So you've seen the trend of first-look pictures everyone is doing these days, and you're trying to decide if it's for you or not. Don't worry, we can figure this out rationally! Here's some insight based on my immense experience as a wedding photographer based in Columbia, SC. In the South, weddings with first looks are the exception. I would guess only around 10% of the weddings I've done have opted for a first look. But in case you were curious about it, here's some things to consider!
From a photographer's standpoint, it's always fun to do a first look. If not with the groom, perhaps the father of the bride, or someone else special. It's a great chance to get some very intimate and natural moments, in a situation where the photographer has much control over the scene and lighting.
From the couple's viewpoint, it's a great chance to get the jitters out before the wedding. It can sometimes make the day more convenient when the couple doesn't have to avoid each other prior to the ceremony. But at the same time, tradition runs deep. Some family members may be opposed to the idea of the couple doing a first look, and that's totally understandable. I see why people want the excitement of seeing each other the first time as the door opens and she walks down the aisle. And that can make for a great photo as well. However, I think many people would care a lot less about the tradition if they knew the history behind it. Maybe I'll write a post about that one day, but for now let's just say the tradition is rooted in arranged marriages.
A first look also allows you to completely finish the bridal party portraits prior to the wedding, and while everyone is freshly done-up. That's a little less time spent taking pictures between the ceremony and reception, where your guests will be waiting. However, you typically still have to do the family formal portraits after the ceremony, so the time saved may only be 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the bridal party.
As an alternative to the first look, you can always take creative pictures together without seeing each other. Examples are around the corner, different sides of a wall, or different stories of a building. I've seen gifts and notes exchanged in this way. And as mentioned previously, first look photos between the bride and father-of-the-bride can be amazing as well. Be creative, and make the first look your own experience to remember.
All things considered, I would say don't decide to do a first look just because you want to do "first look pictures." If you want to see each other before the ceremony, that's great, and you should get some great photos of it. And if you decide you would rather keep with tradition, that's also great. Whatever makes your day most enjoyable for you!
Thanks for reading! I'm Trevor Mercer, a wedding photographer from Columbia, SC. I've been photographing weddings for over 10 years, and as a second-generation wedding photographer, I literally grew up in the business. I'm now providing wedding photography and videography for weddings in my state and well beyond, and I'm a 2016 winner in the Knot's Best of Weddings. I decided to start a blog and share everything I've learned about weddings through the years, and I hope it helps make your wedding planning a little easier. Please subscribe, share, and comment with your input or questions!