First Look Pros and Cons

Want to get a Washington DC wedding photographer worked up? Ask them, “Should I do a first look at my wedding?” That question is certain to get a VERY passionate response! And probably a lengthy one, so make sure you have no place you need to be for the subsequent half-hour! (Wedding photographers tend to have some pretty strong opinions about first look pros and cons!)

In fact, very little divides the wedding photography community more than the “First Look Wedding: Yes or No” issue. Especially the segment of our industry that documents marriage celebrations the way we do. Documentary wedding photographers like us tend to care even more than most about whether you choose to have a first look. (More on that later.)

Understand the Pros and Cons of a First Look Wedding

But forget about what your wedding photographers think about the pros and cons of a first look. Our opinions should have little to no bearing on your decision about whether or not to do one. Given that it impacts both your schedule and the emotional tenor of the rest of your day, it is crucial that you make a choice that works for you. For that reason, we absolutely recommend that you take plenty of time to consider everything that it could add to your day. At the same time, you should be aware of the ways it might not be a good fit with your wedding plans.

Understanding those two sides of the issue is an important part of making an informed decision. To help you in that process, we’d like to share with you our perspective and experience. We have photographed a lot of weddings for a lot of couples like you. Some of those marriage celebrations have included a first look; others haven’t. We’ve seen the good and the not so good.This has given us a very good understanding of the pros and cons of a first look wedding. So without further ado, here are the thoughts of two wedding photographers on this issue. (Hopefully readable in less than half an hour!)

First Look Wedding Pros and Cons. Emotional first look in Alexandria, VA by two brides by documentary DC wedding photographers Potok's World Photography

Wedding First Look or Not: The Pros

As you decide whether to have a wedding first look or not, you should consider the following reasons why doing one can be a great idea:

You Get Gorgeous Photos!

Why a first look wedding? Well, let’s start with the best reason. (Well, from the perspective of a wedding photographer, anyway. Hey, we never claimed to be unbiased!) The images of you and your future spouse seeing one another for the first time on your wedding day can be some of the loveliest from your entire marriage celebration. Those photos will record the nervous anticipation hanging in the air as you walk towards your intended. They will show the awe and wonder on your fiancé(e)’s face when they marvel at how beautiful you look. They will capture the hug and kiss you share immediately after. In short, the images will give you mementos of some of the sweetest and most tender moments from your wedding day.

You Feel Freer to Express Your Emotions

As we alluded to in the previous section, photos of a first look are so beautiful largely because of the feelings they reveal. They document some of the purest, least filtered expressions of love that a couple shows on their wedding day. They might even capture the Holy Grail of great documentary wedding photography: tears. And a lot of this is due to one thing: the fact that the two of you will be alone. Almost everybody feels more comfortable showing their emotions in private. Having lots of eyes watching you can make it harder to express them. This is one reason why a lot of brides worry that their future spouse won’t cry when they walk up the aisle. That is a legitimate concern, because sometimes people find it hard to let those feelings out with an entire room full of family and friends present. Sharing a first look can remove that obstacle and make tears a lot more likely.

You and Your Future Spouse Get Some Alone Time

Most couples don’t realize that they will barely have any time to themselves on their wedding day. Throughout the celebrations, you will be with other people. While you get ready? Your bridesmaids and groomsmen will be there. During the ceremony? Unless you’re eloping, your family and friends will be present. At the reception? It wouldn’t be much of a party if it were just the two of you. And you probably wouldn’t have it any other way! Your wedding is partly about celebrating the people in your lives who made your love possible. Their presence is a joy for you. But at the same time, your wedding is about the two of you. You’ll want some time to yourselves to be able to enjoy that. A first look will give you a few minutes of exactly that.

First Look Wedding Pros and Cons. Outdoor first look on bridge by two brides in wedding dresses by DC wedding photographers Potok's World Photography

First Look Wedding Pros and Cons. First look at the Chantilly National Country Club in Virginia by DC wedding photographers Potok's World Photography

First Look Wedding Pros and Cons. Indian bride and groom's first look at the Dulles Hyatt Virginia by Dc wedding photographers Potok's World Photography

First Look Wedding Pros and Cons: The Reasons Against

On the other hand, many wedding photographers would advise against a first look. Here is what they would put on the negative side of a list of first look wedding pros and cons:

The Photography Can Feel Overly Staged and Artificial

This is the biggest objection that documentary wedding photographers in particular have to including a first look in your plans. As beautiful as the emotions can be, there is a chance they will feel forced. A first look is clearly not a spontaneous and genuine moment like some other parts of your wedding day. Some part of you will know that you’re “on stage” as you’re walking to see your beloved. You might find yourself thinking that people will be expecting certain reactions from you and feeling pressure to deliver them. Both of you are also very likely to be aware that someone is photographing you at that moment. All of this can lead to either you tightening up and not showing emotions freely or forcing emotions that don’t appear as genuine on film as you might like.

You Miss the Reactions of Your Family and Friends

Having an official first look can dampen the emotional impact of that moment in another way as well. Though seeing each other for the first in private can allow your emotions to flow more freely, they will only be shared between the two of you. Your mom, your dad, your sisters and your best friend will not be there to witness it. And sometimes their presence and their reactions can help amplify yours, making the whole scene that much more impactful.

First Looks Take Extra Time that You Might Not Have

For example, if there is not a lot of time between the getting-ready portion and the ceremony, a first look is not a viable option. Even if there is sufficient time, many couples choose to use it for other things. They do their couples portraits or family formals before heading to the ceremony to tie the knot. They obviously see one another during the taking of those portraits, making a first look pointless. Other couples get ready in the same place (often in their own house), meaning they see one another in their wedding clothes long before arriving at their wedding venues in DC.

Should You Do a First Look Wedding?

So should you do a first look wedding or not? Like we said at the outset, that depends on you in the end. (Yes, we know this is a bit of a copout!) Any choice you make about your wedding-day plans involves weighing the pros and cons to determine whether it is worth it. The most important thing is that you make each of those decisions with a full understanding of all the costs and benefits. And hopefully, now that you have a better feel for the pros and cons, you can make an informed choice about whether to have a first look wedding or not!

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