A First Look at A First Look Session

Before reading this, many of you may have never even heard of a first look session.  Let this be your guide. This will give you some of the pros and cons of a first look session. As a wedding photographer, time is my enemy on your wedding day. I typically only get a very small window of one-on-one time with the couple and bridal party. Sometimes that hour or two before your reception is literally the only time during the entire day your photographer gets to capture all the formal photos, family photos and your photos as newlyweds.

I bet you’ve seen some of those fun and creative photos on Pinterest? Then wondered how in the world did their photographer have the time to do those shots? If you haven’t, you should. There is a real rush to get in all the ‘must have’s’ so you don’t leave your guests hungry and sitting for hours awaiting your arrival. Trust everyone that says your wedding day will go by much faster than you ever imagined - because it will! Normally there’s only a very narrow amount of time for you to cram in all your formal photos so how can you find the time for the fun ones too?

A first look session may be the solution for you! This offers you and your photographer more time to focus on getting your formal photos taken care of and get those fun Pinterest shots before the ceremony.  Yes, it’s understood that your wedding day isn’t all about just the photographs but how do you balance that time between your ceremony and reception without having bored guests?

The solution is a first look session.

Yes, you can delay your entrance and just offer hors d'oeuvres and open the bar to occupy your guests but keep in mind the party really can’t get started until the bride and groom arrive. Do I have your attention yet? Good. So… What exactly is a first look session?

Some consider it a separate photo session within your wedding day. It takes place prior to the wedding ceremony and reception. This is where the bride, groom, and wedding party can take some of those fun creative photos you imagined when you started planning your wedding. Let’s look at the pros and cons of having a first look session.

Yes, you are breaking the tradition. Traditionally, the first time the groom will see his beautiful bride is when she’s walking down the aisle on the arm of her father that’s giving her away. So breaking tradition is typically considered the biggest con. Where did this tradition come from anyways? Centuries ago when these traditions were created, larger weddings used to only be for the wealthy, since they were the only ones that could afford such an extravagant event. Also back then, arranged marriages were also much more common. In that time it wasn’t unheard of for a groom to see his bride until after he lifted the veil and yes, again, that’s after walking down the aisle.

Now-a-days, everyone has a wedding ceremony and a big fancy reception. Let’s be real, you met your groom and fell in love all on your own. You see the love of your life every single day so… (no surprise) he already knows what you look like – duh! These day’s veils are usually worn by brides to accent their wedding dress or is just part of the wedding attire and not used to hide their faces.

Another thing to consider, years ago having a wedding photographer wasn’t part of the tradition at all. Cameras weren’t even evolved enough to be a proper medium to record such an event.  I say, get with the times folks!

I understand, some mothers and grandparents may not agree with a first look session. It appears like every generation seems to change tradition just a little bit. From dresses to ceremony locations and photography is no exception! The other drawback (which really isn’t that much of a drawback) is getting ready a bit earlier. Most brides plan to serve lunch to the wedding party while getting hair and make-up done anyways and there is some chill-time before the ceremony. So between getting ready until the actual ceremony you schedule in a sliver of time for a first look session. This way you can still have some down time, get great photos and have some private time with your future main squeeze.  

I always present this as an option to my bride and grooms. Hear me out, first it gets all of your bridal party and bride/groom photos taken care of, it allows time for some fun shots that may require set-up, and relaxes you before the ceremony and general craziness of the day. Oh and I almost forgot, this also lessens the gap after the ceremony to your reception so you don’t have starving guests. You could even invite some of your close family members to the first look session too so they can see both of you seeing each other for the first time. It’s honestly one of the most amazing experiences for everyone. 

Once the first look happens, it then gives your photographer an opportunity to get creative and try to re-create some of those fun wedding photos that you have pinned on your Pinterest wall. Who knows, maybe your unique and fun bridal party pics will get re-pined around the world on Pinterest too! Another cool thing about a first look session is having people around you during your first look. During your first look session your photographer could capture the expression of other close friends and relatives along with yours as they could be seeing you for the first time too – BONUS! Although you could do the first look session with nobody around too, that’s entirely up to you so it’s important to talk through these details with your photographer.

So not only have you given you photographer creative-time and given you and your groom a special moment but you’ve also broken away from the typical wedding environment. Yes trust me, it’s inevitable at every wedding photo session there is a person (typically a Mother, Grandma or Aunt) trying to give their own direction on who gets photographed and when, but some photographers have passive personalities,  they may not want to upset the apple cart, so they will just play along. Remember, you are the boss of your wedding day, not Aunt Cheryl. Keep in mind, that you hired your photographer, you got to know him or her during your engagement session, and you already love their work. Let them do the job you hired them to do.

I strongly suggest a first look session, because some men only show a little tiny bit of emotional reaction and it allows your photographer to capture that emotion or that joyous look on your groom’s face when he sees you for the first time in your dress. After all, when you are walking down the aisle all eyes are on you - including your photographer’s. With your photographer concentrated on you that look may be gone by the time he/she turns to capture it. A first look session allows your photographer to concentrate on both of your reactions.

 This is a fantastic way to allow you and your groom to have a private moment together before your crazy wedding day begins.