How To Plan The Perfect First Look On Your Wedding Day
Traditions be damned, nowadays, most couples choose logistics over following the somewhat antiquated rule of having the bride and groom not see each other until she walks down the aisle. And for good reasons. After most wedding ceremonies, guests go straight to cocktail hour for about an hour before sitting down for the dinner and reception. Any time the couple spends on portraits from this point on is time where they will be gone from their own wedding. I usually spend 20-30 minutes for family photos immediately following the ceremony so that the bride and groom can still partake in the latter half of their cocktail hour and mingle with guests. We are able to do the portraits earlier in the day because the couple has chosen to do a First Look so they can see each other before the ceremony. As the photographer, I greatly appreciate and encourage this.
What Exactly Is A First Look?
If you’ve been to a wedding, you’ll most likely have seen the groom tearing up while seeing his bride for the first time being accompanied down the aisle by her father. It’s an emotional experience and a very special moment. The First Look is a way to still give the couple this moment, but just a little earlier in the day. It’s a time when the couple can exchange gifts and notes as well and then get on with the day without having to hide from each other. In my opinion, it can be an even more meaningful moment since it’s a private one shared just between the two people.
Who Should Be At The First Look?
That’s a preference I leave for the couple. Usually, I suggest that it’s just the two of them. Sometimes, they might want to include the parents and/or their Maid of Honor and Best Man. It all depends on what’s important to the couple. The argument for a private First Look is that it’s something just for the two of them. There will be plenty of moments that will be shared with everyone, so it’s nice to have even a few minutes just for the bride and groom alone. Of course, the photographer(s) will be there, but I personally try to stay out of the way for at least a few minutes so it really does feel private.
Where Should You Do The First Look?
Somewhere quiet and private is my first criteria. There’s nothing that takes away from the moment more than when random passersby in their khaki shorts and walking shoes congratulate the couple and they have to smile and say “thank you.” It should feel as private as possible. I’ll scout the area beforehand to find a spot and arrange it so that either the bride or groom is waiting while the other walks up from behind.
When given multiple options, I like to choose a spot that allows the person waiting to be concealed for as long as possible to build up the anticipation. This could be at a bend down a path, around a corner somewhere, or hidden behind some structure. Lastly, I consider all the photographic factors like lighting, angles, and even where I can shoot from without being blatantly out in the open. I prefer somewhere evenly lit so that if the couple moves around, they aren’t partially in the shadows or the sun, and the exposure comes out better. I also like a spot where I can capture both the bride and groom before and up to the moment they turn and see each other.
When Should You Do The First Look?
I like to arrange to coincide with when the bride is fully ready. This is after she’s put on her dress and had some time to just be with her friends for a few moments. During this time, I’ll prep the other person. We will have decided who will be waiting and who will be walking. I jump back and forth between the two and let them know exactly where they need to walk to or wait. When everyone is in position, I’ll ask the person walking to give me a roughly 1 minute head start so I can get in position and then just let things unfold.
Below are some of my favorite bits of advice for helping to make the First Look go off without a hitch.
Leave Everything With Someone Else
Don’t carry your phones and anything unnecessary to your First Look. Leave it with your Maid of Honor or Best Man. I’ll even keep things for you as the photographer. Have your hands free so you can kiss and hug away to your heart’s content.
Have A Small Gift For Each Other
It’s a small gesture that goes a long way. It could be as simple as a hand-written note. It’s like you’re seeing each other on a date and you want to do something nice for the other person.
There’s not much to do it. Just let things happen. Don’t worry about making it perfect or come in with any expectations. Every couple reacts differently, so just go with whatever happens.
It’s Ok To Cry
And mess up your make-up if necessary. Don’t hold back. You can always do a quick touch-ups before the portrait session. I’m not saying you’re going to get emotional, but you’re going to get emotional.
The whole thing lasts just a few minutes, but usually it’s one of the most memorable parts of the day. The best part is that it’s something that’s just shared between the couple.
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