision, whatever you choose. So on with the show!
There are lots of strong feeling about whether or not to do a first look. Should the couple see each other before the ceremony or wait until the bride walks down the aisle? I personally am firmly in the first look camp (for reasons I'll explain in a minute) but I totally get why the idea of waiting til the ceremony feels extra magical.
But before you decide that waiting til the ceremony is romantic and first looks are dry and practical, let me show you why having a first look can be one of the best decisions for your whole wedding. Prepare to have your mind BLOWN! ;)
It's Like A Having A Time Machine
When you do a first look, you literally multiply your time. It seems like a small thing but the choice of when to see each other has a snowball effect on the rest of your day. If you wait until the ceremony, you have to fit any photographs that include both the bride and groom into the time between the ceremony and reception. Even with a cocktail hour, you can probably only keep the guests happy for about an hour before you reappear. If you're looking for great full bridal party shots, portraits for both family sides in many different combinations, as well as creative shots of the couple, it's not going to happen in an hour. If you do a first look, you can choose whenever you want photos to be. You could do everything before the wedding and have a quiet moment right after the ceremony, or you could use that time for family photos and make it much easier to get wrangle everyone together.
It's So Romantic
Depending on your personality, meeting your future husband with just the two of you (and a super discreet photographer) can be a lot more romantic than when you're surrounded by a lot of people. I don't know about you, but I'm able to enjoy the moment better when I'm not simultaneously worried about tripping, forgetting my vows, or ugly crying. When it's just the two of you, you can call all the shots and not worry about time or what anyone thinks. So ugly cry all you want because there's plenty of time for makeup touchups, go for a walk together (I might hide in the bushes for pictures), play a special song/read a letter to the other person, or just stand and hug for a really long time. It's totally up to you, and you don't have to worry about Grandma getting photos of you french kissing. ;)
You Get Photos That Are More 'You'
If you do a first look, you're able to be much more relaxed in your portraits. It gives you time to go to another location by yourselves, away from the rest of the craziness of wedding prep, and you don't have to worry about whether or not you're late for anything. And for people that are a little more private about PDA ;), it's a lot easier to be romantic when Aunt Edna isn't standing behind the photographer with her cell phone giving directions. (Believe me, it's happened!) Also when you have that magical extra time, you can get to have more variety in your photos and the walking around, which helps to loosen you up and unfreeze the camera-face-perma-grin back into lovestruck and relaxed.
It Can Beat The Weather
Here in Florida, if we're going to have the weather turn rainy/gray/cloudy/thundering, it's often later in the day. When the couple's portraits are literally the last thing before the reception, you're running a bit of a gamble. Also sun, guys. SUUUUUUNNNN!!! I need it to take beautiful pictures. In fact the word 'photograph' literally means drawing with light. So if the sun sets at 6:20 and your ceremony is done at 5:30, it can be trouble. I have seen too many times where it's been nice all day but the couple's photos have been shortened, uncomfortable or almost non-existent because it was too dark, too wet, or too cold. Even if there's weather earlier in the day, a first look can be moved wherever you need it to be when that bit of sunshine or break in the rain comes. If anything is going to be pushed to the end of the list, I don't want it to be the photos that you'll be hanging on your wall.
It Makes Your Photographer Happy
Let's face it, when you give your photographer more time, you give yourself better photos. When I'm not stressing about how the heck am I going to squeeze in an entire weddings worth of portraits into an hour, I'm able to produce much more creative, emotional work. I really have no problems dealing with whatever challenges come up on a wedding day, but my work is always better when I get more time and less people standing around waiting patiently, or not so patiently, for me to finish.
So yes, I'm biased because doing a first look makes my job WAY easier. Most importantly, though, it's a huge help in making your wedding day go smoothly and helping you to soak up every beautiful minute!
*UPDATE: Since I posted this, I had many comments from brides about this and just wanted to share a couple with you.
"The first look was one of my absolute favorite moments of the entire day! I'm so thankful you encouraged us to do it"
"Ok...I did not expect to be convinced by your argument, but you totally just changed my mind! I want to redo my wedding for MANY reasons, but this adds one more! Ha! It WAS magical seeing my husband for the first time at the end of the aisle, but in hindsight...I think this may be exactly the thing I needed that day."
"Some of my favorite memories from my wedding day were during the photo shoot before the wedding! I loved the first look aspect and I also loved all the extra time hanging out with our bridal party!"
So what do you think? First look or no? Let me know in the comments. :)