There is one moment of the wedding day all brides and grooms look forward to - the moment they see each other for the first time. This moment happens in so many different ways with varying degrees of tears and tradition but one thing remains consistent, there is no replacing the electricity (and the photos) of this once in a lifetime experience.
The new tradition of seeing each other before the ceremony is called "the first look." Some will say it's bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony and many people look forward with anticipation to the public first look offered by walking down the aisle. But as wedding days have gotten longer and guests' attention spans have gotten shorter the traditional wedding timeline has undergone some modernization. Now most guests are baffled by a long break between ceremony and reception, especially if your ceremony and reception are held in the same location. I'm not sure who the first brave souls were that bucked tradition and started their wedding day with a private "first look" moment, but I offer them my sincere thanks. Here are my positives and negatives for this wedding day choice.
1. You get to experience a real private moment. For most couples, this is the only time they spend together all day. Also, you can cry as much as you want because your stylist is still around and prepared to reapply the mascara.
2. You actually get two big entrances! The bride still gets to walk down the aisle on the arm of her father. Your guests still get to see her for the first time as you make the walk of commitment towards each other. Double the moments, double the sensation, double the awesome photo opts.
3. You go into your ceremony UNITED. You've talked, gotten out your jitters and calmed down. I can't tell you how many couples were nervous wrecks right up until the moment they saw each other for the first time. I love seeing my brides and grooms exhale and grin like crazy when they final get to be with the one they love. After the first look, the ceremony is a piece of cake.
4. There is more time for photos! This is a super selfish reason to love a first look, but one I find benefits the couple and their wedding party immensely. After we capture a beautiful moment between the two of you, I usually head into the "romantics," those weddings photos you're going to hang on your wall, make your Facebook photo and generally adore for the rest of time. Doing these photos ahead of times allows us to take exactly as much time as we need and not be rushed. We also take your bridal party photos during this time, ensuring that the groomsmen can take off their tie get to the bar as soon as they've exited the ceremony. Everyone wins!
5. There is no need for a receiving line because you'll be at the cocktail hour! This timeline allows for maximum attention to be paid to your guests on the biggest day of your life together.
I've got to be honest. There are very few negatives to the first look from a photographers perspective, but I will outline some objections I've heard throughout the years.
1. It goes against tradition. For many grooms, that's right, this objection is almost always coming from the groom, seeing their bride walk down the aisle for the first time is the ONLY wedding detail they've imagined. They haven't thought about the dress, the cake or table favors. They have thought about their bride, walking arm and arm with her father towards him. I tell my couples all the time that the first look still feels special and exhilarating, and I've NEVER had a couple regretted their choice to take the more modern route, but some men have their hearts set. And what the heart wants, well you get my meaning.
Ok- so this is the only negative I could come up with, but it is completely legitimate and must be paid attention to. At the end of the day, gut feeling and a bit of scheduling are most likely going to make this decision for you. If a first look seems like the best approach to maximize photo opts and guest mingling time. then lean into it. Think of it as the only time that day you'll get to be alone together. Well, not completely alone. I'm there, but I've got my long lens on and I'm not saying a word. So you go ahead and cry if you want to.
A note from Tim:
"I forgot how totally awesome I look in these pictures. Kristen looked okay too I guess...
Obviously Whitney already knows we loved all of our pictures, and I know we both enjoyed the first look segment - though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a nervous wreck throughout the ordeal. Probably can't see it on my face though because we were just having fun with it. Neither of us were really set on observing most of the normal wedding traditions aside from having a great time (and of course having it arftully documented), and I always thought this one was weird anyway, so no argument or coaxing needed. The most important thing I learned from my own wedding was just that - it's our own wedding. Just do what you feel comfortable doing and let everyone else do the worrying about whether the appropriate niceties and pomp are attended to. *steps off soapbox* Having supremely easygoing and understanding parents on both sides is always a plus, of course.
Anyway, we loved our pictures, had tons of fun with the first look, and I agree with all of the points in the blog post both positive and negative. Thanks again Whitney!
A note from Celia:
As I am sure you'll recall, I was initially dead set against the idea. I am so eternally grateful that you (ever so gently!) talked us into doing this, and will happily testify to any of your new brides who might be on the fence - this was, without a doubt, one of the most treasured highlights of our entire wedding day experience. But here's a real question for the pro: Will viewing your coverage of our "first look" ever STOP making me cry? To my friends and family who are currently planning their weddings: Please check out this blog post and consider allowing your photographer to capture your "first look!"