A first look on the wedding day is a very emotional experience. It is the intimate moment when a groom sees a bride for the first time. In this guide you will find 7 top ideas how to plan & enjoy your first look so it becomes the unforgettable part of your wedding day.
1. Plan your first look
Do you like the idea of a first look on the wedding day? That is lovely – me too. Now you should definitely talk about it not only with your husband to be, but also your wedding planner, a wedding photographer and videographer. Because if you want your first look to be a very romantic intimate moment, there is some necessary planning involved.
Talk to your wedding planner or photographer
First of all, talk to your wedding planner and explain them all your wishes and dreams concerning the first look. Professional wedding planners have a lot of experience with planning first looks so they will definitely make it happen for you too. Please be sure to talk to your planner about it as soon as you start putting together your wedding schedule. Why? The reason is simple – a wedding look does not happen in 5 minutes. It is rather a 30 minutes “mini event” and in case you decide to follow with bridal party and family portraits, there should be definitely 1 hour slot in your schedule for a first look.
Usually the best practice to finalize your first look plan is to talk to your wedding planner, photographer and videographer while getting ready. All of them will definitely provide you with very handy suggestions so you can make some final decisions about timing, place, etc.
Note: In case you hire an experienced wedding planner, they will definitely ask you about a first look during your meetings / skype calls. So you do not need to think about it – they will most probably ask you if you want to incorporate it into your wedding day.
Ask your wedding photographer
In case you don’t have a wedding planner, then you should definitely talk to your wedding photographer and videographer to plan your first look together. An experienced professional wedding photographer will definitely help you with such task. Then you can agree on some final decisions regarding your first look while getting ready.
For the first look itself, plan cca 30 minutes slot in your wedding schedule. In case you decide to follow with bride & groom portraits and bridal party portraits, you should add another 30 minutes – which makes 1 hour in total.
2. A first look needs privacy
A first look is supposed to be a very intimate and romantic moment between bride and groom. And to keep it intimate, there really should be no wedding guests or even public involved.
I have photographed many first looks and I can confirm that privacy is really necessary to keep it an intimate moment which both bride & groom can enjoy.
What happens when you invite all your wedding guests to attend your first look? Of course they will be very cheerful, usually they will be clapping, taking a lot of photos with their phones, cherring you on… So it somehow becomes a reality show, definitely not an intimate moment. And I have never photographed a couple who would prefer their first look to happen this way. That is why each and every professional wedding photographer and planner will tell you: a first look needs privacy.
Note: I respect the need of privacy so much that after taking photos of the first look itself, I usually leave a couple completely alone for a while. So they can really enjoy the complete privacy.
Now I guess it’s very clear why privacy is so important for your first look on your wedding day. Another question you might want to ask – shall we invite our parents or siblings to our first look? Yes, even this is possible.
First look with parents
In case you feel your parents or even siblings would love to attend your first look, you can invite them. All you need to do is to have a short briefing together where your wedding planner (or you) explains them what will be going on.
It’s not a rocket science… usually they form a short line standing next to each other and at the “end” of the line, there is a groom waiting for his bride.
The best thing about this option are those little silent interferences of parents when they see the bride… sighs, wows and other wordless emotional expressions which the groom can hear. So this usually really escalates the flow of emotions. So it is usually even much more emotional moment.
To keep this moment rather romantic than funny, it is necessary to advice parents to be silent. They will be almost silent – which makes the nice touch.
Note: I have discussed this option with my Belgian colleague wedding photographer Raïs De Weirdt and she really likes to photograph a first look with parents included. Also the parents are usually very thankful for such opportunity. But it really depends on your preferences and also on a discipline of your parents.
Of course whoever attends your first look should never ever take any photos at all. It does not hurt to remind it to your parents & siblings.
3. A first look needs a calm place
Can you imagine planning your first look on a parking lot or in a busy hotel lobby? Definitely not… that is why your first look should definitely take place in some very calm place, without any spectators, tourists or even wedding guests (as I have already explained above).
I suggest to talk to your wedding planner, photographer and even videographer to discuss all the possible places. They will recommend you the optimal place(s) so you not only enjoy your first look, but you will also have the best possible photographs from this special moment.
Note: Be aware also about a weather. Once I photographed a first look in a Four Season seaside hotel... and the place we chose for a first look started to be so windy in the afternoon that day, we were forced to move a first look into a private hotel hall.
The most common places used for first looks of brides and grooms are:
- quiet garden,
- private room (hotel, home,…),
- hall in a hotel (closed for guests),
- private backyard of a venue,
- anywhere you feel good.
The last option is very important. You should always choose a place for your first look, where you will feel good and comfortable. Why is it so important? Because the surroundings not only affects the overall aesthetics of the photos but they also interfere with you. And when you feel good and comfy, it will be seen on the photos. That is why it’s very important to choose such a place for your first look where you will feel good.
4. Be careful about the dress
When planning your first look, please bear in mind that your wedding gown might get a little bit dirty. And I am not talking about shooting on grass, gravel or dirt roads only. There are many other “traps“. I have seen a bride who simply made a few steps on a hotel sidewalk and her train collected so much dry pine needles, we spent like 10 minutes with removing those from her train. And let me tell you that was a very fancy Four Seasons Hotel sidewalk.
Of course there are some real-pro-tips like laying a white blanket under the bride’s dress. But still, choose a place for your first look wisely – so your wedding gown will not get heavily dirty.
Your wedding planner or a wedding photographer should have enough skills and experiences to suggest you a place where you would be relatively safe.
5. Talk to your make-up artist
As I have already described, a first look is a very emotional moment between a bride and a groom. And it’s no exception they cry with happiness.
That is why I suggest to discuss this issue with your make-up artist and even hair stylist. It might be wise to get your make-up or even hair fixed after your first look.
6. Follow a first look with bridal party portraits
A first look on your wedding day means a big benefit for a couple because they will have many lovely photos from that moment. Apart from that, there are usually like 10-20 minutes of time that can be used for bride & groom portraits. If you are not shy to pose for a few portraits before a ceremony, you should definitely do it. But that’s not all… you can follow your first look by bridal party portraits.
After you finish your first look and your wedding photographer captures all those beautiful moments, you can invite your bridal party for portraits. If you like such idea, please let them know in advance so they are ready when they are needed!
Capturing your bridal party portraits right after your first look (before a ceremony) is a very smart move. Can you guess why? Because you will not miss a coctail hour and you will be able to enjoy it with your guests. Of course there will be family portraits left to be captured but it will not take so much time. Family portraits are usually captured in 15-30 minutes so you will have enough time to chat with your guests during a coctail hour.
7. Let the emotion flow and enjoy
So far, we have been talking about all the planning and must-do’s. So one might get easily overhelmed by all the necessities and “rules” of a first look. But remember – you are not planning your first look for photographs or just because others said to do so. You are planning your first look to enjoy it, to feel the emotions flowing throughout your whole body, to enjoy these special moments together… So don’t forget about it.
After all the planning of a first look on your wedding day, you should really let your emotions flow naturally. Do not feel tied by any rules or recommendations. Do not act. Just enjoy your first look as if you were completely alone. Only then your wedding photographer will be able to capture the true feelings and such photos will be really amazing.
Do not hide yourself… there is no reason to be afraid of showing your true personality, because you are a beautiful human being.
Final thoughts about a first look
If you like the idea of a first look, you should plan it in advance. Just talk to your wedding planner or at least wedding photographer… The goal here is have enough time for a first look in your schedule and choose the optimal place for it. Regarding the timing, there should be cca 30 minutes just for a first look and another 30 minutes for bridal party portraits. The place for a first look should be calm because privacy is highly recommended.
- plan ahead,
- privacy (maybe with parents),
- calm place,
- careful about the dress,
- fix your make-up thereafter,
- follow with bridal party portraits,
- don’t act, just ENJOY!
My two cents about your first look
Although there are some “must do’s and rules” how to master a first look, these are not mandatory at all. Approach them rather as recommendations which you might follow. This is very important because in my 13+ years carreer as a professional destination wedding photographer, I have seen some wedding couples so nervous about all the rules, they just forgot to enjoy those precious moments. They were like nervous actors… And I am no hesitant to say that this is was a complete fail of planners or photographers who let this happen. Because a first look is not happening for photographers or guests… you are doing it for yourselves.
That is why I am challenging you right here, right now – always remember to enjoy the precious moments in our lives (your first look and your whole wedding day included). Life is short and we should enjoy it. So enjoy your first look – that is my message.