It’s one of the biggest decisions that you’re going to make for your wedding day: do you sidestep tradition and do an Arkansas Wedding First Look, or do you go with “the way it’s always been” and refuse to see each other until the end of the aisle? And anyway, why does it matter so much? Doing the first look or sticking with tradition means big things for your timeline, your stress level and in some cases, your photographs. For my brides I highly recommend doing the First Look, especially when your ceremony will end close to or after dark. Every wedding is different, of course, but I have found that it’s nearly always best for photos (which obviously is important)! To help you make your decision, I want to share a post like this with some of the things I’ve learned about First Looks from my perspective as your wedding photographer. So if you are just starting to look into what a First Look is, let’s define it:
A first look is a special time set aside, usually 30-45 minutes, once you’re done getting ready. It’s the time when the bride and groom will first see each other in their wedding clothes, just like the moment the bride enters the church except much more private and intimate than it would be in front of all the guests.
Sounds sweet, right? It is! First Looks are my very favorite part of the day and a lot of times my very favorite photos of the day. Here are some of the reasons I recommend the First Look so highly:
- A First Look means MORE photos for you! When we can do your portraits before the ceremony, most of the time it means I have so much more time to do more (and more creative!) photos of you as a couple and you with your wedding party, friends and families. If you decide to do a First Look but also want some sunset pictures or just some more portraits after you’re officially husband and wife, don’t worry – I’ll never say no to more photos of the bride and groom! We can always do a few more photos between your reception and ceremony, or I can sneak you away from the guests a little later.
- First Looks usually help stress levels immensely! It’s definitely one of the sweetest, most precious days of your relationship, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be free of stress and nerves. But I’ve watched even my most nerve-addled brides and grooms relax and enjoy the day so much more after they’ve had a chance to see each other.
- Doing a First Look streamlines your formal photos! Your wedding party photos and family photos make up a pretty important part of your wedding photo gallery, and wrangling all the people who are supposed to be in them can be a bit of a task. When we do the first look, generally we go straight into your formal photos as a couple and then the family and bridal party and are able to get every single formal photo out of the way before your ceremony even happens. We aren’t rushed to get you guys to the reception and your guests won’t have to wait on you!
- The time spent at the First Look is often the only time the bride and groom are alone all day! All day long you’ll be surrounded by your planner, wedding party, friends, and family. Being surrounded by the ones you love is a wonderful way to spend your wedding day for sure, but the First Look is like a little respite in the middle of a day that can be a little bit overwhelming. Most of the time I will take you away from everyone else and the only people there will be you guys and me, and after just a few minutes of shooting I will leave you alone for a little while.
Still think you want to stick with a Traditional timeline? Sticking with a Traditional timeline and not seeing each other until you’re walking down the aisle is also a beautiful and meaningful way to do things. There are some situations where it’s really really not recommended, but sometimes it can be done well and things can still flow smoothly! Here are some ways to make sure this type of timeline goes as smoothly as it can:
- Decide if you want to do any of your photos before the ceremony or all of them after. My personal recommendation most of the time on a traditional timeline is that all the photos are done after the ceremony. If we are really on a time crunch after the ceremony, we can do as many groupings as possible before the ceremony while still keeping you guys separate (i.e. bride + bridesmaids, groom + groomsmen). But really I find that those shots we can get out of the way before the ceremony don’t add very much time to the shooting afterward because all the same people have to be at both sessions anyway, so it might not be worth wrangling everybody together twice. If we do end up splitting them up, make sure that you mark “before photos” and “after photos” on your shot list so things stay nice and clear!
- Plan a cocktail hour for your guests to enjoy while we’re taking photos. We can take up to an hour to get all the photos done before you and your party and family make it to the reception, and sometimes unfortunately this can mean losing guests to the slow down of events. To combat this, plan a cocktail hour with music, drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and even think about including yard games or a slideshow to entertain them while they wait!
- Send everybody the information about portrait time via email before the wedding. To make sure everybody knows when they need to be there for photos, gather everyone’s email addresses and send the portrait time and any instructions (i.e. “Uncle Jerry, you are responsible for making sure Great Grandma Smith gets to the right place at the right time” or “Aunt Peggy, please be sure to not wear your Transitions lense glasses!”). You can have the officiant announce where to go right after the ceremony, or another great idea is to start a group text before your wedding day even arrives, so it’s as simple as going to that message and shooting out a “Meet on the East side of the chapel immediately following the ceremony” text and everybody knows exactly what to do!
- Get help with wrangling people! Appoint someone who knows names and faces (and has a pretty substantial voice) to be in charge of the groupings shot list and wrangling people. This will make the photos go so much faster than if I’m trying to remember who’s who and make sure we have everybody.