June 29, 2023
As a Charleston wedding photographer, one of the most common questions from couples planning their wedding day is if a couple should plan to do a first look. I definitely have an opinion on first looks as your photographer. But I’m also truly about bringing your dream wedding day to life: whatever that looks like for you. So the decision ultimately rests with you. Let’s walk through how to decide on a first look for your wedding day. I hope this helps you make an informed decision that you’re comfortable and confident in for your big day!
When I am nervous, all I want is my dog and my person with me. So for me personally, I would want that moment through a first look early on in the day without everyone’s eyes on me. A first look can give you and your soon-to-be-spouse an extra few minutes to be together before the celebrations begin. Together, you can breathe and feel ok – to cry, to laugh, to just relax – without all the pressure! A lot of grooms actually get a little overwhelmed by the idea of “all eyes on him” as he watches the bride during the ceremony. A first look can be a safe and sweet space to have those emotional moments without the pressure. Weddings can be stressful. But with a first look, you get a moment to dial back some of the stress so that you can celebrate the true meaning of this day!
The icing on the cake of a first look: You get MORE couples portraits with a first look. We have the ability for a second location after the ceremony for portraits, or just time to spare. If portraits in Historic Downtown Charleston are a must have for you, then consider a first look. This will give us extra time to head downtown after your ceremony – without rushing to get back for your reception and missing cocktail hour. Additionally, we can work on your family portraits because you’ve seen each other and usually wrap them up before cocktail hour so you can actually enjoy that time with your guests. Couples will also take a little break during cocktail hour for themselves, to eat quietly or just relax. The point is: you get more flexibility if you have a first look!
First looks can be ideal for winter weddings when we have less daylight. We can capture the outdoor portraits you’re dreaming of without worrying about what time your ceremony will end. Shorter days can truly make outdoor portraits tricky, so consider a first look if you’re a winter bride or groom!
If you really want the “wow” factor the groom has when the doors open and he sees his bride for the first time, that is okay too! (I will say, I have seen grooms cry during this moment even after they shared the non-traditional first look too, though!). If you are not doing a first look, you will want to account for about an hour of time post ceremony (usually cocktail hour) to grab your family formals, wedding party portraits and your newlywed portraits. And if time & sunlight allows, I always suggest to couples that we sneak out for about 15 minutes during their reception. Otherwise, you may only have 10 minutes of portrait time together for your official husband and wife photos.
If you’re worried about missing cocktail hour, I have had couples extend cocktail hour to an hour and a half so that they didn’t feel rushed and they could still enjoy a part of cocktail hour with their guests!
Plan your ceremony at a time that will allow you to still have some daylight time during your reception. This way we can sneak you out for golden hour portraits (this takes around 15 minutes) while your guests are still enjoying their dinners! They will be none the wisest that you are missing and it gives you and your new spouse a moment away to truly take in every moment and catch up on all the things from earlier in the day. It’s a wonderful quiet time to be together.
All in all, to first look or not to first look… it is YOUR decision as a couple and what fits your day/personalities best! If you’re still not sure, let’s talk and decide together so that you feel absolutely confident with your decision and wedding day timeline!