Crane’s Chicago Wedding Photography
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First Look

The First Look

What is a first look?

Relatively new to the wedding scene, the “first look” is a scheduled opportunity for the bride and groom to see each other in private before walking down the aisle. Traditionally, the first look takes place when the bride steps onto the aisle and at the altar as her veil are lifted. Many couples are now scheduling a brief period to do this privately, where they can share an intimate moment before saying “I do.”

Why couples do a first look on their wedding day?

A first look is a natural and very popular choice for couples whose ceremony takes place later in the day, leaving little time for pictures before the reception begins. It takes about 3 hours to photograph the couple, wedding party and families between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the cocktail hour.

A first look, on the other hand, gives the couple the opportunity to enjoy the cocktail hour and spend time mingling with friends and other loved ones. This is a very special time and your guests appreciate your presence, so I hate to take you away from that. Our General Timeline explains the time requirements in further detail.

First looks are becoming the new “norm” in wedding photography. We’ve all been to weddings where the bride and groom are missing from the cocktail hour, and the reception starts late because the pictures took longer than expected, right? This unfortunate scenario is exactly what a first look solves. A first look has several key benefits: It streamlines the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception for you and your guests, gives you more time for taking on-site pictures and allows you to be photographed while your hair and makeup are still flawless.

If you’re having a late afternoon or evening ceremony and want pictures outside, a first look is definitely the way to go. Otherwise you may not have enough time to get pictures with good lighting after the ceremony.

You don’t have to have a first look, but if you decide to, there are some pros and cons to be aware of.

What are the pros of having a first look?

  • See your fiancé before the ceremony, mitigating any jitters or fears. It’s honestly amazing how the stress lifts away from a bride when she sees the groom for the first time and gives them both a new-found ability to appreciate the ceremony to come.
  • Have more time with friends and family. The benefit here is twofold: A first look allows you to take your wedding party and family photographs before the ceremony, which then frees you up to spend more time with your loved ones during the cocktail hour. Unheard of, right?!
  • Privacy! Need I say more? This is a special moment for the two of you uninterrupted by clapping and cellphone cameras. If you don’t like to be the center of attention or get nervous around crowds, a first look was practically made for you. Plus, it affords you the rare opportunity to spend a few special moments together before the festivities take over.
  • Have more time to share your intimate emotions and feelings, away from the timeline of the ceremony. Wouldn’t it be nice to kiss, hug, laugh or cry with your partner away from all your guests? Even better, we have the opportunity capture one of the most iconic experiences of the day – the split second where you lay eyes on each other – on camera, adding another memorable moment to your day.
  • Allow for additional photo opportunities. A first look and other pictures before the ceremony gives us more time capture more beautiful photo opportunities. And if you run into delays later in the day – no worries! You already set aside the time for these meaningful images.
  • First looks can be done inside or outside, and with attractive features, like an intricate staircase or an oak tree. This option doesn’t exist mid-ceremony. The first look is an especially emotional moment that you’ll always cherish. By adding this session to the day, you’ll have a rare memory of your wedding day featuring just the two of you. And don’t worry – the first look doesn’t diminish the emotion of the ceremony. I regularly see grooms cry as their bride-to- be walks down the aisle, just minutes after.
  • Having a winter wedding? It gets dark early. A first look with couples, wedding party and family photos before the ceremony lets us take advantage of the beautiful natural light before sunset.

What are the cons of having a first look?

  • You’ll only have time for a first look if everything else stays on schedule. Unexpected delays with hair and makeup, flower delivery and other issues can eat up the time allowed for the first look.
  • A first look requires getting up and ready earlier, and being in your wedding clothes longer.
  • Your loved ones won’t be part of the first instant you and your fiancé see each other. Will that hurt their feelings? Does that affect your decision?
  • Your dress might get a little dirty, depending on where the images are taken.
  • Unless you extend the availability of your hair and makeup artists, you may have to do your own touchups between the first look and ceremony.
  • If you do your portraits before the ceremony, you won’t technically be married. This bothers some people, but not others. It’s up to you!
  • If you don’t want a first look, don’t have one! Don’t listen to anyone else. You know best.
  • A first look shies away from tradition. If sticking to tradition is important to you, a first look may not be a good option.
  • Are you uncomfortable with the idea of a first look? Does it make you nervous? Some people are uncomfortable emoting on a schedule, or worry how others will perceive their reaction. Again, only you know how you’ll feel. Trust yourself!

Conclusion

I think your wedding day is YOUR day. Your decision to do a first look – or not – shouldn’t be my decision. It’s a personal preference, for sure, but if you’re on the fence, let’s talk about it! Give me a call and we can discuss the pros and cons and maybe I can help you reach a decision that’s right for you.

Just to sum up, there are some definite benefits to having a first look. But there are also some drawbacks, especially if you’re very traditional or want your friends and family to share in the experience. The benefits, however, are mitigating the pre-ceremony jitters, having some privacy with your fiancé, looking as fresh and beautiful as possible for pictures and having more time to spend with your guests later.