Decisions, decisions, decisions. From wondering if you should have a first look to trying to decide where to get ready on your big day, wedding planning requires you to consider a million tiny details. The months leading up to your wedding should be spent making memories with your best friend and enjoying the process, not Googling for hours on end. And so, *drum roll please*, Wedding Tip Wednesday was born! Throughout this series, we will be sharing our best tips to make your wedding day everything you’ve dreamed of and keep it as STRESS FREE as possible.
Just within the last week, we’ve met with four different engaged couples to chat wedding photography and drink coffee. (OK, let’s be real. Chris drinks nothing and I drink a chocolate “Frappuccino” with zero coffee in it that is basically what you would serve to a child. How do we have three small children and still haven’t become coffee drinkers? I. HAVE. NO. IDEA.)
One thing that has come up at EVERY SINGLE MEETING is whether or not to have a first look. If you don’t know what a “first look” is, it simply means setting an intentional time for the bride and groom to see each other prior to the ceremony. In contrast, the more traditional approach is for the couple to avoid seeing each other until the moment the bride walks down the aisle to her groom. Since we get asked for our advice on this so often (and since it’s such a big decision every couple has to make fairly early in their wedding planning process), here’s our short answer… It depends! Here are some of the big things we encourage couples who are planning a wedding to consider before deciding when to see each other for the first time on your wedding day:
1. What time is your ceremony?
This is the VERY first thing we ask when couples tell us they want to wait to see each other until the ceremony. If you have your ceremony set early enough that there will be at least 90 minutes of sunlight available once you’re officially married, waiting to see each other can work out beautifully! This will give you time to squeeze in formal family pictures, pictures of you and your new spouse, and shots of your whole bridal party together. If you are getting married right at sunset or close to it, consider whether or not you will be OK with having all of the pictures of you two together on your wedding day taken inside. Are those the types of pictures your photographer is known for and the ones you love? Or will you be disappointed to miss out on that golden hour glow and the life that natural light brings to photos? If you have your heart set on waiting to see each other until your ceremony but don’t want all of your portraits as husband and wife taken indoors after dark, take that into consideration when setting times with your venue and schedule your ceremony early enough to have time for photos outdoors before sunset!
2. Will you hate to miss your party?
If you are super excited to enjoy the celebration at your reception and it’s important to you to maximize the time you have to mingle with your guests, we would recommend opting for a first look. When you see each other before the ceremony it enables your photographer to knock out the vast majority of your pictures in advance so you can get to your party as soon as possible. Plus, as a bonus, you get to see lots more of your new husband or wife on your wedding day!
3. Do you anticipate lots of nerves on your big day?
For couples who expect to feel anxious or don’t like being the center of attention, a first look can really ease their nerves. Having a private moment just the two of you before the day officially “starts” can calm any anxiety and refocus you on what the day is all about… getting married to the love of your life! It also allows you to have a more intimate reaction without the pressure of everyone watching. If it’s important to you to share the joy and emotion of the “first look” with everyone at your wedding as part of the ceremony, you may want to wait to see each other! Especially if you opt to wait until the wedding ceremony, we highly encourage exchanging letters earlier in the day to give you a chance to say something special to your fiancé without actually seeing each other.
4. Are you a morning person?
Having a first look will definitely move your timeline up and require you to start your day earlier. You’ll need to have hair and make up completed soon enough to give you time to be fully ready a few hours prior to your ceremony time. If you want to sleep in and start your day a little slower, a first look may not be for you!
5. How important are wedding photographs to you?
The simple reality is when you share a first look, the result is a less rushed and less condensed timeline. This means you will maximize the time you have with your photographer and get significantly more pictures back from your big day. Not to mention a timeline with a bit of wiggle room gives you a LOT more flexibility to get important pictures in if you have a day with less than cooperative weather (or in the event any aspect of your wedding day is running behind schedule). Often our couples who do a first look are able to get portraits done prior to the ceremony and also sneak out for a few pictures at sunset, which enables them to get a wider variety of backdrops and more pictures overall!
In the end, this is such a personal decision. If you (or your fiancé), have your heart set on the tradition of waiting to see each other until the wedding ceremony, there’s nothing wrong with honoring that wish and planning the rest of your day to accommodate that. However, if you are on the fence, hopefully determining the answers to these five questions will bring some clarity about the best choice for you!