These days, every betrothed couple chooses whether or not they are going to do a first look on their wedding day. There is no right or wrong answer. In fact, in the past year our couples have been exactly 50/50. We support either decision our clients make because whatever they choose will add to their wedding day in a special way. However, when couples ask our opinion, we are always in favor of a first look, and I want to take a minute to explain why.
To start off, let’s look at the reasons why you might not want to do a first look. There are practical reasons like being able to take your time getting ready and keeping your dress as pristine as possible before the ceremony. But the biggest reason is probably in keeping with the tradition of the first moment you see each other being at opposite ends of the aisle. That certainly can be a special moment with a day’s worth of anticipation leading up to it. It places a particular emphasis on the ceremony itself, which I think is really beautiful. There is also something cool about the fact that that moment is shared with all of your wedding guests. All of these are valid points (although the practical reasons I mentioned first feel a little like justifications. It’s not like you’re going to be sleeping in on your wedding day anyway, and it’s not like doing a first look means you have to go traipsing through the mud). But I would argue that a first look earlier in the day does not have to diminish the specialness of that moment the two of you see each other on opposite ends of the aisle. Your ceremony is still your ceremony, and nothing can change that. We have plenty of brides and grooms that still get misty during the ceremony even though they’ve already spent the afternoon together. Both a first look and the walk down the aisle are special in their own right.
So what’s so great about a first look? First of all, wedding days fly by. From the moment the ceremony starts to the end of the reception, the schedule can be pretty hectic. Why not add a moment for just the two of you to the day’s timeline? This is one chance that you and your love can share a few really special minutes with each other. If the first time you see each other is at the start of the ceremony, that might be a sweet moment, but then the ceremony has started and you’ve got that to focus on. You two will have to be “on” for a lot of the day. This is a wonderful opportunity to get away and just be with your best friend. Doing a first look also allows you spend more of your wedding day with your soon-to-be spouse. If your ceremony is at 6:00 and you don’t do a first look, most of your wedding day will be without your spouse around. But say you have a first look at 2:00, the two of you can have more collective memories of your wedding day together. Some of my favorite memories of my own wedding day were during the afternoon that my bride and entire wedding party were together.
Secondly, just because something is planned does not mean it is inauthentic. This is a big principle for us as videographers in general. We try to be truthful and authentic in all of our work. It’s not about performance. We simply give a framework (time, place, you stand here/you stand there), but what happens between the couple is always so genuine. Your photos and video will greatly benefit. Not only is this a special time that the two of you can share away from everyone else, but it’s also a time that we get to do our jobs away from everyone else. Getting a quality shot of both the bride and the groom at the beginning of the ceremony poses several obstacles for us, especially if the ceremony is in a church. You better believe we do a ton of pre-planning to make sure we are well positioned to get the best shots we can get. However, unobtrusively getting a quality shot of someone walking through the dead center of 100+ people is not so simple. Not to mention many churches have rules about where we can and can’t stand. Again, we are constantly striving to make sure all of our shots are the best they can possibly be, but the quality of your footage is directly impacted by how much control we have over the circumstances. First looks probably afford us a greater amount of control than any other event on a wedding day. Therefore, the footage from first looks is always top-notch. I can’t think of a first look we’ve done that didn’t look great. (Quick side note: we have great, long lenses that allow us to get close-looking shots without being all up in your business. In the screenshots I’ve sprinkled between these paragraphs, we were probably about 20 feet away from the couple.)
Finally, if you’re still not convinced and you would rather see each other for the first time at the ceremony, we would strongly encourage you to consider scheduling something like a “first touch” as seen in this lovely Charlotte wedding.