Before I get into the meat of this post, let me make one thing very clear… whether or not to do a “first look” or “first sight” on your wedding day is a very personal decision and I fully understand both sides. That said, as a wedding filmmaker and bride who wishes she’d done a first look, I feel compelled to respond to a recent article shared by Huffington Post on their HuffPost Weddings blog.
The title of the blog post is “3 Reasons First Look Wedding Photos are Stupid.” The writer bases her reasons on her own opinions (which are just that, opinions) and on the fact that she has, quote, “edited hundreds of wedding videos.” Let’s expand on that. The author is co-founder of WeddingMix, a company that offers wedding videos starting at $99 (we spend that much on a sushi date) where your friends and family record your day on their smart-phones (or a small HD camera should you want to add that to your order) and the company then edits the footage. Now I understand that there are all different budgets out there… trust me, Rick and I pretty much had a “low-budget” wedding based on the national average. But I don’t think editing amateur footage gives one the best insight into how a well-planned first look goes down and how emotional and special it can be.
Let’s look at 3 Reasons First Looks are Great… but before I give my opinion (and it is just that, opinion) why not see for yourself? Here are four of our most recent “first looks.” These have already been shared as part of each wedding’s highlight, but for the purpose of this post we thought we’d let them play out more (as we often have to condense certain moments in order to fit everything into a highlight film). Yes, the clip is five minutes long, but I encourage you to watch it all as that is the whole point… to get a feel for what these moments are truly like.
Seriously, how can you NOT see what a special moment this was for each of these couples?!? One of these brides even posted on her Facebook page just this week how the first look was her favorite part of the day. So, let’s address why first looks are not stupid, and are in fact, fabulous.
1) It’s a special, intimate moment for the bride and groom.
Yes, the moment the bride walks down the aisle is a big, grand, emotional moment as well… but one thing it lacks is intimacy. This is one of the main reasons Rick and I wish we had seen each other before our ceremony. You walk down the aisle… your father gives you away… you stand there facing your husband-to-be… and you have to wait the entire service to really get to talk with one another. You can’t hug. You can’t kiss. For some this may be no big deal, and that’s fine. But for us, after shooting and editing dozens of first looks, we’ve come to kind of envy that moment between our couples. We like that special time to talk and hug and kiss (if you so desire, some still wait until they are pronounced husband and wife).
And for those who worry it will take away from the moment the bride walks down the aisle, I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t. In fact, some of our most emotional “groom reactions” are from weddings where the couple did a first look. I’m not positive, but I assume this is because he’s already had a chance to see how you look… to asses the dress… and now it’s just “this is it, it’s really happening.” He sees you walking to him and instead of taking in how you look, he is staring into your eyes, taking in the moment. We’ve had many emotional grooms, both with couples who did a first look and those who didn’t… it really comes down to what you are like as people. But don’t fear that seeing each other before your ceremony will make the “big moment” during the ceremony any less special.
2) It is planned, but not staged.
There is a difference between the two. Of course the first look is “planned” (as is the ENTIRE WEDDING!!!)… we want to make sure that a) the groom doesn’t see the bride before he is supposed to, and b) we are able to capture the special moment and not miss anything while being as unobtrusive as possible. But that doesn’t mean it is “staged.” If we said, “you need to have this reaction, then hug, then kiss, then say something sweet, then cry…” THAT would be staged.
Now I will confess, we have worked with a few photographers who– much to our chagrin– did try to control the moment too much. They told the groom what to say and stopped the bride every few steps to pose the shots they wanted. In our opinion, this killed the moment (and killed how it turned out for the video as well). But those experiences are few and far between. We always ask the couple how they would prefer to do it (face and walk towards each other, come around a corner, or the most popular, groom turns his back & bride taps him on the shoulder) so we know what to expect, but after that we let it play out naturally.
3) You will most likely get better photos and a better wedding film (especially if you have a winter wedding when the sun is setting earlier in the day).
The hour following the ceremony is often the most crazy for us. We are trying to pack up a lot of gear, get to the reception space, shoot decor before people enter the room, and shoot cocktail hour before it ends. When you add in getting shots of the couple because they did not do a first look, this often means we’re rushed and may not get as much of cocktail hour and the reception decor as we’d like. Many of our couples do not see each other before the ceremony so we always make it work and still deliver a great product IMO, but I do get a little crazy inside if the schedule is super tight.
But forget my opinion as a filmmaker, how about my opinion as a bride? There was absolutely nothing wrong with our wedding photos… but we know they could have been better, and that falls on us. After the family/group photos at the alter we rushed to the reception because we knew guests were already waiting. Our photographer told us that around sunset he’d like to take us outside for some pictures and we thought that was a great idea! But when person after person wants to talk with you and shower you with love, and you want to eat, and you want to dance, you end up rushing through that moment too. Some couples who elect not to do a first look do set aside a good amount of time for photos of the two of them between their ceremony and reception and we love that, but that’s typically not the case.
Still don’t want to see your honey before your ceremony? That’s fine! It’s your day! No one can tell you you’re stupid for not doing a first look, just like the Huffington Post shouldn’t tell anyone they’re stupid for doing one.