A First Look. The Pros & Cons.

*As mentioned on the previous page; I am entirely in favour and supportive of same-sex marriage. Some of the text below might just be for ‘wordings’ sake, and I sincerely apologise if I cause any offence or inconvenience by this. This information is just a guide and completely customisable for any couple of any sex, colour, shape or size. If you are planning a wedding that doesn’t involve both a ‘bride’ and a ‘groom’ and would like to go over some customised plans that don’t fit into the ‘mould’ below, please just get in touch with me, and I’ll do my absolute best to help in any way I can.

What is a first look?

As first looks are becoming so common these days at weddings, I’m going to give a massive amount of info below about them. However, the biggest thing I’ve found over the years in regards to first looks is this –

If your wedding is in Melbourne from October – March, most of the time you don’t need to do a first look. There’s plenty of time (and light!) post-ceremony for couple photos. If your wedding is from April – September, I would strongly consider doing a first look or planning your ceremony early enough in the day to ensure there is enough time (and light!) after your ceremony for couple photos.

Heaps more first look detail now.

If you are concerned about time – either not having enough of it, or leaving your guests waiting, missing out on your party, or simply just want to spend more time with each other on your wedding day – another option to consider is to do a ‘first look’.

That is where you both see each other and do the majority of these ‘location/portrait’ photos before the ceremony. Most people’s first reaction is to baulk at this idea when they first hear about it, as many of us are almost ‘pre-programmed’ to believe that this is against some kind of religion or tradition.

However, this is becoming a much more popular option in Australia (it has been in America for some time) these days as more and more couples move away from the ‘traditional’ flow of a wedding day.

Some positives in doing this that have nothing at all to do with photography are –

  • You get to spend more time with each other (and alone time) on the day.
  • You get to spend more time with your family and friends on the day. As soon as the ceremony is done, it’s party time! The location photos have already been done. ‘First look couples’ usually always just join their guests for canapés straight after the ceremony, and the couple, bridal party and guests always really love that.
  • It will take away a lot of the ‘nervousness’ before the ceremony, and you get to truly relax, enjoy it and be more present at that moment. Check out my celebrant mate, Josh Withers blog – First Look Photos: The Express Train to Calm Town. It’s awesome.
  • The first time you see each other as bride and groom is your moment. It’s a private moment that belongs to the two of you forever—no one else.

As a wedding photographer from the Yarra Valley, I can tell you the day is so surreal, such a blur and completely flies by. From being on the other side of the camera at my wedding in 2014. I’m happy that we did a first look and extended the day with each other.

When you have a first look, you still absolutely get the chance to have that moment, the first time you see each as bride and groom for the first time, just a more private moment, see a few photos on this page as an example of that. And the first look, because it is more private – the emotions are usually a lot more heightened.

Where do we do the first look, will our guests see us before the ceremony too?

Most of the time, the first look is done at the same venue where your wedding will be. For example, is your ceremony is at 5:00 pm, we would do the first look photos from 3:30 – 4:20/4:30 pm. Therefore, the girls usually don’t want to be seen by the guests, so they will go and ‘hide’ and freshen up in a bridal suite or the likes somewhere before the ceremony begins. The dudes will then greet the guests as they start arriving.

Also, the bridal party photos are usually always done during this first look time too. If the couple wants to, sometimes the bridal party witness the actual first look moment, either behind me out of the shot, or from a distance, sometimes the couple prefers to do it in private, and we can collect the bridal party a bit later during this time.

Remember there are no rules with this; the above is just ‘normally’ what is done with a first look. You can both get ready together; you can both greet the guests together at the start of the ceremony, you can both walk down the aisle together etc.

Having said all that, I’m still all for traditions. But just make sure that you are doing something on your wedding day for the two of you, and that’s it. Not for anyone else, and not for any traditions, but that it’s what you want to do, and you will have the most incredible day!

I’m still on the fence about a first look. I love all the positives you listed above, but is there anything ‘tricky’ about doing a first look?

The pros usually outweigh the cons, but I have found a few little tricky things in all the first looks I’ve done if you’re looking for honest feedback.

If you’re getting married the warmer months/daylight savings, you need to prepare for the possibility of it being 30+ degrees. So doing portraits before the ceremony outside in the mid-afternoon sun during this time, is do-able, but it can be a little uncomfortable for everyone involved. Also, the light is frankly not going to be as pleasant as it would be later in the day.

If we’re doing the portraits at your wedding venue, there’s going to be early arriving guests—every time. Aunty Shirl will be there with her iPad in its bright cover, ready to snap away at least an hour before the start time you printed on your invitations. As mentioned above, we try and wrap the portraits up long before the majority of guests arrive – but being in possible sight of some of the early ones – may or may not bother some couples. Depending on what kind of person you are; I’ve also seen quite a few couples, unfortunately, get caught up in logistics/setting up etc. during the first look, because we’re around the venue and everything is happening—thus resulting in unwanted stress and fewer portraits. If you’re a chilled out, let the relevant people do their job kind of person – then this is not an issue. We’ve also got the option of doing the first look and portraits external to your wedding venue; therefore, the above couple of things are also a non-issue. Most of the time, couples want their photos at their wedding venue. Because they fell in love with the place, they’re getting married there after all!

Again, depending on the type of person you are – some brides (sometimes because of the bridesmaids if I’m honest) stress out big time about getting their dress dirty before the ceremony. That can then hinder their enjoyment of the first look and portraits after. I’m not saying that happens very much, but I have seen it enough times for me to make mention of it here. I think if your dress doesn’t get dirty enough, you didn’t have enough fun! And that’s what dry cleaners are for anyway. But, I understand why you’d want to keep it clean pre-ceremony. There’s that. They’re pretty minor points, but worth bringing up. 

Ultimately doing a first look comes down to making the day your own and doing what you want to do. That’s the essential part.

But other factors, like the time of year, the amount of time your venue has allocated between the ceremony and reception, might be contributing factors as well. For example, if your ceremony is in Melbourne at 4:30 pm in June and you want natural light portraits. As it’s going to be pretty much dark by the time your ceremony is done, a first look is much more inevitable. Or, if your venue has allocated a ceremony start time of 5:30 pm and a reception start time of 6:30 pm, this gives us about 10 minutes for the couple photos. Do-able, but pretty rushed. So again, first looks usually happen in this case too. If you’re unsure, just call or email me, and we can discuss the timing/logistics of your day in more detail.

Wowsers, that was a lot of first look info! Just give me the short long!

Consider doing a first look if – you answer ‘yes’ to most of these.

  • Your wedding is not during daylight savings (i.e., winter) and we’re pushed for time or natural light, post-ceremony for photos.
  • You’re both super relaxed people.
  • You’re getting ready together or on the same property.
  • You don’t care about some guests, possibly seeing you before the ceremony.
  • You don’t want to be away from any of your guests at all after the ceremony.

Possibly don’t worry about doing a first look if – you answer ‘yes’ to most of these.

  • Your wedding is during daylight savings (i.e., summer) and there’s plenty of time post-ceremony for photos.
  • If one or both of you is naturally quite an anxious or nervous person.
  • You’re going to be apart from each other the night before the wedding & the morning of.
  • You’re traditional at heart.
  • You’re worried about some guests possibly seeing you before the ceremony.

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