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First Look or Nah?

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January 25, 2021

While many couples have very strong feelings on the subject of the first look, others are unsure of where they stand. Thinking you’d like to go traditional and share that initial wedding day sighting at the altar? But then again, maybe you’d prefer the new normal with a private moment pre-ceremony? Many photographers, family members, and even wedding planners will push you in one direction or another. So read on for an unbiased look into the pros and cons of both options to help make your decision a bit clearer!

First Look Pros:

Special Moment Alone  – Wedding days can be crazy, and hectic, and even stressful. Therefore, you may be looking for some guaranteed alone time – which a first look can provide. However, keep in mind that alone doesn’t mean ALONE. You’ll obviously have at least one photographer along for the ride. But most photographers will be as unobtrusive as possible in order to capture the more genuine moments that you’ll share when you feel like you’re on your own.

Less Stress at the Altar – Many couples are so rattled with stage fright that they’re unable to enjoy their wedding ceremony. For the more introverted couples, the first look is an opportunity to get some of the nerves out of the way. You don’t have to worry about having a strong (or not strong enough) emotional response in front of all your guests – it’ll be just the two of you (plus a photographer) to share this moment.

Choice of Location – With a first look, the options of location are almost endless – as long as they’re not too far from your ceremony locale and transportation is available. Have a special place nearby that’s meaningful to you both? Know of a great spot that’s perfect for the two of you but not ideal for all your guests? Then this is your chance to capture some of the most meaningful moments of the day in that spot!

Captured from Every Angle – While many ceremony spaces don’t allow for full range of movement for photographers (and many churches even have rules regarding photography), a first look allows for your photographer to move around to their heart’s content. They’ll be able to instruct you and make sure they’re getting all the perfect angles – which may not be an option as you catch sight of one another on the aisle. 

More Photos – When you start taking pictures together earlier in the day, you’ll obviously have more time for photos! However, for other reasons, you’ll also find this listed under cons…

Enjoy Cocktail Hour – If you’re able to get your couple photos and full wedding party pics out of the way early, you may be able to save time post-ceremony and join the party a little earlier!

First Look Cons:

Must Be Ready Earlier – For obvious reasons, with a first look, you’ll need to be completely ready several hours earlier than with the more traditional option. Keep this in mind if you’re planning a morning brunch or prefer to get a little extra sleep that day. You’ll need to be in full hair, makeup, and attire at least 2-3 hours prior to the ceremony – and still be looking fresh as a daisy by ceremony time.

May Need Extra Hours for Hair & Makeup Staff – If it’s a hot summer day or a windy fall afternoon, you may want to consider having your hair and makeup staff available for post-first-look touchups. If that’s not in the budget, keep a friend or family member with skills close at hand.

Can Cause Delays – Didn’t budget enough time to get ready, take photos, and have time for touch ups before the ceremony? Then you’ll probably be running behind. If you’re the type that’s late for everything, you may want to consider saving all photos for after the “I dos” (or consider hiring a strict wedding planner)!

Less Natural Emotions – Some couples have a tough time expressing emotion in front of the camera. If this applies to you, consider foregoing the first look. Most likely, you’ll forget the camera is anywhere near when actually walking down the aisle – when natural emotions are more likely to take over.

More Photos – Both a pro and a con! Some couples feel like they end up spending their entire day posing for pictures. If you prefer more action shots to posed photos, consider opting out.

Ceremony Sighting Pros:

More Traditional Take – Like doing things by the book? Or perhaps you’d like to share this special moment in a way that’s similar to your parents, grandparents, or other special couple in your life? Then this is the option for you! You’ll be seeing one another for the first time on your wedding day at the altar like many wedded couples before you. Plus, it’s usually a crowd pleaser with the parents and older generations. So if you’re looking for bonus points from your family members, look no further. 

Share the Moment with Your Loved Ones – Guests love to share this moment with the couple-to-be. They love looking at your faces and seeing you light up as you spot one another for the first time. It’s something they’ll remember for years to come as well.

Fewer Posed Photos – Prefer action shots to posed photos? Not a person who enjoys spending time in front of a camera? By skipping the first look and opting for the more traditional choice, you can maximize your morning leisure time and minimize your modeling. 

Less Rush – You’ll be spending more time with your wedding party pre-ceremony, sleeping in a bit (if you can sleep), and dressing for the ceremony later. Without a first look, wedding parties often have an additional 1-2 hours in their day to spend as they please.

Ceremony Sighting Cons:

Nerve-wracking Moment – Guests are often hoping to see lots of emotion from you and your partner; the knowledge of which can add to your stress. If you’re already worried about your pre-ceremony nerves, consider going the first look route.

Miss Cocktail Hour – As all photos of just the two of you will be taken post ceremony (along with family and wedding party photos), you’ll probably be missing the entirety of cocktail hour… which is why cocktail hour exists! However, if that’s a concern to you, a first look may be your best option for arriving earlier. 

Fewer Posed Photos – With a traditional aisle sighting, there may be less time for couple photos, wedding party photos, and posed family photos (unless you want to eat into your reception time). If that’s a concern, think about scheduling a first look with your photographer.  

Less Flexibility – Some venues – especially churches – have rules regarding when, how, and where a photographer can capture a ceremony and walk down the aisle. Your photographer will also have less mobility and will obviously not be stopping the ceremony to have you pose or redo something they missed. If you prefer to have more control over the photos captured in this moment, a first look is your best bet.

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After considering all the pros and cons, go with your gut and commit to the option that works best for you as a couple. You’ll be sure to share an incredibly special and unforgettable moment – which ever way you decide to go! 

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