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To First Look or Not to First Look

Clients have strong opinions going into their wedding planning regarding the first look but when done well, it can be a lovely moment. Before you set the time for your ceremony and order invitations consult with your planner and photographer about a first look. There are many reasons couples choose a first look that you might not realize.


The first scenario where I typically recommend a first look is winter weddings. In winter the sun sets hours earlier leaving the photographer with less ambient light. If your ceremony is planned for 5pm it will be dusk or dark by the time you walk down the aisle. If you were hoping for sweeping landscape shots utilizing the scenery or venue location, it’s nearly impossible. Indoor portraits are at the mercy of the indoor lighting or the lighting techniques that we apply to a space. We are capable of shooting all the family groups and couple’s portraits inside after sunset but most of our clients are hiring us for a different look. We are happy to oblige but we want you to be on the same page and fully understand your choices. Here is an example of a winter wedding with no first look and a few indoor portraits at the church and reception venue.  


Consider timing and flow of your wedding day. If you get ready a little early, choose a first look and complete your family photos then the remainder of the day is candid and you will attend your cocktail hour. Ironically, shooting the posed photos early FEELS less interruptive and a little more “organic” when looking back on your day. If you choose to do all your family groups after the wedding, you will forgo attending your cocktail hour. You will walk down the aisle as a new couple, reset and pose for 20 minutes of group photos then rally to get thirty minutes of couple’s portraits. I can tell you it feels like you’d rather have a cocktail in your hand by this point in the day but yet you have to complete a list of group photos.


Alternatively, if you are hosting a summer wedding, it can be hot and bright to shoot photos ahead of time and often we’ll do them after the ceremony. During the summer we have more light in a day and this contributes to the feeling of a slower and longer cocktail hour. This allows for the couple’s photos AND some libations with friends and family.


It’s worth noting that we’ve had clients do a little of both: they have a first look but don’t see family until after the wedding so they split the difference. Checking some photos of the list early allows us to maximize efficiency after the ceremony. It’s really up to our clients what is going to feel best to them so talk it out with your planner and photographer.


Finally, aside from all the other reasons, waiting to see your partner as they walk down the aisle comes from the tradition of arranged marriages. “The betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see each other before the wedding at all. The wedding symbolized a business deal between two families--so romantic! A father would have been pleased for his daughter to marry a man from a rich, land-owning family. But he also feared that if the groom met the bride before the wedding and thought she wasn’t attractive, he’d call off the wedding, casting shame onto the bride and her family. Therefore, it became tradition that the bride and groom were only allowed to meet at the wedding ceremony so that the groom did not have the opportunity to change his mind. And that veil the bride wears? Its original purpose was also to keep the groom from finding out what the bride looked like until the last possible minute, when it was too late to back out of the transaction.” Needless to say, if you feel called to honor these traditions, we’ll back you up but as we saw with Megan and Harry’s Royal wedding, you can personalize your wedding by choosing to honor certain traditions and letting go of others. Quote adapted from the

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