Alison Mae

I want to start this guide by first saying that while we love first looks, having a first look is totally up to the couple. A lot of couples still opt to go the more traditional route and there is nothing wrong with that! In fact, Zach and I were one of those couples. But between my own experience and photographing weddings I’ve seen a lot of positives to having a first look. I wish I would have known about them before my big day. Therefore I think it’s important to share with future brides and grooms. If you are completely against a first look, that is ok! We can discuss ways to preserve that wish while still creating beautiful images on your wedding day. However, if you’re curious, here are some of the benefits to having a first look.

What is a first look?

So what is a first look? This new(ish) tradition is growing in popularity but not everyone has seen one done. A first look is a special time for the bride and groom to see one another before the cermony. Generally, only the bride and groom are present but oftentimes family and members of the bridal party watch from afar. The bride taps the groom on the shoulder or calls his name. He then turns around and see her in all of her bridal glory. It’s pretty adorable.

So with it being so adorable, why is this considered to be a bad thing by so many? Rumor has it the whole “bad luck” thing started when arranged weddings were common. Back then the bride and groom weren’t allowed to see one another prior to the wedding. This was for fear that they would back out of what was usually s a business deal between families. Now you know!

Is a first look right for you?

Simply put, sometimes a first look is just the best option. If your ceremony is within two hours of sunset, there won’t be enough available sun for light filled portraits. If you’re drawn to light filled images in our portfolio, this is something to consider. This happens often in the late fall, winter and early spring. Use this sunset calculator to find out when the sunset is on your wedding day!

If you would like to spend more time being present on your day, first looks are perfect.

First Look Perks

  • More time for just two of you. Your wedding day is going to go by in a blur and 200 or so guests will all be wanting to talk to you. The first look is a dedicated part of the day for a few quiet moments with you and your soon to be husband or wife. Take this time to focus on being present with one another and soaking in the excitement together before the whirlwind begins!
  • A more genuine reaction. Having a room full of guests staring at you waiting to see your reaction can actually cause a groom to show no emotion at all. There is so much pressure on him to have this big reaction and it can make his face go blank. However with a first look, it’s just the two of you so he can relax and show his true emotion. Plus, more often than not, if he shows emotion during the first look, he will get just as sentimental when he sees you walking down the aisle.
  • Say what is on your mind. One big plus to a first look is that you can actually tell one another your first thoughts when seeing one another instead of waiting thirty to sixty minutes until your ceremony is over. This allows for a smooth transition into romantic portraits when you’re already in the right headspace.
  • You won’t keep your guests waiting. If you aren’t planning to do a first look, you will need to plan for at least two hours between the end of your ceremony and the beginning of your reception. This is because ALL of your photos will need to be done during this time. Family photos, full wedding party photos and your bride and groom portraits.

Wedding First Looks

  • Less Stress. Emotions aside, first looks are also logistically better. Weddings have evolved over time and are no longer a quick afternoon event but are now full day affairs. As I mentioned above, if you decide not to do a first look you’ll want to plan to do all family photos, all full wedding party photos and all bride and groom photos AFTER the ceremony which will take about two hours and keeps your hungry guests waiting. First looks will give you the flexibility to get all of your dream wedding photos while still making sure your guests have a great experience. Plus you get to relax and spend more time hanging out with the love of your life and be present in the moment.
  • Join your own cocktail hour. This growing trend is easily becoming a favorite of ours. Wedding days aren’t just cake and punch receptions anymore. With so many things to plan for such as cake cutting, dances, speeches, actually getting a chance to eat your own dinner etc it can be hard to speak to your guests before some of them head out for the evening. A clever way to make sure you thank your guests personally and relax a little all at the same time? Attending your own cocktail hour! If you share a first look and plan to do most of your photos before the ceremony, you can head on into your own cocktail hour with your new husband or wife!
  • Flexibility with Portrait Locations. If you’re interested in having your portraits done somewhere other than your venue but won’t have time to squeeze in the travel time, first looks give the gift of more time to go where your heart (or party bus) takes you!
  • Relax and Enjoy. What will their reaction be? What will they look like? Will they like my dress? Will they cry? So many questions swirl around in our heads about this big moment. So planning to share that first look earlier in the day will help you relax and enjoy more of the day you’ve looked forward to for so long. One thing we hear most often from our couples who share first looks is that a giant weight has come off their shoulders after seeing one another. And we can see a physical difference as we’re photographing them. Pretty cool, right?

Timeless Images, Modern Couples

Over the years we have shared these perks with our couples. This is because we believe it’s so important to be transparent about what real couples experience on a wedding day. We spend the day along side them and are right there to calm their nerves and cheer them on. But one thing has stood out to us when we speak with our couples. Most of them want to prioritize being intentional with their time and want to spend their day together instead of apart. And we think that’s pretty cool. We adore when couples blend timeless element with a modern twist and this is one part of the day where the majority of AM couples tend to throw tradition out the window. And we fully support it!

Make it your own

After reading this guide, if you are considering doing a first look you are onto something really special! But know that you don’t have to do a first look like everyone else. Make it your own! We’ve seen couples share their vows privately during this time, exchange gifts to one another, include their love for music by playing their soon to be spouse’s favorite song on the piano, say a prayer with one another, take a moment to step away for a private moment to be present together. The possibilities are endless!

We can’t wait to hear what you’ve decided when we discuss your wedding day photography timeline!

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Is a First Look Right For You?

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