"The First Look"
“Errr - never heard of it"
"Yeah I think I heard something about it - what’s it all about?"
"They do that in America don’t they…?”
These are the typical responses when I mention a first look to my wedding clients. So what is it all about…? Well, firstly to put it in context, I’ve photographed in excess of 100 foreign weddings over the past 9 years and probably 80% of these weddings have involved a first look. So I kind of feel that I’m qualified to know what they are about and more importantly the benefits of doing one. That’s all great I hear you say, but what is it…??
To put it simply rather than waiting to see each other at the alter, it’s where the bride & groom arrange to see each other for the first time on their wedding day before the civil or religious ceremony. Sometimes it's done in private and sometimes it's done in the presence of some immediate family or a very small number of very close friends. Either way the photographer (and videographer) are in attendance to capture the occasion and the emotions that go with it. Then straight afterwards, the bride & groom photos are taken.
Why do it? Well there are various reasons…
A lot of couples dread the thought of seeing each other for the first time on an alter in front of a large number of people regardless of the fact that they are friends & family. Doing it in private beforehand dispels any nerves or dread of enduring the ‘big reveal moment’ in public.
Normally the first look is then followed with a bit of time spent on the bride & groom photos meaning that your photographs are done and dusted before the ceremony allowing you more time with guests at the reception afterwards. This also means that your photos are taken when your makeup, hair, dress/suit are pristine and not after you've been hugged and mishandled by 150 guests following the ceremony.
It’s also a tradition in a lot of countries but it’s starting to catch on in Ireland.
Is it a good thing?
Absolutely….! Here’s the reasons.
- As I’ve already mentioned, because it’s done beforehand in private there are no nervous or dreaded moments waiting for the bride to arrive at the church or walking up the aisle to meet your 'soon to be' husband. Having a private get together is much more intimate and therefore more emotional. As a further consequence of that, it’s a more special and longer lasting memory for both bride and groom. And it’s great to capture on film...!
- It saves you time later in the day. If we spend a bit of time after the first look taking your photos, we don’t have to squeeze that time into your reception time after the ceremony. This means better use of your time on your day, less stress and better photographs. Why better photographs I hear you cry….? Simple - because at this stage of the day, nothing is running late and therefore we have all the time we need to get great relaxed and natural looking photographs. Ask any seasoned wedding photographer about what they dislike most about Irish weddings and 99% of them will say ‘time management’. Irish weddings regardless of how well they are planned or whatever the good intentions, generally do not run on time. That’s a fact. A good experienced wedding photographer will do whatever he or she can to help a couple plan for their day and help keep things running on time on the day itself, but ultimately there is only so much that we can do. Put it this way. I know that if I am shooting a Dutch or German wedding for example, everything will run on time and that whatever time has been allocated beforehand to photographs of the couple and family photos, will actually happen. Irish weddings however generally take on a life of their own and are much more laid back. Now don’t get me wrong - that’s good especially if there is loads of time built into the day where we can play catch up. But if a schedule is tight and the bride gets to the church late, then the ceremony runs late and so on. Suddenly the time that the couple had for photos after the ceremony and before the meal is now compromised. Sometimes it’s severely compromised meaning much less photos of the bride and groom, rushed family photos and stress for everybody which is what your memories of your wedding will unfortunately become. First looks avoid this scenario completely. Interestingly, one of the biggest regrets of couples following their wedding day is that they wish they spent more money on a photographer and that they allocated more time to their photographs. (Source - Mrs2be Irish Wedding Survey 2015). Having that first look means that a little more time can be spent on photos eliminating post-wedding regrets.
- Winter weddings - it gets dark early during winter which impacts directly on your wedding photography. Having the first look and your photos taken in the morning ensures that you don’t have to schedule an earlier ceremony in order to have some rapidly fading light available for your photos later in the afternoon.
- Couples much prefer it as it makes their day so much easier, more enjoyable and less stressful. That's the direct feedback I've received from all the Irish couples that have decided to go with a first look.
Where do couples have their first look? Various places but ultimately wherever the couple wants. Often in other countries it happens wherever the bride is getting ready as it's traditional for the groom to collect the bride, present her with the bouquet (yes - in some countries it's the grooms job to choose the bouquet...!!) and then whisk her away with the photographer for their photographs. So it may happen at the brides house or the hotel/castle/country house where she is getting ready. Possibly in a quiet part of the hotel grounds. Sometimes though the bride and groom simply arrange to meet in a park, beach, forrest or that somewhere special that has a meaning to them both and that is a good spot to have their photographs taken. There are loads of possibilities. Whatever location is decided upon just has to be planned for along with your photographer. Buts thats the fun part...!!
Expect to hear more and more about first looks over the next 5 years. My experience is that an ever increasing number of Irish brides do not wish to go along with the traditional Irish wedding formula. Re-arranging your day to incorporate a first look is not difficult and the benefits are big. There are just a few different logistics associated with it that need to be considered. My best advice is to at least consider it and talk it through throughly with your wedding photographer as he/she will be able to greatly assist in making it work for you.