Updated: Feb 24
We're right at the start of wedding season! If you're a couple putting your timeline together either yourself or with your photographer and planner, you might be asking yourself if you should go with a first look or not. When the couples I work with are planning their weddings, I generally try not to have opinions on how they want to do things; it's their day and it should be representative of who they are. However, incorporating a first look is something I feel strongly about for a few reasons. Some couples feel really strongly about wanting to save that first glimpse for the ceremony, and I will never pressure anyone to change their mind if that's them. But if you're on the fence and need some help deciding which way is the best for you, here are my top three reasons you should go with a first look on your wedding day.
1. De-Stress Your Wedding Day
Seriously, it is already hella stressful. It's a long day with a lot of moving pieces and no matter how well organized you are things can fall behind or go awry. Adding in the time for a first look is like adding in buffer time in case things fall a little behind schedule, so then the things after the first look can still be on track. Plus, trying to put couple photos, family photos and wedding party photos into the 1-hour cocktail hour is a lot. It can be done, and I do it a lot, but it goes really fast and can be stressful for all involved as a result of the pace. My preferred way to run the day is to set aside an hour and a half before the ceremony for a first look and wedding party photos, then save the cocktail hour for family photos and any additional couple photos we might not have gotten to if the first look was running late.
2. More Photo Time = More Relaxation Time
This is kind of related to point #1 about de-stressing. With the way I like to break out the portraits into two separate time blocks on each side of the ceremony, it tends to include time to relax before the ceremony and during the cocktail hour because I don't need to use the full time minutes for each segment. For my first look, couple and wedding party photos, I will generally take about 45 minutes to an hour, and I plan for couples have plenty of time to get hidden away before guests arrive and relax a little bit before the ceremony starts. I also usually only take about 30 minutes (sometimes even less!) for family photos during the cocktail hour, so then the couple has time to relax quietly on their own somewhere or they can mingle with their guests at the cocktail hour. This way, the couple actually has some time to spend alone with each other on their wedding day, which can be a rare commodity if it isn't built into the plan!
3. It's a chance to add a new location
Sometimes, the couple, wedding party and I go to a totally different location than the hotel, ceremony or reception site for the first look and wedding party photos. When you know you're going to do one and you're building it into the timeline, you can look around at the locations that are en route between sites or very nearby and plan to have your photos done there. It's really cool to be able to provide that kind of experience for my client couples because it adds a whole different dimension to their wedding story. Sometimes the hotel where you're getting ready or your ceremony site just doesn't allow for a lot of scenic variety, so opting to do a first look at a third location can open up a lot of fun and creative possibilities for your wedding couple portraits and wedding party photos.
BONUS TIP #4
This is definitely more opinion than fact based, but as I was going through images to write this blog post, I noticed how much more expressive my couples are in photos for first looks than in the images of them seeing each other for the first time during their ceremony. Don't get me wrong, I do still get great images of my couples seeing each other for the first time at their ceremony, big smiles, tears, all that good stuff. But something that is noticeably different between those images and first look images is how free people allow themselves to be during a first look. Grooms allow themselves to be less reserved and more expressive with their body language, while brides in general look a little more relaxed. And of course, there's a lot more physical contact between couples in the photos from first looks than during the first time couples see each other at a ceremony. Because during a first look it's just the couple and photographer, they feel much more at ease to hold hands, hug and kiss each other for that moment (whatever feels right!). But at the ceremony, it's much more like a fishbowl and the etiquette of what you're supposed to be doing in that moment is defined. A First Look is YOUR TIME. You can do whatever you want, like my couple Marina & Jake who chose to exchange their self-written vows privately during their First Look instead of during their ceremony.
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