What is a first look?
A "First Look" is when a Bride and Groom see each other for the first time in a private setting rather than at the ceremony. We will select somewhere beautiful and secluded from family, friends, and wedding guests.
I never require couples to do a First Look, and the decision is yours. As your wedding photographer, I absolutely will respect any decision you make for your Big Day. That said, I do LOVE being able to do a First Look - for many reasons! Some you may not have even thought of!
Why I love it:
Quite simply, I get more time to capture the photos that you've hired me to. I have more freedom to be creative and capture images that are true to your personalities, and showcase the love that brought you together and to this step in your journey. When we schedule a First Look on your wedding day, it means the difference in a relaxed hour together capturing images from a variety of locations around your wedding venue - versus 20-25 minutes max for a set of photos in one or two "spots" on the property to get as much as we can in a short amount of time. There's a slight difference in the mood of the day (although I do my best to be a calming presence on the wedding day!), and in the outcome of the images (number of images, not the quality or beauty of the images) when we plan time for portraits before the ceremony. My approach to the wedding day is to capture images that tell the story of your love, however you decide to plan your day!
why I think you will love it:
I always ask couples, do you think you're going to be stressed or nervous at all on your wedding day? Who better to calm those nerves than the person you've chosen to share your life with. In my experience, couples are more relaxed and can be themselves when they get to spend the majority of the day with the one they love. The reason everything has been planned, flowers selected, and all the investment you've made in your wedding is to celebrate your love. Why spend the majority of the day apart? Do you really want the entire time you're together to be in front of all your guests? There's no down time after the start of the ceremony... so plan that quiet time together beforehand!
It also allows you to utilize your photographer's time during the reception. If we're doing photos for an hour into the reception, I won't be there for the exit if you have a 6 hour package, and sometimes not even for the 8 hour package. Do you want me to be able to capture your entire day, start to finish? Consider a first look to enjoy more time in your reception, celebrating with your guests and on the dance floor as well!
Whether you have a guest list of 30 or 300, each wedding and timeline is unique. The weather, time of year, venue, available light, personalities, size of bridal party... it ALL plays into how your day will flow. So this brings us here at a crossroads... Tradition? or capturing your wedding day as it unfolds, creating new memories to be preserved forever? Which is more important to you?
Here's a few more reasons to do a First Look:
Of course, these are just what I've seen from my experience over the years, and it's completely your decision on the final plan for your Wedding Day.
1. spend more time together on your wedding day.
Couples that do a First Look usually spend about 3 more hours together on their wedding day. I can tell you from experience, some of your best memories will happen during that time! The moments are so much more relaxed and you can take them all in together!
2. the first look is always more intimate and emotional than the "traditional" way.
I like to create an intimate sitting for a couple's First Look so that it feels as you've imaged it at the altar, only better. You get to give each other a big embrace, kiss, talk and cry together, and spend time enjoying the moment. The alternative is much different than most people realize. With all those people watching, there is pressure to perform. Nerves will get the best of anyone, and instead of giving your groom a big hug and kiss, you have to get right into formalities, leaving no time to just enjoy the moment and look at each other. I guarantee you will barely remember that moment if you wait until the ceremony. With an audience and a schedule to keep, before you know it, the ceremony is over and the party begins, and you have no time to just enjoy being together on your Wedding Day. And in my experience, the emotions at the altar for couples that DO a First Look are also much more evident. You won't be as nervous, and can relax and enjoy that part of the day. It actually doesn't take anything away from that moment at the altar! The Groom still has that experience and reaction that you've dreamed of, the moment he sees you across the room as you head toward him to become his Wife.
3. Your wedding day is a story to be told, full of moments and memories. don't let old tradition take that away.
We live in a society laced with broken tradition and unique ideas when it comes to weddings. This tradition started thousands of years ago when arranged marriages were the thing (and also part of the reason for the veil). We have been given the opportunity to choose who to spend the rest of our lives with, and to document it. So why hold on to parts of that old tradition? Remember: It probably isn't going to be as memorable as you think (see #2) and if the more intimate and relaxed images are more important to you, tradition isn't the way to go.
4. You can't tell a full story with a half-day.
Being a creative, modern, candid style photographer means that I like to capture the story of your Wedding Day as it unfolds as well as arrange situations that allow for photographs you will cherish for years. This is the story of your love, spending this day together as the day you'll become Husband & Wife... Do you want to spend the majority of the day together, or apart?
5. the cocktail hour and/or reception is meant for mingling, not scrambling.
If you choose the traditional route (waiting to see each other until the ceremony), then you will eat up every minute of your cocktail hour, and possibly even some of the dinner time to get family photos and bridal party photos done. So when will you have time to make the most important photographs that will still be hanging on your walls in 50+ years? As your Photographer, It's my job to go with the flow on your wedding day - But I can also set up the timeline to guarantee we get everything you want - even if there are unexpected delays or hiccups.
After the ceremony, because family expects their photos, and because it's terribly rude to keep your guests waiting, you will be lucky to get 20-30 minutes of photos of just the two of you.
A First Look also means a full afternoon of hanging with your bridal party, grabbing lunch and a drink, finding the best spots at your venue or going off-location if desired. Trying to do that during the cocktail hour simply isn't likely to happen. With time constraints, It's easy to get in a nervous mood of hurrying, and forget to ENJOY the day! This should be one of the happiest days in your lives! As your photographer, no matter what you decide, I always pour my heart into every couple and every wedding. I'll keep the mood light, and not worry you on time! Ask any of my previous brides, if we were running even terribly late - my presence is calming, and I always reassure that we're ok, and I figure out a way to still get all the images you want!
6. better lighting.
The majority of wedding ceremonies start between 5 PM and 7 PM. Depending on the time of sunset on your wedding day, it might be too dark for when you want to take all your photos. Think of it this way - If you want to wait to see each other for the first time at the ceremony, how do you envision all your portraits looking? Including Bride/Groom, Family, Wedding Party... Unless your wedding is in the summer and your ceremony starts at least 2 hours before sunset, we will run out of daylight and have to wrap it up before we capture everything you wanted. Even if we can squeeze family photos into 15 minutes and Wedding Party into 10 minutes, That leaves ONLY 20-30 minutes (considering the time it takes to let guests exit the site, and round up everyone needed for photos!) AT THE MOST for your portraits with your new husband/wife. I promise, some incredible memories will be made if you plan a First Look somewhere intimate and amazing. You'll be able to capture that time together without any rush to wrap it up or regret of missing out on more time at your reception with your family and friends. Not to mention if it's cloudy on your wedding day, we'll lose daylight even faster! When you book your wedding with me, we'll talk about the time of your Ceremony based on what you decide.
7. art isn't crafted in 20 minutes.
Quite simply, you're here on my website or have hired me to shoot your wedding because you love my style. Creative. relaxed. natural. fun. emotional. To maximize my creativity (and your investment) I need sufficient time. Art doesn't happen in 20 minutes, and I can't make you relax and enjoy the day if you're nervous or anxious (or Heaven forbid, stressed)! I capture what is present and real, and sometimes arrange situations to prompt conversations and situations to capture real emotion and create new memories on your wedding day! I would love to be given the freedom to create a schedule for portraits that will give us enough time for the photos you want of your day. As an experienced Wedding Photographer, I know exactly how long we need to set aside for each set of photos to maximize your photo return. I hope you've hired me because you trust me, as well. And I wouldn't sacrifice the meaning or emotions of the day for you, but rather add to the excitement, joy, and memories of your Wedding Day.
(Example: See the beautiful photo above of Jeff and Kristi? We scheduled a full hour for their portraits, and we were able to walk around the venue (The Knoxville Zoo!) finding the most gorgeous spots, and even wait for all the Zoo guests to move off the walkway. If we didn't have a First Look, we would not have had the time to capture these images, wouldn't have such a variety, and would have been rushed and captured lots of strangers in their images!)
It breaks my heart to think about the possibility of delivering a package of wedding photos knowing there aren't as many Bride & Groom portraits. That is what the WHOLE DAY is really about! You two. No one else. Not the flowers or the food or the dresses and suits... We need to set ourselves up for success, so that your photos can be absolutely breathtaking, creating memories together, and something that you can cherish and adore for years to come!
I have never had a couple that did a First Look regret doing so. Unfortunately, I have had many that went the traditional route and did not have that "wow" moment they had hoped for, or were disappointed in the amount of time they spent apart on their wedding day. I hope the tips above help you better understand this aspect of your Wedding Day as you plan.
To quote LeVar Burton... Don't just take my word for it!
Does that show my age? :)
Here's what some of my couples have to say about their First Look:
"It was amazing because she was so beautiful, seeing her in a wedding dress and seeing the dress for the first time... I thought it would take away from the first look down the aisle, but she was kinda far away when I would have first saw her during the wedding so it was awesome to see her up close for the first time. Plus getting the pictures done before hand was nice." -Gage
"I'm SO happy we did it... that moment was so special to us and it gave us the opportunity to show any natural emotion without reserve or nerves from being in front of a crowd. To have that time with him, talking and seeing what he thought of me was incredible. Also, the pictures are adorable!" -Savannah
"I'm so glad we did it. It helped to calm me down and center me after the craziness of planning and getting ready that morning. Seeing Michael before let us have a moment just for the two of us, and I loved that. It made me less nervous about the ceremony and allowed me to just enjoy. Plus I could take minute to just be with him, enjoying our day. And he looked just as happy when he saw me walk down the aisle as he did when he first saw me. I would highly recommend it and wouldn't change it at all!" -Cayci
"You summed it up, my dear. Anything to alleviate some stress from a stressful day and allow us to have a moment to ourselves before the ceremony was special." -Michael
"I had a really rough morning on my wedding day, a lot of things went wrong... Having that opportunity to see him before the ceremony really calmed me down and helped ground me right before we made that forever commitment. Because we saw each other beforehand, I wasn't worried about anything when I walked down the aisle, and I was so pleasantly surprised to find he looked just as overjoyed as he had looked during our first look. I loved our first look and wouldn't change a thing." -Kristie