Weddings are such a great mix of traditions, beauty, love, and each couple's unique personality. I love wedding photography because it's an opportunity to explore and photograph each of these different aspects. One big part of wedding planning can be that tug and pull between what your family members want and what you want on your wedding day.
It's traditional for the couple to not see each other on the wedding day until the wedding ceremony, but besides the fact that it's tradition there isn't really any other reason to abide by it. And there are plenty of reasons to break with the old, and usher in the new - having a First Look.
A first look is private moment in a secluded, beautiful part of your venue where you and your spouse see each other for the first time, before your ceremony. I absolutely am in love with First Looks. Why?
calm the wedding day nerves
As much as I love seeing a groom standing nervously in front of hundreds of his friends and family members, it can be very uncomfortable for some. Not only that, I've seen a lot of brides breakdown in tears (not of sadness, but of nervousness) before their ceremony and often the best person to console them is their partner!
With a First Look, I get to take my couples to a beautiful area of their venue, away from family and friends. First the groom, positioning him so his bride can walk up behind him, and then when he turns around and sees her for the first time he can really let his emotions comfortably flow. There is no stage fright on his part and the reaction is so much less guarded and his facial expressions are genuine.
After this moment, the couple have a few minutes to themselves - a rare commodity on wedding days. They have a few moments before their ceremony to calm each others nerves, to sit in the beautiful anticipation of their wedding ceremony together.
romantic and beautiful wedding portraits
Being able to select where we do a first look is a huge benefit to the photographs because not only will it be a secluded area where the couple are comfortable letting their emotions show, but it will be an area with great lighting and a beautiful, non-distracting background. Those are all elements I can't control at the ceremony, I just have to hope for the best.
Not only that, but most wedding ceremonies I photograph are in the early evening, so we don't have a whole lot of time to create portraits after the ceremony because the sun is setting. These are some of the most important images captured on your wedding day because these are the images that become Facebook profile photos & cover photos, prints on grandmas fridge, etc. These are the images that people are going to see more than any other from your wedding day and good photography is all about lighting. Ideally, we want to take portraits an hour or two before the sun sets to get the best light - and if you have a sunset ceremony this means the only way to get beautiful portraits of the two of you will if we take them before the ceremony.
Long story short - a first look means beautiful art of you and your partner.
you get to spend more time with your wedding guests
The main reason that I suggest first looks to most of my client's is because it allows them to spend more time on their wedding day with their guests. Typically the wedding begins with the ceremony, and a reception afterward. Taking portraits after your ceremony means taking you away from your guests and taking you away from the party. As much as I love creating beautiful portraits, seeing my clients having fun without worrying about what needs to be done next is how I define a successful wedding.
Doing a First Look means we can do portraits of you and your almost-spouse, and your entire bridal party before the ceremony starts! If your family is all present we can even do family photographs, so after the ceremony it's nothing but part time! Now all wedding are structured differently, and it's important to take that into account, but with the typical wedding timeline a first look is a massive win for your wedding day.
What if I love beautiful wedding portraits, but I also love the tradition?!
Fear not - there are a few options. You don't HAVE to sacrifice beautiful portraits just because you don't want to do a first look.
The first option is to plan your ceremony time accordingly, with enough portrait time afterwards during the best light of day. First figure out the sunset time on your wedding date, and then work backwards from that. If you search on Google the sunset time on your wedding date and location you'll get an exact time and you just need to plan for your ceremony to end at least two hours before that time. For example, if you're getting married March 22nd, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas, Google will let you know that the sun will set at 7:47pm on that day. Two hours before that, at 5:47pm, is when you want your ceremony to end. If you're having a longer ceremony, like a full Catholic ceremony, you'll want to book the church so your ceremony starts between 3:30pm and 4:00pm.
Ceremony venue already booked? Or, perhaps the perfect time slot just isn't available? I have two more options for you. The first depends on how much your trust your partner (and yourself) to not peek. It's possible to do portraits before the ceremony, but without you and your partner seeing each other. It involves very specific placement of you two, promises to not peek, and it's a lot of fun knowing your partner is standing right there, but you can't see them yet. It's a No-Look-First-Look. We get beautiful light to capture portraits in, yes - even portraits of just the two of you, and you can keep with tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony.
Lastly, we can do a day-after shoot. This requires a bit more work on your end, as you'll have to get re-dressed up in your wedding attire, hair and makeup done again, but it's an amazing no-stress photoshoot. You're not worried about rushing to your reception, I'm not worried about losing the light, and for some couples its a great way to include additional locations into their wedding day portraits.