The First Look

This is a subject I’ve wanted to post about for a long time but when it didn’t happen before our wedding I figured I’d wait until I got the pictures back from our first look to illustrate my point 🙂 All the photos featured were shot by our wedding photographers – the fabulous duo of Daria & Andy Bishop.

This year I have been happily surprised by how many of my couples have opted for a first look. I tell each of them that it is a very personal decision that can only be made by them, but I also educate them on what I feel are the advantages and drawbacks of both scenarios. So here I just wanted to share those thoughts with everyone more formally. Some photographers require a first look but I believe the day should unfold how you want it and thus I leave it up to the couple.

What is a first look?

A first look is the idea of creating a moment before the ceremony where a couple meets for the first time in their full wedding attire. Everyone chooses to do it differently – I’ve seen people escorted by their Fathers to meet their future partners, I’ve seen couples do it in view of the wedding party, parents, and other loved ones, but I’ve found what is most popular is to go off somewhere a little out of the way and have it be a moment truly between the couple about to marry.

What are the advantages?

ENJOY THE MOMENT: Most couples have their ceremony and reception back to back which means once it starts it doesn’t stop until the end! What happened after our ceremony is a bit of a blur to me, but the time I spent with Jeff and the bridal party doing pictures beforehand is all crystal (and happily!) clear. When you see your intended (!) beforehand you really get a chance to fully experience the moment and savor it instead of launching right into the ceremony and greeting your guests.

TIMING – For me this is the biggest (and most practical) reason for seeing each other beforehand. Most couples who take all the photos after the ceremony don’t attend their cocktail hour. Some people don’t mind this, but others really want the time to be with their guests. Basically the more you do before the ceremony, the less there is to do after! I’ve heard many stories of people rushing through the photos post-ceremony in order to get to their cocktail hour and then regretting later they weren’t able to get certain groupings.

Planning an hour or so for photos pre-ceremony means that even if you don’t get all of them done you are probably over halfway there so can always finish up if need be.

Two weeks ago Ty & Lindsay did all of their photos except for three extended family groupings before their ceremony. Two minutes after their ceremony the skies opened and it poured the rest of the night. They are pretty happy they decided to do a first look 🙂

RELAX – There is so much anticipation associated with a wedding that it can be nerve wracking. Before my wedding I was secretly petrified that I would faint out cold during my ceremony (I had a few “incidents” of public fainting in high school). Thankfully I didn’t (but I did have smelling salts on hand just in case!!) but one of the main reasons was when it was time to walk down the aisle I was feeling relaxed – I’d been around the one person who always knows how to calm me down and make me happy for the past hour and I was just excited – it was time to get hitched!

What are the drawbacks?

– You lose “the moment” at the top of the aisle. When you think about your wedding as a child you probably envision that moment when the door opens, you glance down the aisle, and see your future spouse waiting at the end. It’s the stuff fairytales are made of 🙂

Alright I’m sold – how do I make it happen??

Talk to your fiance about how you both envision the moment and brainstorm about where it will happen. Explain to your parents and other loved ones the thought behind your plans. The idea is still very new so some people might need some convincing 🙂 Remember that it is your day! Speak with your photographer and trust their expertise in creating these moments. Enjoy!

Now I want to share the story of how our first look came to be…..

When we first started planning our wedding we both agreed that we were not in favor of a first look – we really wanted to preserve that moment at the top of the aisle. Then as we started attending weddings and I started shooting them more I began to change my mind. When I told Jeff about this he was very skeptical. As untraditional as Jeff is in some ways there are certain things he feels strongly about – and this was one of them. After talking it over and tossing around different scenarios Jeff came to the conclusion that he would be ok with a first look so long as it was truly just us.

My reasons for changing my mind have some to do with what I mentioned above, but I also realized I wanted to be able to focus on the moment of my Dad walking me down the aisle and really savor that.

After thinking of a few different scenarios we decided that we would meet at my Mom’s beach – a place we both love. Andy was photographing Jeff as we were getting ready separately so he drove Jeff down to the beach. Then Daria and I followed in my Mom’s car (my car was deemed too dog hair filled!!).

We had spoken to Daria & Andy about how we saw it unfolding so once we got down there Andy was able to coach Jeff to face the water (no peeking!!) as they both got into position and I made my way down to him.

It was perfect and I had absolutely no regrets about doing it. Jeff and I were able to really see each other, take it in, and enjoy the moment without the eyes of 200 guests on us and launching right into the ceremony. We spent a few minutes on the beach by ourselves and we were really happy that Daria & Andy kept their distance and really gave us the time we needed to process what was happening 🙂 When we were ready we turned to them with big smiles on our faces and started the portraits!

We did portraits by ourselves for half an hour and then met our bridal party away from the ceremony site and got those pictures done as well before the ceremony. By the time we were lining up I was relaxed, happy, and just felt very present and aware of the moment. Walking down the aisle with my Dad I was able to really take it all in instead being a bundle of nerves and it just really set the tone for a relaxed and joy filled celebration.

On to the eye candy – thank you again to Daria & Andy for doing such a wonderful job capturing our first look 🙂

Once again it is a very personal decision and I respect that completely. Equally I see a changing of the tides where in a few more years it will be unusual NOT to do a first look. Only time will tell!

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