elizabeth gelineau



Mobile bay area wedding photographer

Should You Share a First Look


April 22, 2020

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The Organized Bride Series

Do you want to share a First Look with your groom ahead of your ceremony? I pose this question to every bride who does a consultation with me. It’s one of the most important questions to know the answer to up front because this one decision affects so much on your wedding day. First, let me start by saying this: there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to answering this question. The answer, however, does have an impact on your wedding day timeline and your wedding day photographs. This is why it’s important to think about whether or not you’re open to a First Look before you embark on planning too many details.

If you saw the title of this post and thought, “First Look, no way,” I totally understand your feelings, but I also encourage you to read on! This post is for all brides, those who choose to share a First Look with their groom, as well as those who choose to save the grand reveal for the aisle!


It All Comes Down to Sunlight

While I regularly use artificial lighting during certain parts of a wedding day, I consider myself a natural light photographer. My wedding and portrait style is defined by natural light, which means the bulk of the images I take on a wedding day utilize daylight. If it rains, or there is another need to take photos inside, it is something I can definitely do, but it’s not the style of shooting that feels most natural.

My brides come to me for timeless and natural looking images that capture the joy of their wedding day. The minute I’m setting up lighting for a portrait, things have to be a bit more controlled. Understanding this difference is hugely important!

Because my work has a brighter style and that is what I consistently deliver to my clients, it’s important for them to know what time the sun will set on their wedding day. Without the sunlight, I cannot create natural light images. Does that mean I can’t work on a cloudy day? Not at all! Even when it’s cloudy we can utilize the sunlight – it will just be softened by the clouds, which can be a good thing depending on where we’re shooting and the time of day we’re there.

It does mean that if you’re getting married at 6pm and sunset is at 5pm that you will not have natural light portraits with your groom if you don’t share a First Look. Yikes! That sounds harsh, but it’s just the nature of natural light.

I love a dramatic nighttime portrait, but those types of shots are not the bulk of what I create for my clients. I consider them icing on the cake shots!

What if You Don’t Want to Share A First Look?

What if you don’t want to share a First Look? That’s totally fine! Just know that deciding not to share a First Look might mean you should reconsider your ceremony time. This is why it’s important to know your feelings about a First Look and the sunset time before setting that ceremony time and mailing invitations!

If you’re booking a venue that requires you to set your ceremony time up front, then definitely decide whether or not you are going to share a First Look and the consider the style of photography you prefer before locking in that venue for a specific time. It will save you some frustration when you get further along into planning.

Let Your Priorities Be Your Guide

What happens if you already locked in your ceremony time and you don’t want to share a First Look, plus your ceremony will end after sunset? This is when you have to carefully examine your priorities, including your groom in the discussion.

The decision of whether or not to share a First Look is one you need to make together. If you’re not both on the same page, it won’t be the magical moment you’ve heard other brides talk about.

In the end, knowing what’s most important to you – having natural light portraits and going straight to the reception versus saving the reveal for the aisle and having a cocktail hour for guests while you have portraits taken. Again, there is no right or wrong answer!

Sometimes I have couples who are on the fence about whether or not to share a First Look and that’s ok too! Over the years, I’ve found it’s helpful to look at two different versions of a wedding day timeline – one with a First Look included and one without. Seeing how the day flows differently based on that one factor usually makes it easier to pinpoint those priorities. When you know what’s most important to you, you will be able to make decisions with confidence.

How Does this Affect Photography

Thinking about whether or not you want to share a First Look with your groom before you begin your search for a photographer will actually help you in finding the right photographer to work with!

Each photographer has their own unique style and approach to wedding days. If you’re loving a photographer’s work who mostly shows natural light portraits in their portfolio, then that means you’re drawn to a natural light style and you need to consult the sunset and know if you’re going to share a First Look before nailing down that ceremony time.

If you’re loving a darker and more dramatic style of photography, or one that relies heavily on artificial light, then the sunset time might not be as important of a factor. Setting up a consultation with a photographer whose work you love is a great way to find out more about their style and approach to wedding days.

If You Are Sharing a First Look

You’ve decided to share a First Look and you feel great about it! Yay! Keep in mind this means the majority of your portraits will be taken pre-ceremony, meaning you’ll have to start taking photos more in advance of the ceremony time than if you were not sharing a First Look.

Most brides I know don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn on their wedding day. If you have a large bridal party, you’ll need more time for hair and makeup. This is where a later ceremony time is helpful. Since almost all your portraits will be taken ahead of you walking down the aisle, you can push your ceremony closer to sunset, leaving just enough daylight afterwards for a few “Just Married” portraits and any family shots that weren’t able to be taken ahead of the ceremony.

Benefits of Sharing a First Look

There are so many benefits to sharing a First Look, but the biggest one is that you have the bulk of the portraits taken before the ceremony and you’ll have more bride and groom portraits in your final gallery! If you have multiple locations involved in your wedding day, a First Look will let us incorporate more than one of them into your portraits. It also means that once the ceremony is over, you’re free to greet family and friends who have come to celebrate with you! If we’re able to take almost all portraits pre-ceremony, then that usually means any post ceremony portraits are going to take 20 minutes or less time to take, giving you more time at your reception.

Another benefit is that you get to experience your wedding day with your groom at your side! Without a First Look, you don’t get to see your groom until the ceremony and then as soon as the ceremony is over we have to jump into portraits. It leaves little time for sharing a private moment with each other. If this is something that is important to you, then sharing a First Look will give you that time to catch your breath, spend a few minutes with your husband-to-be, and soak in the joy of your day!

Finally, a First Look ensures that we can maximize time for portraits. Since we don’t have to worry about keeping the two of you from seeing one another, we have the freedom to efficiently work through portrait time, while also getting you more portrait variety. Once you’ve shared your First Look, we can easily transition between bride and groom, bridal party and family portraits without having to coordinate who is where and at what time.

What About that Old Saying???

What about that old saying: “It’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding?” We’ve all heard that phrase since we were little. But do we know where that phrase and tradition originated from? I know that I didn’t until I embarked on this journey as a wedding photographer.

It turns out that the tradition of the bride not seeing the groom before the ceremony and being hidden behind a veil dates back to the era of arranged marriages. The bride’s family and the groom’s family would agree their children would marry, but the bride would be hidden from the groom until the ceremony so that the groom couldn’t back out if he didn’t fancy how she looked. So it was sort of an insurance plan on the marriage happening, rather than a sweet, sentimental tradition.

The roots of the tradition don’t mean you can’t still value the traditional route. That aisle moment is special too! Again, deciding whether or not to share a First Look is a personal preference for each couple. However, if you’re hanging on to the “tradition” just because you think it’s bad luck to share a First Look, you might want to consider the big picture of your wedding day before making the decision to forego the First Look option.

The Aisle Moment

The majority of my couples choose to incorporate a First Look into their wedding day, but I’ve also worked with several couples over the years who wanted to save the reveal for the aisle. I love photographing First Looks and I love photographing the groom’s reaction when the bride comes down the aisle. I often see grooms getting choked up when their bride comes down the aisle even when they’ve shared a First Look. No matter what time a groom sees his bride for the first time, the aisle moment is a special one.

View more posts in The Organized Bride Series here!


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