The first time a couple sees each other on their wedding is magical- whether it is during the ceremony or before hand. I cry EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. – even if I don’t know the couple!
A first look has become increasingly popular for weddings, as it allows the bride and groom to enjoy their cocktail hour with their guests and it cuts down on the time dedicated to pictures after the ceremony. I may be in the minority, but I am not a huge fan of the first look. I am a bit of a traditionalist in that I love that moment when the church door opens and the couple locks eyes for the first time. As a stylist, I am also protective of the gown. I am always concerned that the gown will get dirty during the first look and portraits and that it won’t be pristine for the first time that the guests see the bride.
My suggestion is that if you opt to do a first look, either hire a bridal dresser or assign a member of your bridal party to be on ‘dress duty’. They should ensure that the train is being held off of the ground right up until the couple is about to meet and in between portraits to avoid it getting stepped on and soiled. If the bride’s gown is made of a fabric that wrinkles easily, she should remain standing (unless she needs to ride in the limo to the ceremony location). There should be an emergency kit available that contains needle and thread, stain remover (we love coffee wipes), double sided tape, a lint brush and baby powder (great for oily stains, like lipstick) to alleviate any fashion mishaps before the ceremony.
I reached out to some of the industry’s best to get their opinion on the topic. Here are their thoughts:
Image by Christopher Capozziello
Photographer, Steve Depino, does not just have one reason that he feels couples should do a first look…he has several:
“I’m not so untraditional that I can’t understand why a couple may not want to do a first look. They have a vision of the way their wedding day unfolds and the idea of seeing their soon-to-be spouse before they walk down the aisle may not be part of the plan. If that’s the case, you may be hard to sway, but perhaps you are on the fence about the subject. So if you are asking yourself “Should I do a first look?” here are a few reasons why I highly recommend it.
Timing- You have all the time in the world before the ceremony and a very limited time in between a ceremony and reception. Avoid the rush and let your photographer have the time they need to create. By limiting them to a short window of time you might be cutting in the final amount of images you end up receiving.
Everyone is fresh- Hair and makeup has just been applied and your makeup artist might even be able to hang out for a bit longer to make sure it looks great after. Just discuss this with your makeup artist beforehand and compensate them for the extra time/work for touch ups.
No one is hungry – Weddings are long days and after the ceremony, bellies tend to want food and a beverage quickly. If you schedule your portraits before the ceremony your guest are free to join cocktail hour without any interruption.
Don’t miss your cocktail party- You paid extra for the those bacon wrapped scallops and signature cocktails, so you should be able to enjoy them!
Light- Depending on the time of year, you may be working within limited daylight hours. If you shoot portraits before your ceremony, you can avoid having to shoot with less than ideal natural light.
It’s a private moment just for the two of you- This might be the most important reason. Your wedding day will move very fast and chances are you will be moving even faster. You might only get a few brief moments alone with your future partner during the day. Building a first look into your timeline gives you a bit more time to spend with your love.”
Image by Steve Depino Photography
Event Planner, Candice Coppola Kistoo of Jubilee Events also sees the benefit of the first look:
“The first look alleviates so much of the stress that couples feel on their wedding day. Between natural nervousness and jitters, to ensuring that all your family photographs have been taken, having a first look gives you more control over your timeline. Traditionally, couples would have scheduled photographs of themselves, their bridal party and their family all during cocktail hour– which leaves little time or room for error– and it means you’re going to miss an hour of your wedding! By having a first look, you can schedule an adequate amount of time for photographs (we recommend 2 hours to start for average sized bridal parties and families), have an intimate and private moment before your ceremony, and free up time to enjoy your party and guests when you’d otherwise be taking pictures. If you’re worried about the first look “breaking” with tradition– just know that it has actually become the tradition over the past 10 years. Most couples opt to see one another in advance for all the reasons I suggested!”
Image by Matthew J Photo
Lastly, I wanted the perspective of a beauty expert, so I inquired with Crystal Vazquez and here are her thoughts:
“The first look is a trend that really needs to be thought out. If you are finding you are very anxious and seeing your soon to be spouse would comfort you, by all means plan for the first look. If there is no specific reason, then I would recommend passing. The moment you walk down the aisle has been a magical and a favorite moment through the ages because of the excitement of seeing your love for the first time. Walking down the aisle is always the most terrifying for brides for many reasons, they may dislike being the center of attention for instance, and the moment that special someone sees you for the first time is what you will focus on when walking in front of your guests. When our brides do opt for a first look, we recommend having your hair stylist and makeup artist stay on site. Between the weather conditions and initial tears, you will most likely need to freshen up before your guests see you. Some clients will opt for a completely different look so they can still have the element of surprise when walking down the aisle, opting for their first look to be in their reception dress and changing their ceremony look to have the best of both worlds, their first look and the look of surprise and awe when they walk down the aisle. “
Image by Jewel Photography
Image by Uplift Photography
Of course, just like all aspects of your wedding, whether or not you do a first look is a personal choice. Consider your options and do what is best for you!