At some point in the planning process, most of my couples ask me “should we do a first look?” You may be surprised to know that my answer isn’t always just “yes” right off the bat. There’s a lot of photographers that not only encourage first looks, but I’ve even heard of photographers that won’t book couples who choose not to do one. This is absolutely insane to me, because you can have a fantastic wedding and fantastic photos without doing a first look. You just have to be mindful about how you schedule other parts of your day, and you have to consider what your priorities are.
The way I explain it is, there are three things:
#1 – That moment of seeing your partner for the first time as they walk down the aisle.
#2 – A ceremony that’s less than 2 hours before sunset.
#3 – The naturally lit, romantic, film portraits you hire me for.
You can only pick two.
If you don’t want to do a first look (#1) and you want naturally lit portraits of your bridal party, family, and yourselves (~40% of your gallery), then your ceremony needs to be at least 2 hours before sunset (3 hours if you’re having a Catholic ceremony).
If you want to have a later ceremony but still want naturally lit portraits, then you need to do a first look.
If you’re locked into a late ceremony and don’t want to do a first look, prepare to have your portraits done with flash. I can make it look good, but it’s not my style and not what you hire me for. Just being honest!
Ok — so now, we’ve established that non-first-look weddings have a place at the table too, as long as other requirements are met. So now, how do you decide?
The simple answer is, do you want that aisle moment, or do you want to do spend more of your wedding day together?
Couples who do a first look get, on average, anywhere from 2-3 more hours together on their wedding day than couples who don’t. If you’re getting married in the summer and your ceremony is at 6 PM…has it hit you yet that on your wedding day, you won’t actually see your person until 6:00 at night? Kinda crazy! Doing a first look simply allows you to spend more time together and more time with just your closest friends (your bridal party) before all your guests descend upon your venue.
The other aspect is – when you do a first look, you generally get to spend more time enjoying your reception. When couples do a first look, we’re usually able to get all wedding party, couple portraits + immediate family portraits done before the ceremony (except for a few minutes of sunset couple photos). That means what would normally take 45 minutes after your ceremony, is now just 15 minutes of extended family photos, and then you get to go enjoy your own cocktail hour and spend more time with your guests.
Now, for a lot of my couples, that aisle moment is one of the top things they’ve been looking forward to about their wedding day, possibly for their whole lives. I’ve had some couples be honest and say they don’t really care about anything else besides that moment. And I respect that! Your wedding should reflect your priorities.
To recap, as you consider a first look, consider your priorities, how you want your wedding day to go, and the logistical details of your wedding. Remember that this is your party and you can plan it how you want to! I’ll be there to celebrate you no matter what you choose.
Want more help crafting your wedding timeline? Check this out!