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*Edited to be 43% less offensive.
A ‘First Look’ is generally when the two people getting married see each other before their ceremony. It’s usually a semi-staged event, where your Asian photographer (me!) says hey person 1, stand here and look that direction - and then I’ll tell person 2, hey, walk over there and say hi.
Well. Basically something like that.
Should you have a first look before your wedding? Should you wait and not see each other until your wedding ceremony? Yes.
Yes. And no.
I used to push for the first look – because that’s what photographers do. We want that specific time set aside for us, so we’re guaranteed our space to make literal amazing. I used to push for it. Now? Not as much. What I do require is a 30 minute block of time for the couples portrait session. That can take place before or after the ceremony – as long as it definitely happens. No matter what. No matter how late the schedule gets. No matter what. Here are the things to consider when you’re deciding whether or not to have a first look before your wedding ceremony.
1. The Time of Your Ceremony
If your ceremony is at sunset then your portrait session will probably be taking place in the f*cken pitch black dark. That’s a situation when we should’ve had a first look because we need more light than NONE. Of course – if your ceremony is a little bit earlier and then the timing of your portrait session is sunset – that’s PERFECT. See? In that situation we didn’t need the first look. AND now the portrait session is taking place a much better time than at 3pm in the midday sun. Think you can’t have a slightly earlier ceremony time? WHY NOT? It’s your wedding.
2. Do you want to enter your reception earlier?
The timeline goes like this:
5:00 – 5:30 Ceremony
5:30 – 6:00 Family Formals
6:00 – 6:30 Portrait session
6:30 Enter Reception
If you don’t have the first look – you’re saving 30 minutes of time before you enter your reception. To be honest though – some photographers are SLOW. I’ve heard of other photographers taking an hour+ to complete the family formals and then you STILL have to do your portrait session. That’s a nightmare and that photographer should be fired. Who takes two hours to complete family formals and the portrait session? Anyway… if you happen to have a slow photographer, then YES – you will want to have a first look because otherwise it’ll take 2+ hours before you ever enter your reception. But if you have a generally great photographer – they’ll knock the family formals out and then take care of you during your portrait session and you won’t feel like anytime has passed anyway – and as long as you have a real cocktail hour (you know – with DRINKS and hors d’oeuvres) everyone should be fine.
Of course – you’ll also need to take into consideration any travel time if your ceremony is taking place somewhere other than next door/at your reception venue.
3. Do you even want ‘First Look’ Photos?
The thing with the ‘first look’ is that without it – you can’t make those photos. If we try to make them after your ceremony, after you’ve seen each other already… well… now we’re just REALLY faking it. It won’t be genuine and also it would just be kind of weird. So yeah – that’s definitely something you should consider. Do you even want those ‘first look’ photos? I think this is actually the NUMBER ONE question you should ask yourself when making the decision to have a first look or not. Sure we try to go into the portrait session right after this, but if you don’t even want the first look photos then the portrait session can definitely take place after the ceremony.
4. It’s tradition to not see each other until the ceremony.
I won’t argue this fact. It is tradition to not see each other until the ceremony. However – I will say that nearly half of our couples DO have a first look, so this tradition is kept up only about half the time among the couples that we photograph. So there. How about that. It’s not good or bad or against tradition – but it’s definitely a perfectly great option that you shouldn’t feel bad about choosing.
5. Where might your first look actually take place?
This is a tricky one. Because you could have an amazing location in mind and your photographer might not know how to handle it. There’s a chance your photographer makes average photos in amazing places. On the flip side – your photographer might know how to make amazing photos out of lousy spaces. On the side-side, it’s not your job to do your photographer’s job. Of course – a little help is always appreciated. If you know that the only place we can do the first look is a broom closet – maybe…. maybe we shouldn’t do the first look. Of course – if you don’t care that it’s in a broom closet – then by all means, have at it.
But HEY. This is YOUR WEDDING DAY. Why not give the first look the time and space it deserves because you got dressed up and you look f*cken amazing. Why would you stick yourself in a broom closet for a first look? If you have to take an extra 15 minutes to go over to that amazing spot where the sun hits everything just right – then DO IT.
6. Aw screw it. HAVE A FIRST LOOK DAMMIT.
Seriously. HAVE A FIRST LOOK. I don’t know anyone who’s ever been like - aw man, look at all of these extra photos we have of us being ridiculously happy and in love.
If you’re paying me a trillion dollars to photograph your wedding then I recommend you get your money’s worth – and demand that we do the first look. It’s okay – you don’t have to feel bad about it. I’ll be fine. Really. So if you want the first look just let me know and we’ll turn on the faucet that sprays amazing and beautiful everywhere while you guys meet up and bask in your love (you know – along with having an Asian guy yelling you to kiss/hold hands/be in love, etc.)
DO IT. Have a first look.
All Photos by LeahAndMark & Co.
– Additional Photography by Joy Hmielewski, Niki Malek
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