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First Looks

…are the bee’s knees. They really are! I know a lot of photographers have written about their take on the popular trend (I hope it’s a trend that sticks!), but here’s my take on the matter. It’s a topic that I bring up at every consultation to put a bug in my couples’ ears from the beginning- I want my brides and grooms thinking about their schedule as far out as possible. “Why?” you ask. “That seems like a pretty tedious detail if you’re booking 9-12 months out, don’t you think?” Actually, you want to start thinking about the portraits + the  overall schedule almost as SOON as you start planning to help choose a ceremony and reception start time! Unless a bride and groom are wedding industry professionals or have had a heavy hand in planning a wedding before, chances are they won’t know how much time they’ll need to devote to portraits. Opening up the topic from the beginning helps my couples understand how much time we’ll need and why we need that much time. I never pressure anyone for an answer at that first meeting, I more just want to get my brides and grooms talking about it between themselves.

First looks- Abby Grace Photography

Whenever I’m chatting with one of my couples about First Looks, I always make sure to tell them that ultimately, it is absolutely their choice as to whether or not they’ll do one. It’s a personal decision, and I’d never push my brides and grooms one way or the other; after all, Matt and I didn’t do one for our wedding. Looking back I wish we had, but it’s good for me to be able to articulate WHY we didn’t do one and WHY I wish we’d done things differently. After prefacing the “First Look” conversation with my no-pressure disclaimer, I begin to talk with them about why I think they’re an ideal way to schedule your wedding day:

  • It’s more private. The first time you see each other on your wedding day is big moment, something most brides have dreamed about for years! Not everyone wants to share that moment with 100+ other people. It’s a way to keep that time intimate, to share it just between the two of you- to shed a few happy tears without getting embarrassed, to laugh, to hug, to kiss with abandon without dozens of pairs of eyes watching you. Waiting to see each other at the ceremony is wonderful, but you’re not able to exclaim your joy or throw your arms around each other at the altar for another 20-40 minutes! First Looks give you the chance to let your guard down.
First looks- Abby Grace Photography
  • It’s more relaxed! Instead of waiting until after the ceremony, after family formals and after bridal party photos, we get to do your bride & groom portraits BEFORE the wedding, meaning we have ample time to shoot without the pressure of needing to be introduced at the reception in 10 minutes. We’ll set aside plenty of time for portraits of just the two of you to capture you all relaxed and crazy-in-love :). In my experience, when the wedding day schedule gets crunched because so-and-so is running late or family formals took longer than expected, the thing that ends up being cut short EVERY TIME is the bride and groom’s portraits. It’s such a bummer to go from having 40 minutes set aside for relaxed, romantic portraits to a short 15 minute window. I want you all to ENJOY taking these portraits! Plus, on your wedding day, you won’t have much time alone together to soak everything in- a First Look gives you guaranteed time for just that.
  • It makes for a smoother schedule! If you do bride & groom  + bridal party portraits before the wedding, then you don’t have to worry about building in an hour and a half + travel time between the end of the ceremony and the start of the cocktail hour  for all of your portraits. Doing a First Look means that after the ceremony, we’ll do family formals, then I’ll steal you and your new husband away for 15 more minutes (for a few photos once you’re, you know, ACTUALLY married:)), and then it’s off to your reception! No worries about an antsy bridal party, no having to check your watch over and over to make sure you’re not doing to miss the deejay’s introductions. Just the chance to ENJOY the process in a laid-back way.
 First looks- Abby Grace Photography
  • Your hair and make-up are fresh! Matt and I didn’t do a First Look but also didn’t want to keep our guests waiting between the ceremony and reception, so we opted to do portraits after the reception (it ended around 5:30pm, so we had plenty of time). What I hadn’t anticipated was my hair starting to fall and my make-up needing freshening up, and as I look back at my wedding portraits, you can tell it was at the end of a long day. Doing the First Look before everything ensures you’re looking your absolute best!
  • If you’re getting married in the late fall or winter and have scheduled your ceremony for the late afternoon, it may be the ONLY way we can do portraits. The sun sets much earlier around this time, which isn’t something most brides think about when planning their ceremony time (I know I didn’t!). These days in Virginia, the sun is setting around 4:55, meaning a 4:00 ceremony time would only give us about 20 minutes of waning daylight if your ceremony is 30 minutes long. I definitely suggest looking up what time the sun sets when choosing your ceremony time- it can be the deciding factor as to whether or not you’ll be able to do portraits before or after!
I think Katelyn hit the nail on the head when she said that people who want to wait for the ceremony to see each other are more looking forward to the reaction than the tradition itself (that’s what I was looking forward to!). In my humble opinion though, the most thorough way to capture that precious reaction is by setting aside time for portraits beforehand, because who knows? You may not be able to see each other’s faces very well from the end of the aisle when you walk in, owing to a long aisle or various guests stepping in the aisle to take photos of their own. At our wedding, the church’s restrictions on our photographers meant they weren’t allowed to get close enough to photograph Matt’s reaction, something that still makes me sad. And because of how emotionally0charged everything was, I barely remember that walk down the aisle!
First looks- Abby Grace Photography
The most common concern I’ve come upon is the idea that the First Look will lessen the impact of that moment you walk down the aisle. In my experience? It doesn’t change it one bit. It’s still JUST as big of a deal! Guys, your bride is still taking that walk down the aisle to marry YOU! Seeing each other beforehand doesn’t that walk any less of a big deal. Ladies, your groom is still going to get that ear-to-ear smile when he sees you on the arm of your dad. It’s just as big of a moment, just with a little less anxiety.
Like I said above- it’s a personal decision, and not one that I would ever push anyone into. It’s something I feel like helps me do my job best though, and a decision that helps me give my brides and grooms the kinds of images they’re dreaming of!
First looks- Abby Grace Photography
Happy Friday!

[…] I think Abby Grace said it so eloquently: “People who want to wait for the ceremony to see each other are more […]

[…] love First Looks. I really, really, really do! But one inherent flaw about the First Look is that it typically […]

molly - November 17, 2012 - 3:11 pm

a-freaking-men! john and i did a first look and i was a wee weary thinking it would “ruin” the walking down the aisle part. NOT AT ALL! it was the BEST decision we made!!

Tiffany Farley - November 16, 2012 - 10:50 am

I LOVE first looks!!

Wendy {Weswen Design} - November 16, 2012 - 9:51 am

My hubby and I couldn’t have made it through our wedding if we didn’t see each other first. Period. We would have both been blubbering idiots which would have made for horrible ceremony pictures. As it turned out, we were able to have our tearful moment together just the way we wanted it, by ourselves (and our photographer of course!) What it got us was amazing pictures before the ceremony, which also included our bridal party. In the end, I think we lucked out doing it this way because when we got married, the sun had set, so we have a beautiful set of pictures with bright skies, and then the ceremony set with the dreamy fireplace setting. It the best, do it.

Lena - November 16, 2012 - 8:43 am

Great explanation of it! I am so thankful that you were able to explain it in this way to Brent. He totally was against it, I think more for the tradition aspect. But now, he is all in for a First Look and I couldn’t be more excited to see how those pictures will turn out!

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