As far as photography goes, to do a first look or not is one of the key decisions a couple has to make on their wedding day. Years ago this wasn’t even an option. Weddings and wedding photography were embedded in tradition with little or no wiggle room for innovations. Over time though traditions were loosened up a bit and the ‘first looks’ became more and more common.
Today many couples still opt to stick with tradition and see each other only at the ceremony while other couples choose to do a first look instead. But couples don’t just do a first look for no reason. It usually comes about because of the way the days events are scheduled. If the ceremony and reception are hours apart, the first look dilemma doesn’t usually even come up for debate. They can get married and then go take pictures without any kind of rush. The issue of a first look usually comes about if the ceremony and cocktail hour are happening back to back with none or little time in between. Then the couple has to decide: Miss part or all of the cocktail hour to do photos or do all the photos before the ceremony so that they can enjoy the cocktail hour without any worries about taking group photos.
For the couples that have to make this decision, I usually tell them that I have a pretty efficient method in doing family and wedding party group shots, but even still that would mean they would miss probably most of their cocktail hour. Every wedding is different so the amount of time needed to complete these type of photos depends on how many family members would be involved and how big the wedding party is, among other factors like will the photos be on the grounds of the ceremony or will it be somewhere else that will take time to get to.
For me as a photographer either choice is okay. Sure, its always best to not have to rush through photos but with years of experience you know how to adapt to any given situation and adjust speed as needed. The best choice actually is the choice that makes the couple the happiest. I always tell my couples when this comes up that it’s their wedding and not somebody else’s. There really are no rules and they can do as they please. So do what you feel is right for your wedding day. If you can’t break with tradition, don’t do the first look. If you can’t see yourself missing out on cocktail hour fun then do a first look. The important thing is that you do what makes you both happy.
Here is a sequence of a first look I did with Bride Chrissy and Groom Marc. Usually during the first look the bride approaches the groom from behind, taps him on the shoulder and then he turns around to see her for the first time in her wedding dress. A little after this sequence we headed to the Sussex County Fairgrounds where the ceremony and reception were held.