4 reasons you should do a first look {wedding planning}

should i do a first look

In case you are unfamiliar with the term, a First Look is when the bride & groom decide to see each other before the ceremony.

Why would or should I do a First Look?

I'm glad you asked. Here are 4 reasons why you should consider doing one.

{First Looks are not for everybody, & I respect any couples' wishes not do one! If you tell me at any point that you are against it, I will not pressure you whatsoever into changing your mind.}

If you're still on the fence or have no strong feelings one way or the other, I do encourage you to consider some of these points.

7 Tips for Photographing a First Look

1 // More photos with your spouse

I’ve seen it happen so many times. The ceremony is over, we’ve made it through the family photos, we’ve done the group photos with the entire bridal party, & we are just now starting photos of you & your new spouse. It is usually around this time when your adrenaline quits running & you realize how tired you are. Your shoes are hurting your feet. You haven’t had any real food today & you are beginning to shake. You think about your 200 guests sitting at the reception waiting for you to arrive so dinner can be served. All of these thoughts just take over & you want to hurry through your photos.  

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking about your guests, remember that this is a once in a lifetime event. You are going to want photos of you & your new spouse. If you suddenly decide to cut your photo time in half from fifteen minutes to seven, you may end up with only a handful of photos to choose from.

However, when we take your photos before the ceremony, none of your guests are even here yet!

Even when my couples decide to do a First Look, I still try to schedule in photos of just the two of them after the ceremony. Three reasons: 1) (You guessed it!) More photos! 2) You're glowing because you are literally newly wed, & 3) you never know when the rain will decide to come, someone has a major wardrobe malfunction, or transportation delays or halts photos altogether prior the ceremony. Having a second time slot for your portraits is always a good idea.

In the weeks leading up to a wedding, I work closely with the bride to make sure we have a schedule that will maximize our few precious hours together. Because the ceremony start time & the reception end time are usually fixed, we end up trying to squeeze all of the photos (family, full bridal party, & the bride & groom portraits) into a one-hour slot after the ceremony for those who don’t want to do a First Look. Sometimes we end up with less than ten minutes for just the bride & groom. First Looks offer so much more breathing room.

If you’re a numbers person, try this on for size. On average this year, my couples that chose to do First Looks walked away with 64 photos, while those who didn’t only had 19.

2 // Great expressions

This is one of the harder points to argue, so I’ll just approach it as an observation. The bride & groom’s expressions are great either way you choose to go, whether it be a private moment before the ceremony or when the chapel doors open. But, I will say that the expressions are different.

Going the traditional route, the bride & groom’s expressions are sometimes more subdued. This could be due to the fact that an audience is present, ceremonies should be treated with reverence, or the ceremony is in a church. The expressions & reactions are very sweet & soft. 

I seriously can't look at this photo & not cry!

I seriously can't look at this photo & not cry!

But, there’s something about First Looks that almost feels like we’re doing something we shouldn’t, like we’re caught with our hand in the cookie jar. When the bride sneaks up behind the groom who then turns around to suddenly see his bride close up, you can bet that one or both will start laughing with a few tears mixed in. These photos are just so full of emotion that no words can describe them.

I remember after one wedding was over, I was transferring all of the photos to my computer before I drove home. I scrolled through their First Look photos & started tearing up. Just then, the groom’s mom walked in & I called her over to look. She started crying. She then turned & ran out into the hallway to get more people. The next thing I know, there are at least fifteen people looking over my shoulder, & we are all crying. Someone kept saying, “That’s such a Chelsea expression!”

first look bride and groom

3 // Can get all formal photos done before the ceremony

At that same wedding, we were able to get every single formal photo taken before the ceremony even started, including the family photos! About an hour before the ceremony started, everyone headed into the chapel for all of the formal family photos. No one was tired yet. No one’s makeup had sweated off yet. No one was itching to go find the AC yet. Everyone was very calm, yet still giddy with excitement for what was about to take place. (It did help that everyone was on time!) When the ceremony was over, I took the bride & groom outside for a few more sunset photos, & then we headed straight to the party. It was magical.

4 // Daylight savings time

One of the biggest details that can get overlooked when picking a wedding date & ceremony time is what time the sun sets, especially if your wedding is during the winter months. In the summer, we can usually keep taking photos outside until 7:30, 8:00 if you don’t have any tall buildings or trees blocking the light. However, in the winter, it gets dark so incredibly early. And when that suns starts to go, it goes fast.

If your wedding is in the winter or late in the evening & you choose NOT to do a First Look, make sure you are ok with having very few or zero outdoor sunlit photos of just you & your spouse. You may have hired your photographer based on his or her beautiful outdoor photos full of sun flares, but if it’s dark, we can’t make those happen.

Yes, your photographer should have flashes or lighting equipment enabling you to still take outdoor photos, but that’s a different blog post entirely.

first look bride and groom

Because I am a photographer & I wholeheartedly agree with all of my own points above (haha), I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do a First Look at my own wedding. But, what I hadn’t really considered was how much more relaxed I would be once that was over. Yes, I was still excited afterwards, but I was able to be more focused & take in the moments of the friends & family around me. There was no more tiptoeing around the venue trying to avoid my future husband.

Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography

Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography

But don’t get me wrong! I still had that Oh my goodness, this is really happening moment when my dad & I turned the corner to walk down the aisle.

This was THE moment I realized that this was not just a day at the office for me. This was MY wedding!  Photo by Kaylynn Marie Photography

This was THE moment I realized that this was not just a day at the office for me. This was MY wedding! Photo by Kaylynn Marie Photography

In the end, your wedding is about you & your future spouse. If you are absolutely positive about keeping things traditional, that is perfectly fine. If you're worried about bad luck, know that my parents saw each other before their wedding & they just celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary. Just sayin'.

7 Tips for Photographing a First Look