Waaaaaay back in the dark ages, when women were seen as objects and the goal of arranged marriages was solely to increase the perceived prestige of the respective families and improve their real estate portfolios and lineage, the bride often did not see her groom until the day of their wedding.
As extra insurance, in case the groom got cold feet when he first laid eyes on his future wife, a veil across her face meant that he couldn't see her until it was too late and the deal was done.
So romantic, right?
Fast forward to 2017 and many couples still believe that seeing their fiancé before the ceremony is considered bad luck. In a recent Easy Weddings poll of almost 1000 couples, 52% said couples shouldn't see each other, 45% didn't understand why it would be a problem and 13% hedged their bets, saying it would be okay if the lights weren’t on. (?!)
But a growing number of brides and grooms feel, although there is a definite sense of anticipation leading up to when a couple first lay eyes on each other when one of them enters the ceremony space (church, hotel, hall, garden or otherwise), that they would enjoy, and even benefit from, some private moments together before the whirlwind of their wedding day takes over.
Hence the concept of the first look.
Award-winning Adelaide wedding photographer, Luke Simon, is a big fan of first looks. Unbridely managed to catch him sitting still just long enough to get his perspective on the reasons why a first look helps the couple getting married, their guests and their photographer too.
Thank you Luke!
What is a first look?
A first look is usually (there are several variations on the theme) a considered and staged private meeting of the bride and groom (or groom and groom, or bride and bride) before their ceremony, which is documented by their professional wedding photographer.
A chance to be together, to see each other all dressed up, to cry, to laugh and to anticipate the impending celebrations of the day.
Some couples choose to be alone, while others see it as a great time to get their parents or the entire bridal party together, for some relaxed portraits and to share a drink or two.
Why have they become so popular?
There are heaps of excellent reasons to consider a first look. The benefits include:
- having more time with your future husband/wife on your wedding day,
- taking the pressure off the 30 minute window you would usually have between family photos and getting to your reception, and to that point,
- having more time after your family photos to have fun and chat with your guests during cocktail hour,
- the ability to visit an alternate location, other than your ceremony or reception venue, that may be impossible to get to with the restrictions of a standard wedding day timeline,
- added flexibility should the weather conditions not be ideal,
- feeling more calm before and during your ceremony,
- possible reduced costs in hiring your wedding cars or transport
- having an allocated time to have some food (champagne, some nibblies or a picnic lunch) together before the reception (which hardly ever happens during the course of a wedding day).
Your photographer also will love:
- having more time to consider alternate venue options to account for the varying light conditions on the day
- getting creative; much like an engagement shoot, but in your best clothes
- shooting a more relaxed and comfortable couple = better, more authentic photos.
What are the cons?
It's wise to consider, should you choose to opt for a first look, that there are some additional planning elements to work out, like:
- How much earlier will you need to get ready?
- Will your hair and makeup artist be able to schedule your appointments earlier?
- Have you chosen a hair and makeup style that will last all day, or will you need a touch up?
- Will your flor ist be able to prepare your bouquet(s), floral crown(s) and button hole(s) in time?
- Are the flower types that you've chosen hardy enough to remain fresh all day from first look until the reception?
- Does your florist recommend specific storage and transportation requirements for your flowers from the first look to your ceremony?
How do I coordinate a first look?
First up, think a little about the relevance of the location you choose; your likes, a special place, your first date or another shared memory.
Luke then recommends that you have a chat with your photographer to work out your plan together: the availability of natural light at your chosen location, what you want to achieve, the style of photography, the people, the timing and the logistics.
Although effective, you don't have to go with the standard setup (groom is facing away, the bride approaches from behind and then taps him on the shoulder), having fun and getting creative will help your photographer to capture authentic, warm smiles from you both.
Fun alternatives include the elevator first look (bride travels in an elevator to groom's level where he is standing facing the photographer and when the doors open, they have some photos snapped of their expressions before the bride steps out in full view), sitting in the front seat and back seat of an old car with bench seats or using a blindfold can be fun too.
What do the photos look like?
Luke gives us a bit of an insight into two very different weddings and the first look photos he created:
"This first look example (below) was shot in Sweden. Traditionally their weddings have lots of courses for dinner, it’s quite formal and held earlier in the evening - all finished up by 7pm. For this couple, they then went across into a separate barn where the band was waiting and the big party began. They served wood oven pizzas at about 11pm and we kicked on until 3am. A first look was a smart way to ensure that they spent the maximum amount of time with their guests."
"Siobhan and Derek, who live in Melbourne, wanted to spend as much time with their tribe of family and friends at their Adelaide wedding as they could. They planned a standup cocktail-style reception, to give themselves plenty of opportunity for mingling with their guests too.
I did a recce (reconnaissance visit/trip) to scout locations and, as they are a non-traditional, funky, urban couple, came up with a bit of a loop that made use of some shaded areas and some full sun/high contrast shots (the blue shed, for example). But, as is sometimes the way, half the stuff I planned we didn’t do and we found better opportunities, light and situations as we went along.
Siobhan really liked the idea of their reception venue for the first look and I agreed that with harsh midday light we needed to use an indoor location that was controllable and evenly lit.
It all then just tied in nicely; we wandered around the Botanic Garden, met up with and had a few shots with their bridal party. Then all the family met us there and we shot the family photos. Siobhan and her bridesmaids hung back and everyone else went to the ceremony location. Then she entered the ceremony as per tradition. But afterwards, there was zero gap between ceremony and their reception, which was great!"