Should you consider a “first look” before your ceremony?
Your neighborhood friendly wedding photographers are back to give you the scoop.
While planning a couple’s wedding day photography timeline, most couples get stuck on the “first look?” or “to not first look?” question. After ten years of capturing weddings, we can confidently, and whole-heartedly say you should consider the first look! If you have been thinking of whether this might be the right option for you, we have outlined some reasons as to why you should consider:
Let’s start with the basics: What Is A First Look?
A first look is when the couple sees each other before the wedding ceremony takes place. This can be a private moment or you may invite your wedding party to witness the magic.
Five benefits to the First Look experience
Time spent alone with your partner – We want you to be together as much as possible! Without a first look, the two of you will be standing at the alter in silence for up to an hour during your ceremony. Your partner can only gush to you in small, quick snippets about how beautiful you look. You aren’t able to embrace until after you walk back down the aisle, but then you’re whisked away for a marathon photography session. We’d rather you two have the space to express how you’re feeling in that moment. Are you shouting your shock & awe from the rooftops? Quietly and happily sobbing? Flirty and giggly? All of the above? Let your love flag fly, friend!
More, more, more – You’ve just joyfully embraced your once-in-a-lifetime love, cried, laughed and had a moment to take in the gorgeous sight in front of you. We couldn’t think of a better time to take some cozy and romantic couples portraits of you lovin’ on your future spouse. Couples who have first looks get double the amount of portraits to put in their albums and decorate their home with. Most importantly, you get more time with your love. On average, couples who have a first look will spend up to 3 hours more together on their wedding day than a couple who waits for the aisle.
Nerves, be gone! A first look can truly help you to calm those pre-wedding jitters and nerves. Why? You’re about to marry your person. I’m willing to bet your person is the one who calms your mind and your soul. Once you have that moment with your fiancé, you will be flying high, laughing loudly and ready to get your “I Do’s” on! When you’re standing at the end of the aisle, your gaze will be met with a joyful, happy tearful and full hearted partner. The thought that you were once nervous will be preposterous.
Cocktail Hour Appearance! Are you ready for this wild idea? You could have time to join your guests during cocktail hour! You’d get to eat all those apps you carefully chose months ago with your signature cocktail in hand, while greeting your guests before the reception even starts. Once you are introduced as the Newlyweds, it’s party time from here on out! This results in more quality time for your guests to make memories with the two of you and more time to showcase your killer dance moves on the dance floor!
Slow your day down. Trying to squeeze in family formals, bridal party, and your couple’s portraits within the hour after your ceremony can tend to make you feel a little rushed, frazzled and taken out of the moment. A first look cushions your photography timeline to take it slow, relax and allows for more meaningful moments to be captured. Instead of 15-20 minutes of a posing frenzy, you could have at least a full hour to simply have fun hanging out with your best friend, explore the grounds of your venue all while dressed in your wedding best.
A common hesitation we hear is “It’s not traditional so I’m not sure if we should.” Let’s think of it like this: If this one miniature event in your grand wedding story enriches your wedding experience together, gives you a unique story to tell with gorgeous one of a kind photos to show twenty years down the road, then why does it matter that it’s not what your parents did 30 years ago? Repeat after me… “This is your day.”
Now that you’ve heard from the photographers perspective, we warmly invite you to one of our Eisley Couples point of view!
Meet Matt & Kristen Grady! These once-in-a-lifetime loves were married at Flag Hill in Lee, NH back in 2016. To this day, they still firmly believe in the power of a first look and they credit the smoothness of their day in part to it!
“I think like most who consider a first look, I was on the fence. I did not want it to take away from that moment when I see her walking towards me down the aisle. I am fairly old-fashioned and thought I wanted to up hold past traditions. My friends and family sold me on the idea. They had seen weddings with and without first looks. The consensus was that the couples that experienced the first look got to spend more time with guests thus fully enjoying their special day. The one thing that everyone agrees on is how fast the day will really go. I wanted to make sure that we made the most of it, so we opted for the first look!
The intimacy of the moment was breath taking. I had my groomsmen at my side and my family close by. Before she walked over, my groomsmen and I were sharing a drink around a table. Their heads all popped up when they saw her first; they had assured her that my back would be turned to her coming out so the reveal could happen. They guided me to my spot to stand in and my beautiful fiancé, Kristen, tapped me lightly on the shoulder to turn around to see her - a perfect moment.
It was such a relief to see Kristen at the first look. It is very hard not to be nervous on this amazing day. After seeing Kristen almost all of those feelings disappeared. We got out a lot of our tears and quivering chins. It was so hard to let her leave again when we were done taking photos after first look, but it made me so much more excited to see her later that day. We still had a pretty sappy ceremony. I couldn’t even imagine what it would have been like if we didn’t see each other before.
I could not imagine even with all of the warning, how quickly that night went by. That night is about you two and celebrating with all the people who are most special in your lives. Make sure you get to enjoy those moments. If you are busy taking photos all evening you might not get to have a wild dance with your fun aunts or have that special moment with your friends during the cocktail hour, and you will regret it. This is your wedding day! Make sure you do everything that you want.
“I was extremely on the fence about a first look. I didn’t fully understand the value of time on your wedding day. Everyone says it is gone in a flash, and truly it is. Having a first look and knocking off some of our “photos to get” list to be able to enjoy our cocktail hour far surpassed having to scramble for photo ops. Having a first look meant our families were able to be present also.
I knew I was going to be emotional, but I never expected the emotion that was present during our first look. The red eyes, quivering chins and ugly tears were far worth it - plus our whole wedding didn’t see me blubbering.
Instead of taking away from the moment, experiencing a first look with Matt added to the moment of seeing him standing under the arbor waiting for me. We’d already laughed, cried, and ogled over one another. Now our guests could share those emotions with us too!
The selling point on having a first look was being able to enjoy our cocktail hour with our wedding party and parents. We mingled, hugged, kissed, and thanked so many guests during that time, which we may not have been able to if we hadn’t taken so many photos before the ceremony. Both sets of parents were heavily involved with choosing our menu items and I really wanted to make sure they could enjoy them.
Advice from Kristen & Matt, to you:
“If you’re on the fence, think about everything you can accomplish when it’s just you and your partner. All the hidden nooks and crannies of your venue are completely private. It’s just you and the photographer(s) capturing gorgeous photos without an audience. After you can enjoy your cocktail hour - which is suitably named because you’re going to want to celebrate your newly exchanged vows with a toast, or two. And lastly, no one wants rushed wedding photos. This is undoubtedly one of the happiest days of your lives (to date), and these photos are something you (and your future kids) will cherish forever.
We took a leap of faith and trusted the wedding experts we hired for our big day. We heard their tips and tricks, and it made us think: they’re the experts. This is our one shot. They do this every wedding. They’ve seen what works, and what moments add to a better experience. The candid photos featuring Matt and I focusing on nothing but each other during our first look are my favorites. Those moments are now the frames and canvases in nearly every room of our house. Christy and George captured the big moments, the small moments and every moment in between perfectly.”
At the end of the day, this is your wedding. A first look might just not be for you, and that’s perfectly fine.
Here are some compromises for couples who still want to have the experience of a private moment beforehand, but want the first look to be cherished with the wedding guests they have chosen to be in attendance:
A first touch: You can be together while still not seeing each other. You may stand back to back, or hold hands through a doorway, around a corner. Simply interlock your fingers and take in the moment. Consider exchanging gifts or reading letters out loud during this time.
Serenade: This is perfect for the musically inclined. This may be done back to back or in adjoining/partitioned rooms.
A first look with someone else: Parents, grandparents, and bridal parties are the people closest to you that will share in the emotion and pure joy of this moment.
Sneak peek from our last wedding with Mr & Mrs Faherty! In true Irish style, they tied the knot on St. Patricks Day Weekend with their friends and family traveling to Boston’s Seaport. Anna & Bobby originally decided against a first look, but after seeing how happy our past Eisley Couples were with their choice to have a first look, they were all in!
Vendors for Matt & Kristen
Photographer: Eisley Images @eisleyimages
Venue: Flag Hill Winery & Distillery, Epping, NH @flag_hill
Décor & Singage: Pineapple and Peony @pineappleandpeony
Groom's suit - J. Crew
Groom/Groomsmen watches - Tree Hut Design
Bridal gown - Maeve Keegan (purchased at Pure Bliss, Newburyport, MA)
Flowers - Cymbidium Floral, Exeter, NH
Guitarist/MC - Dana Brearly
Salon - 6 Degrees, Portsmouth, NH (bride, MOH, MOB)
Bride rings: Capitol Craftsman
Groom ring: hand-me-down from Grandpa
Guestbook: MDB Weddings
Burlap ring bag: Clementine Weddings
Eisley Images is a husband and wife wedding photography team for joyful couples who laugh loudly and love deeply. Christy and George live in Rhode Island with their hilarious and wickedly smart four year old, Emerson Eisley, and their half-blind rescue pug, Artie. When Christy isn’t photographing once-in-a-lifetime-loves, she can be found reading all the non-fiction books, listening to all the business podcasts, leading a group of creative entrepreneurs in the Rising Tide Society or dancing around her kitchen to songs she made up to tunes that already exist (the subjects of the songs are usually about Artie & Emmy).
To learn more about them visit their ‘about us’ page!