A wedding day first look is an excellent way to start your wedding day together and cap off the excitement and anticipation of seeing each other all ready for the first time. Though many couples still opt for the traditional down the aisle first look, many more are opting to see each other before the ceremony in a private moment. This doesn’t have to be a two minute quick moment (though it can be if you want that!), but there are ways to make it a little more special and meaningful. After photographing so many first looks over the past years, I wanted to share some tips on how to make the most of your first look.
Though it’s completely your call, I find private first looks to be best to make the most of your first look. Usually one of the reasons a couple chooses a first look is to curb some anxiety of having that big moment in front of their friends and family at the ceremony. When parents or friends are looking on (sometimes not from a distance either), it can create a performative atmosphere instead of just having that private moment for yourselves. Your photographer and videographer should be shooting with longer lenses to give you the space and privacy you need as well.
Many couples choose to exchange gifts on wedding days, which is a super cute way to make the most of your first look! Sometimes it’s nice to exchange the gifts in person instead of sending them along to be opened during the getting ready part of the day. If you’d like to see your partner’s reaction to your gift, this is a great idea!
Gifts not your thing but love notes are? Make the most of your first look by writing letters to each other to read either out loud or privately during the first look. Sometimes couples choose to do this separately (similar to gift giving) to build anticipation, but it can be really nice to share that moment of reading these letters together. Plus, you can keep the letters and look back on them on each anniversary.
Share personal Vows
Some ceremonies do not allow for personal vows (many religious ceremonies do not allow deviation from their specific ceremony scripts) or perhaps you are not comfortable sharing personal vows in front of your guests. That’s okay! The first look is a great time to read those vows to each other. Marriage is between the two of you anyways so really no one else needs to hear the vows but you two! Usually vows are read aloud to your partner as you face each other. Have some tissues on hand!
Choose a Meaningful Location
It’s not always possible to choose a meaningful location for a first look due to timeline or transportation circumstances, but sometimes it’s possible to decide on a first look location that is meaningful to the two of you. Perhaps it’s where you met (nearby to your venue) or a spot you went on dates. Perhaps you’ll incorporate that location into your portrait session. Either way, it can be really special to appear in your wedding attire for the first time in front of your partner at a location you’ve frequented or is extra special to you both. If that’s not possible, don’t put pressure on yourself, first looks can happen just about anywhere!
First looks can be a great way to ease wedding day jitters and provide a private moment. You don’t NEED to make it any more special than that, but if you want ways to make the most out of your first look, one of the recommendations above are great!
Before I begin, I will first and foremost say, it’s your wedding and you should absolutely do what is right for you as a couple. No matter what anyone says, always do you. As you’ve started to plan your wedding, the question “Should I do a first look at my wedding?” is probably one that has come up after your photographer has asked or your planner is wondering or your mom is wondering how traditional this wedding is going to be.
But first, what is a first look…in case you haven’t heard?
A first look is a planned, private moment between a couple where they can see each other for the first time before the ceremony. Traditionally, the wedding ceremony was the first moment a couple would see each other on the wedding day. Think coming down the aisle. A first look can happen just about anywhere, but always happens before the ceremony.
There are a number of reasons that first looks at weddings are viewed as a positive, growing trend for brides and grooms everywhere. For my couples, about 50 percent (and growing) choose to partake in a first look for a multitude of reasons, many which are listed below.
On a personal note, my husband and I choose to do a first look on our wedding day so I am a bit bias towards them and can tell you exactly how it feels to have that private moment as well as walk down the aisle with everyone watching. When I was considering the question “Should I do a first look at my wedding?” I took everyone else out of the equation and thought about how Josh and I envisioned our wedding day.
What are the reasons for doing a first look at your wedding?
1. It alleviates a lot of nerves and jitters.
Weddings are big events and they can lead to stress and nerves. Sure, you may not be nervous about getting married (or maybe you are!), but having everyone you love there, watching you walk up the aisle, sharing your heart in front of them can be overwhelming when you’re not used to being the center of attention. A first look can calm you down a little since everything isn’t riding on that one “big moment” of walking down the aisle.
2. It’s probably the only time you’ll be alone on your wedding day.
Despite a wedding day being YOUR DAY, it feels like a couple never spends any time alone on the day! I know you have your whole lives to spend together, but it’s nice to have 10 minutes just to take everything in and just say, “hey babe we’re getting MARRIED FOR REAL!”
3. It allows for an intimate moment and raw emotions.
Many people think that first looks ruin the anticipation and emotion of the day. I disagree, especially having done one. I was still nervous for that down the aisle moment in front of my guests. There was still a chance that Josh would cry and I that I would cry during his vows. But a first look allows you to have a private moment that’s intimate and allows you to have whatever emotions you want without 150+ guests watching. For most people, when they’re with their person, it’s a safe space to have a moment focused solely on each other.
4. It gives you more time for photos.
Obviously I am a photographer and I love when I’m granted more time for photos. It’s no secret. But logistically speaking, there’s just more time for a relaxed portrait session or more photos when you have a first look earlier in the day. Sometimes venues don’t have the best photo opportunities on site. A first look makes it easy to travel to a different location and have time to spare. The day feels a lot less rushed.
5. You can participate in cocktail hour/your guests aren’t waiting for you!
One of the coolest parts of doing a first look is actually going to your cocktail hour. After the ceremony, we’ll do family photos and then you’re free to go mingle with your people. The more time you can spend with them, the better in my opinion. In addition, because all of the portraits are done, your guests don’t need to wait in between the ceremony and reception. You could just jump right in!
6. It makes for a more relaxed pace to the day.
Your wedding day will go by fast, I guarantee it. When you do a first look, you allow the day to go at your pace. Photos are done before the ceremony so you can just enjoy the rest of your day alongside your friends and family. This makes it easier to get more documentary coverage of the day and more photos of you with your people.
7. Your hair and makeup will be fresh.
No matter the time of year, it’s nice to take photos when your hair and makeup (that I’m sure you paid a lot for) is completely fresh. A first look allows you to do that. Instead of already sitting in it for 3-4 hours (or more!), we can photograph you right out of the makeup chair. Win-win, especially if you’re getting married in the Michigan summer.
8. It helps to work around bad weather.
Weather happens on wedding days. I’m not afraid of it, but when there’s only a short window for photos following the ceremony, there’s just less flexibility in the day. A first look allows us to be flexible if weather does come up.
9. You spend the day together.
I think this is my favorite reason, and one of the main reasons Josh and I choose to do a first look at our wedding. I wanted to spend my wedding day with my husband, enjoying it together. And that’s what we did. We spent almost the entire day, except when I was getting ready, together. It was fabulous and all of my memories of the day have him in it. If your ceremony is at 5p and you choose not to do a first look, you spend most of the day apart.
So, should I do a first look at my wedding???
Everyone has their own reason for doing or not doing a first look. I respect your reasoning and am happy to serve you either way. I think the most important thing to consider is how you envision spending your day and how you react to anxiety/stress. It is a completely personal decision that you should make as a couple, but I hope I’ve helped answer the question, “Should I do a first look at my wedding?”