Whenever I talk with somebody about their wedding schedule I ask the question "So are you doing a first look?" Some couples giggle and say "Yes!" Other couples do that thing where they look at each because one person wants to and the other doesn't so they say "we haven't decided yet." Some people just look at me with panic in their eyes like "What is this first look? I've got so many details to plan and I keep discovering more things I need to do and omg, why didn't I go to Vegas?" For those in group one - high five, you're all set. Group two - I don't want to start any arguments, but read on if you want the perspective of somebody who has seen things done both ways a bunch of times. Group three - relax, I'll explain below. And there's still time to go to Vegas, but take me with you. What is a First Look?
Tradition has it that the first time that the bride and groom should see each other on their wedding day is when she appears at the end of the aisle and makes her way toward him. When she makes it to the alter there is literally an unveiling. I'll let you do your own research into all the symbolism behind this... Anyway, after they see one another they might have another hour or more of mass, ceremonial exits, and greeting lines before they (maybe) get a moment to themselves. More than likely, they'll jump right into pictures and then head off to the reception without a break.
A first look is a newer tradition. A private location will be chosen where the groom is taken to wait for his bride. There isn't a room full of people here, just the groom and the photographer (and occasionally videographer or a close friend or two). The bride will walk up behind the groom and tap him on the shoulder so he knows to turn around and see his lady in her gorgeous dress for the first time, and she can see her guy (probably looking cleaner and better dressed than ever before). The beauty of this is that it's just them. There is no ceremony to jump into. No room full of eyes on them. No having to try to focus and repeat words. Just let things happen. Hug, kiss, smile, laugh, cry. This is the best time for it. It's also a great time to exchange personal letters or small gifts. If your wedding is like most, you won't get another private moment until after the reception is over.
In addition to what always turn out to be more intimate moments, there are practical elements to doing a first look. Just listing off a few things -
-You see each other when hair and make up are freshly done.
-It's unscripted, so you get to react and do whatever you want. (Not so much an option in church ceremonies) Hug each other. Do a little "we're getting married dance." Whatever, this is the time for it.
-More time for pictures! Seeing each other before the ceremony allows you to build in more time for some of the great creative portrait shots you're probably hiring me for. We'll also get more time to do the fun and creative pictures with your bridal party.
-You get more time with your friends and family. You've probably got lots of people that have come together for this party that you've spent a ton of time planning. I want you to spend time with them! Besides, if you know that there are a bunch of people enjoying your party without you then you'll probably be distracted and won't take as good of pictures anyway. If we've done pictures beforehand, then you get to spend more time with them and just having fun.
-Did I mention that it's more private? I can't stress enough that between first looks and the more traditional "first look at the ceremony," the private, pre-ceremony interactions tend to be incredibly more genuine and touching. People are simply more "real" when there's nobody watching.
The decision is ultimately up to you. I'll work with whatever you want to do, but since this will come up when we talk, I wanted to put something out there to give you some background on what it is. Be it in private or in front of your friends and family, the first time you see each other will always be great!