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The #1 Reason You Shouldn't Do a First Look on Your Wedding Day (and 5 reasons why should!)

Let’s have a little real talk for a couple moments here, okay? Wedding days are all about the couple. We have marriage because we have love for one another. That love has inspired us, helped us to grow, helped us to heal, and helped us to be the best we can be for each other. Therefore, we have weddings and we have love.

Wedding days should be all about the couple--but of course, we have also invited all of our nearest and dearest. So our wedding day becomes not just about us (the bride and groom) but also those we care for and love. Our emphasis, however, should never waiver on what is truly important and that is that two strangers at some point, met on this planet (which is rather large) and made a decision to say hello. Fast forward months or years later and you’re at the wedding of two people who once did not know one another. A day that is customized exclusively for them to celebrate and commune with the ones they love. 

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There are many many many different time honored traditions with weddings. In Fiji when a man asks his future father-in-law for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he (the groom) must present his future father-in-law with a whale tooth. In Greece, the best man must shave the groom’s face before the wedding and the future mother-in-law feeds the groom honey and almonds. In Kenya, after the ceremony, the father-of-the-bride spits on the couple to be supportive but also to not be “too supportive” and tempt fate. 


While some of these traditions are endearing and some not, they ultimately are part of a wedding day because somebody wants it that way. I like to think of 2019 and the age that we live in as a wave that is refreshing what was once done. People are waiting longer to get married, sometimes holding off on having children, they’re travelling more, becoming more educated, doing things that even our parents didn’t always do for one reason or another. 

Your wedding day is yours and how you decide to approach it is entirely up to you. But knowing that it is up to you and your future spouse, puts a lot of pressure on you. That’s why I create these educational blogs, to share insights and thoughts that I have and that I have witnessed at weddings I’ve attended and worked. 

One trend, which hasn’t quite become the tradition yet, is to do a “first look.” This is when a couple decides to see one another before the wedding, having a quiet moment together to be with one another before the ceremony begins.

During consultations and meetings with my clients, I always ask if they’re interested in doing a first look or not. About half of my clients say they’re not and half do. Those that do not want to, I ask why and they tell me that they want to wait until someone is walking down the aisle. 

Before I go any further into first looks, let’s take a peek at the history and tradition behind it. It all began with arranged marriages thousands of years ago. Marriages were originally created as political or economical gain for land, money, and power. (So much romance!) The idea was that a father of a woman would identify a wealthy or powerful family with a son who would inherit the land or whatever it was that they owned. In case the son was not pleased with how the woman looked, they wouldn’t allow arranged couples to see one another until the wedding day. In fact, the veil was created in order to further hide the bride until the last possible moment before the actual finalization of the wedding. If a groom turned a bride away it was considered very shameful for the family of the bride. That is why it is considered “bad luck” to see the bride.

Our traditions of why we do a first look are based around idealogies and practices that we no longer practice today. With that being said, is there a level of anticipation and excitement on the wedding day if you choose not to see your future partner? Sure! Like I said earlier, most of my couples say they want to wait until their future spouse is walking down the aisle.

Let’s break down the two types of emotions and occurrences that happen on a wedding day when seeing your future partner for the first time/walking down the aisle to be married.

There are two distinct things that happen when you are at the altar and your future bride (or groom) is walking down the aisle. The first is that you’re seeing your favorite person in the entire world for the first time in their wedding clothes. It’s a dress that looks stunning, flatters in every way, and has been dreamt of by both of you since you were little. Everything from how their hair looks down to how they walk down the aisle in their beautiful gown is breathtaking. I remember seeing my wife, Felicia, walk down the aisle with her father on our wedding day. It was like one of two times I cried (lightly) that day. She looked so beautiful and wonderful and I wish I could have had that moment to myself to just see her there, looking beautiful, waiting to marry me.

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The other occurrence which is vastly different is when the ceremony begins and your bride is walking down the aisle to marry you. You’re getting married! This is an amazing and wonderful moment! It’s a day that you probably dreamt about or maybe you were like me and thought it may never come. Either way, it’s real and it’s here, and it is within those moments following that aisle walk that you’re no longer going to be alone. It’s a promise to be together for life. 

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Both moments I mentioned are very unique in their feelings and emotions. They’re also both very important moments that should be separate. 

Here are 5 reasons why you should consider doing a first look on your wedding day.

1. Like I mentioned earlier, these moments are distinct and unique in their feelings. By allowing yourself a few moments together before your ceremony and before the rush of guests and all their love, you get to really appreciate and be present in a moment that you’re going to wish you had more of 5 years later. You’re also going to get some amazing pictures from your photographer because no one is in the way which means you can let that guard down (if you are guarded!) and if you want to be emotional then be so. If you want to be excited then do it! If you want to spin your bride around the room then by all means! You wouldn’t get that moment if you were standing at the altar in front of 200 people because--you know--it’s not really something you would do in front of that type of crowd at a wedding, save be emotional of course!

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2. If you’re the type of person that feels stressed about wedding planning and how your wedding day is going to go--do the first look. You can hire a wedding day coordinator to help implement your timeline! (I know a good one! www.emeraldlotusevents.com) But just as importantly as it is to feel relaxed on your wedding day, you deserve to spend time with one another. Allowing the extra time to see one another and to ensure that all the details and moments are captured and executed perfectly will give you a peace of mind and allow for more peace later when I write in 30 minutes of not being photographed time into your timeline.

3. Think of how much time and money you’ve invested into your wedding. Normal wedding ceremony times are usually around 4:30 or 5:30PM on a Saturday. That means that if your wedding is done at 11PM, you get to see each other in your wedding clothes for a maximum of 6.5 hours. That isn’t even a full work day. And how much money did you invest in the cake, the dress, the tuxedo, the venue, photographer, videographer, DJ, caterer, chairs, linens, tables etc. etc? Don’t you think that doing a first look at 2PM would give you more value for the time and effort invested into your day?

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4. You’re a rebel and are already planning on doing it! Good for you! Break tradition and skip waiting to walk down the aisle. As we first established, this is your day! Make it absolutely everything you wanted. No one is going to give you a hard time about it because it’s not their wedding and if they do, kindly forward this blog to them.

5. You trust your photographer to not steer you wrong. I’ve never had a client tell me “man I sure wish that we waited to see each other for the first time in front of all our guests.” What I normally get is a sense of relief that we can establish a little extra time to see one another, and to be able to enjoy the hour of family portraits, wedding party images, and final portraits of you and your groom. Adding in a little extra time with more portraits also allows me to be more creative with your imagery. It allows you to be more comfortable, to remember that you wanted a specific photo holding your bouquet a certain way or that you want a special photo with a best friend who is like a family member.

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Of course, there will be objections to doing a first look and that’s okay. I’m not here to tell you what to do. Remember? It’s YOUR wedding day. But I do hope that you’ll take this into consideration when talking with me about doing a first look. The biggest hangup I get is that people want to wait for aisle, right? Well, I just tell them, what if we set it up so that someone is at the end of the aisle at the altar and that you two still get your traditional aisle walk without crowd. Taking a moment to be present, to admire and love, and to not have to worry about anyone else is something you can’t buy. It’s nice to be able to have a few extra moments during your wedding day to be with one another.

I offer to help assist in writing the timeline portion of when I am present at a wedding. If a couple agrees to do a first look, I always try to allow a little “down time” for the couple. This time can be spent with one another privately or visiting. It’s your chance to spend a few moments away from the world, to be near one another without everyone you love vying for your attention as well. We forget so quickly that the wedding day is about the couple in love because we’re so busy entertaining guests and family and chatting with people we sometimes barely know. Of course we love them, but the reason we’re present is because of the love you two share. So maximize your time and consider a first look. 

Cheers and Best Wishes,

Nate

If you did a first look (or didn’t) tell me about your experience in the comments. Let me know if you had wished you did or didn’t and what the benefit of doing one was!

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