Why Dave Bigler thinks every couple should do a first look.
I am a huge fan of the first look. Not because I am a photographer and it allows me more time to get photos, and not because the bride and groom get to attend their cocktail hour (which both of those are good reasons). I am a fan of the first look because I believe it facilitates a more laid back and relaxed wedding day.
What is a First Look?
A first look, or reveal, is a pre-arranged meeting of the bridal couple before their ceremony. It is usually arranged by their photographer in a location that is the most picturesque. There are many different ways of doing a first look; the most common of which is to have the groom standing facing away and the bride approaching him from behind. The bride then taps the groom on the shoulder, he turns, and they have their moment. The reveal can be done with the bridal party (& parents) in close proximity, at a distance, or with just the couple on their own. The photographer and videographer, if smart, will be at a good enough distance to allow the couple privacy to have their moment, while still close enough to capture the raw emotions. There are many variations of this same concept with the key element being an arranged moment for the couple to have together before their ceremony. After the first look the photographer will usually take photos of the couple, bridal party, and family, and all before the wedding ceremony.
4 Reasons Dave Bigler Prefers a First Look
The following are my four reasons why I prefer doing a first look. While the first reason is often the most commonly supported for doing a first look, and that is attending their cocktail hour. I find that the fourth reason I have listed here is by far the most beneficial and important to consider, having a stress-free laid-back day!</p>
Reason 1: The Couple Can Attend Their Cocktail Hour
If the couple gets all their photos (including family pics) out of the way before the ceremony, then they are able to go straight to their cocktail hour after the ceremony. Not to stereotype, but this is usually one of the strongest reasons the groom supports doing a first look “let's just get it all done before the ceremony so we can enjoy the party!” A valid and great point! Another bonus, if all the couple / bridal party / family photos are done before the ceremony, then during the cocktail hour your photographer / videographer has the time to get some killer pics of all the details of the reception room before all your guests are allowed in. Couple’s spend so much time and money making sure that the room looks amazing, might as well give the photo & video team the time they need to really capture it! Another bonus, if the couple has a 2nd photographer, during this time, that photographer can roam the cocktail hour getting fun group pics of the guests.
Reason 2: More Time for Photos, (without breaking up the day)
Without a first look the couple’s only time for couple photos, bridal party photos, and family photos, is during the cocktail hour. Family photos usually take 20-30 minutes leaving a rushed 30 minutes to get all the rest of the pictures. Some couples will do a 90 minute cocktail hour, which is a smart move to allow more time (and give the guests a bit more fun before they sit down for dinner). Another option is to have a 2-3 hour gap in the wedding day between the ceremony and the reception in which the couple gets all their photos done. While this also is an option, it can create an awkward situation for the guests, not knowing how they should fill that time. Doing all the photos before the ceremony allows for more time to get the photos the couple really wants without feeling rushed and without forcing a gap in your day for your guests.
Reason 3: Picturesque location
In a perfect world every venue will have breathtaking scenery surrounding it, allowing for the photographer to quickly and easily place the bridal couple in the most picturesque locations. In the real world, if the reception venue does not have ideal scenery, doing a first look will allow for photos to be taken at an additional location, such as a park or landmark.
Note: it is my personal experience that most venues have at least one ideal photo op location, and are often limited to give a photographer the variety of photo opportunities they would like. Doing a first look allows that photographer far more opportunities for better backgrounds and scenes to put the couple in.
Sometimes a venue simply does not have the ideal backdrop for photos and a first look is the only option to get those gorgeous photos the couple is looking for. Additionally, while a venue might have tons of gorgeous photo ops, having an additional (off site) location for photos will ensure that a couple's photos stand out as being unique from all the other couple’s that get married at that venue.
Reason 4 (and the most important): A more Laid-back, Stress-free Day.
I have documented well over 600 weddings and without question the timeframe that is the most prone to stress is that time from just before the bride puts on her dress until the couple is able to truly relax and hang out together. There is so much pressure on the couple and so much anticipation for the day, it all culminates as the couple is finishing getting ready. Without a first look, the gap between when the couple sees each other (at the ceremony) and when the couple is able to truly relax is actually several hours long. Yes, the couple does “see each other” at the ceremony, but that’s not an opportunity to relax and catch up on the day. During the family photos is also not a good time for that, nor is bridal party pics, nor is the grand entrance, first dance, toasts, etc. Without a first look, the first opportunity that a couple really has to relax and hang out together is during dinner (and usually that time is cut short by needing to go greet all the tables). WITH a first look, the first thing the bride does after putting on the dress is go see her groom. The very first thing the couple does is get to see the person that this is all about, and not in an environment surrounded by 200 people staring at them, but in isolation, just the two of them. It is my experience, that any stress or tension that a couple may feel as they are getting ready, immediately washes away when they are able to just be together. With a first look you set the tone for a truly more laid back, stress free day.
Most people assume that the most important thing to any photographer is the photos. While that is true for the majority of photographers, that’s not the case for me. Far more important to me, on your wedding day, is the experience that you and your fiancé have. If you feel stressed, worried or up-tight that is going to reflect on everything else, including your photos. If you have a fun, stress-free day, then you will be more relaxed for your photos and I will then be able to capture the best images possible.
Disclaimer: To be fair I must add in this short disclaimer: some couples simply do not want to do a first look, the idea of the reveal is repulsive to them and counter to tradition. That is ok! It is YOUR wedding day and you should not feel the pressure to do something you do not want to do. You can still have a fantastic wedding without a first look. The key is to let your photographer know what you want and be open to working with their suggestions to make it the best day possible - end disclaimer.
I do think every couple should strongly consider doing a first look, not just because it allows the couple to attend their cocktail hour, and not just because it gives their photographer more time to get AWESOME photos, but because it truly does give the couple the greatest opportunity for that laid back, fun wedding day they are longing for.