Tradition VS First Look For Brides // Arkansas Fine Art Wedding Photographer

For Brides, Photography

Mar 9, 2015

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It’s one of the largest decisions you can make about your wedding day: whether to have a first look or to stick with tradition.  Why does it matter so much?  Having a first look or deciding to stick with tradition can greatly impact your day, especially photographically speaking.  It can really impact your timeline, your stress level and make or break the enjoyment of your day.   To help in the decision making process, I decided to give you a few things to think about from the viewpoint of a photographer.

For our brides, we HIGHLY recommend a first look for the majority of our weddings, however, it’s not required and in some circumstances– not recommended at all.  Each wedding day is unique, and we can certainly help you decide whether a first look is right for you.

So.  Lets start by answering the question we get asked alot.  What is a “first look”? 

A first look is a time set apart during your day to stage the bride and groom’s “first look” at one another.  It’s when the bride and groom will see one another for the first time, and often begin creative and formal photos right after.  It’s often the segue  between getting ready and the ceremony.

A first look is especially recommended if you have: a nighttime ceremony, your venue has time restrictions, and if you’re planning a short reception.    A first look can greatly diminish your time taking photos and create a more relaxing day.  Here’s a look at all the reasons why we recommend a first look:

1.  During a first look, often this time is the only time during the day that the bride and groom are alone.  Typically the only person present for the first look is your photographer.  This can be a time when many fun or more private memories can be made on your wedding day.  We usually reserve 45 minutes for a bride and groom’s first look and photos.  That’s a 45 minute time period that you’re alone, away from the hustle and bustle of the day.  This time can be great for calming nerves and enjoying one another.

2. A first look ensures that we get all formal photos done before the ceremony in streamlined fashion.  Formal photos can honestly be the most miserable part of a wedding day.  It’s a lot of standing, a lot of smiling and a lot of frustrations can arise by family members not cooperating or Uncle Ed talking on the phone while we’re waiting on him to be photographed.  The key is streamlined photos.  When a first look is in place, we start photos 2 hours prior to the ceremony.  45 minutes are spent with the bride and groom, around 25 minutes with the wedding party, and around 25 minutes with the family with time for touchups and snacks before the ceremony to spare.  When the first look is in place, we can roll through your list of family formals quickly and ensure that we get all of them finished.  When we’re splitting photos up before the ceremony and after the ceremony, photos on that list can easily get lost in translation.  Also, in our experience, trying to pull family away from guests who are eager to see you from the reception is more than difficult.  Wrangling family members while their friends are visiting can be very frustrating and often leads to a LOT more time taking formal photos.

3.  A first look is a definite stress relief.  Most of our brides who have chosen a first look are relieved after they’ve seen their man, and find that all nerves are gone after they’ve spent time together.  From there, everyone can go through the ceremony calm and enjoy each moment.

4. A first look often results in MORE photos.  When we aren’t rushed in taking images (trying to get you to your reception) it often results in many more fabulous and creative photos if we have time to walk around and get creative!  If sunset photos are something you’d like — we can always go out after you “leave” and take more. I’m always up for sunset photos and taking more images of a beautiful bride and groom — so never feel like having a first look can take away from the photos you want as husband and wife.

5. A first look ensures that you get to your reception on time.  When all photos are completed before the ceremony, we make sure you get to your reception on time, and that your guests aren’t waiting.  When photos are taken after the ceremony, it can typically take up to one hour – one and a half hours to finish up family, wrap up the wedding party images and then take photos of the bride and groom.  That’s a long time to leave your guests waiting to see you, unless you have a cocktail hour or other entertainment planned.


Sticking with Tradition 

Sticking with tradition is A-Okay.  It’s romantic, sentimental and a time-honored moment.  It’s not always recommended however, it can be done and done well.  Here are some tips if you’re wanting to stick with tradition to help your photo taking experience go much smoother!

1.  When you make your list — decide if you want to do all the photos before or afterwards (often afterwards is more streamlined and honestly doesn’t take THAT much longer to do.  Many photos sets have to be done both before and after so a lot of times, it can be just as quick to do them ALL just once and after the ceremony.)  If you want them split, make sure and split your list of family formals into “before photos” and “after photos” so things don’t get mixed around.

2.  Help wrangling:  Have your officiant announce that family formals are going to be after the ceremony, and for family to report immediately to the location.  Family can get lost, and it’s really easily to loose an uncle or an aunt to a guest they haven’t seen in ten years. Communication with your family plays a key part in getting everyone to where they’re supposed to be and when.  Also, having someone like a cousin  or an aunt that knows everyone help wrangle the strays as they get sidetracked.

3.  Plan a cocktail hour or other entertainment for your guests at the reception.  We’ll usually be gone at least a full hour and that’s quite a bit of time for a reception to loose it’s oomph and lose guests.  If you’re having a sit down dinner, perhaps serve an appetizer during this time or show a slideshow to help keep them entertained.

4. If your reception will be lengthy, it can be better to do family formals and bridal party immediately following the ceremony and wait and do bride and groom portraits during low times during the reception.  (30 minutes here, or 30 minutes there) can help your reception go much smoother.  This can also be a perfect opportunity to get into some of that beautiful sunset light!

5. If you’re worried your groom won’t have a gut wrenching reaction to seeing his bride walk down the aisle, take a look at this groom.  He and his bride had a first look, and he still had a sincerely beautiful reaction to seeing her walk down the aisle to him.  Don’t choose tradition based on worry that he won’t react the way you want him to.  Base your decision on what works best for your timeline and what’s going to give you the smoothest day.



Ultimately, the decision is yours.  We’ll support you in whatever you decide and make it work no matter what!  The most important thing is that you get wedding photos that you love on a day that goes exactly how you always dreamed it would.



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