First Looks: What The Wedding Pros Say

From wedding fashion to ceremony format and timelines, wedding traditions have evolved over the years to fit today’s modern bride. What was once agreed as “the only way’ to do things in terms of wedding planning has grown into a ‘possible way’, giving birth of plenty of other alternatives. One common tradition that we’ve noticed changing over the past few years involves a ‘First Look’. Traditionally, the bride and groom would not see each other on their wedding day until the ceremony began and the bride stepped out to walk down the aisle to her groom. Following the ceremony, formal photos of the families, wedding party, plus the bride and groom were taken, while guests enjoyed a cocktail hour. With a ‘First Look’, the bridal couple sees each other prior to the ceremony in a coordinated private moment captured by the photographer. The couple can then begin their photo shoot, then use the time following the ceremony for family and wedding party shots, or even attend (and enjoy!) their own cocktail hour. Both traditional and “First Look” options offer distinct advantages. For professional input on the subject, we decided to consult our experts, the Castle’s Preferred Photographers!

Erika Blackwell of Center of Attention Photography loves ‘First Looks’, and the advantages they offer:

“I highly recommend “First Looks” for the modern bride and groom. However, if the couple and their family are very traditional, they’d be breaking tradition and it won’t work well. Here are my top 3 reasons for recommending a “First Look”:

  • Helps You Relax. Pre-wedding jitters disappear once the bride and groom see each other. They’re comforted by being together, making the entire day more relaxed.
  • Saves You Time. Couples receive more time for “formal” shots, saving time between the ceremony and reception for family pictures and to enjoy cocktail hour.
  • Provides Another Special Location for Photos. By using a separate location other than the ceremony site, couples have the opportunity to combine the right spot and perfect lighting with the ideal time of day.”

E’Lisa Campbell of E.C. Campbell Photography has some additional reasons for loving a bride and groom’s ‘First Look’ if time allows:

“It’s a very personal decision for each couple. I always encourage them to make the decision to have a ‘First Look’ based on what they’re comfortable with. Couples should definitely do what makes them happy, and what they feel works best for their wedding day.”

  • True emotions really shine through. Nothing is posed. Real tears and smiles evoke so much happiness in the photos.
  • It’s a very intimate and romantic moment, allowing couples to hug, kiss, and say all the things they normally wouldn’t get to say while standing at the altar.
  • When planning a late evening ceremony where lighting may be an issue, a ‘First Look’ offers the chance to have photos taken before it grows dark. This is normally for weddings November-March.
  • Looking for more photos? A ‘First Look’ provides just that!

Meg Paxton of Paxton Photography expands on the timeline benefit of doing a ‘First Look’, offering sage advice on why couples should consider doing so:

“A “First Look” is often a good idea when time between the ceremony and reception is tight. A typical time frame covers an hour and a half (from ceremony beginning until the couple makes their entrance into the reception). In some cases (especially smaller wedding parties), this is enough time. But without a ‘First Look’, there’s usually only a half hour available for couple portraits and full group photos. At certain times of the year, when longer days provide more light long into the evening, we’re able to return to taking photos. However, this unfortunately necessitates the bridal couple leaving the reception and their guests.

Considering a “First Look” allows more time, plus takes the pressure off to get things done. Granted, it may take remove some of the mystery and excitement from the day, but it also helps everyone feel more at ease about the ceremony yet to come. Starting early with a ‘First Look’ also provides an opportunity of jumping to the beach or another scenic location off-site for some interesting unique photos.”

Paul Retherford of Paul Retherford Wedding Photography has a few additional perks of doing a ‘First Look’:

  • The Groom has time to appreciate the dress and compliment his beautiful Bride.
  • The Bride is assured that her Groom looks as handsome as she’s always dreamed.
  • The Bride and Groom have an opportunity to personally exchange gifts and/or notes they’ve written for each other.
  • The chance to share and enjoy a carriage, limo, or trolley ride before the ceremony (another opportunity for some stunning photos!)

Darrell and Amy Christie of Darrell Christie Photography agree that the above points are great reasons for a bride and groom to do a ‘First Look’. But they also have some thoughts on the benefits of keeping things traditional and not doing a ‘First Look’:

Photo by Darrell Christie Photography
  • The bridal party and family may need to be ready earlier than scheduled, thus potentially making for a longer day. While the start time may be earlier, the group is able to move quickly to the reception without a “lag” time in between.
  • The bridal party doesn’t want to get their clothing dirty. It may benefit the group to have all the formal shots done before the ceremony, then follow up with the fun spontaneous pictures (such as jumping shots) following the ceremony.

Overall, the choice to schedule pictures before or after the ceremony will be up to the bride and groom. When planning, it’s important to keep in mind the length of time it will take to organize the bridal party and/or family, as well as the length of time for all the other scheduled activities. These issues can be addressed when communicating with your wedding coordinator and photographer during the planning process.

So there you have it: a summary and some professional input about ‘First Looks’! They can be a time saver, but they’re also viewed as an untraditional route; they may help relieve those wedding-day jitters, but you could end up starting earlier than normal. Ultimately, the photographers and our Castle Farms coordinators agree: ‘First Looks’ are a personal decision based on a bride and groom’s individual personality, and each couple should do whatever makes them most comfortable on their wedding day!

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