Admittedly I am ignorant as to how many wedding traditions got their start. My curiosity was piqued though, when brides would veto a “First Look” session because it went against tradition. So I investigated.
For instance, did you know that the reason we touch our glasses during a toast came from the days when hosts used to pour some of the contents of their drink into a guest’s glass to prove that the offering contained no poison? The tradition of the groom not seeing the bride before the ceremony came from the time of arranged marriages. It too, was based in fear; fear that the groom would be displeased with the looks of the bride, and therefore call off the wedding. Even during a marriage ceremony, the bride’s face was further hidden from her groom with a veil until after the ceremony was complete to ensure he would follow through. Nice uh?
It’s pretty safe to say we don’t hold traditions for the same reason they were started, so why stick to them? Why not start new traditions? Hence, my two cents for the “First Look.”
The most obvious benefit of a “First Look” session, is the use of time. Many couples want to ensure they have plenty of time for photos without being stressed. I for one can attest to the benefit of not being stressed, both for myself, but more importantly, for the bride. A stressed out bride is not photogenic.
Another important aspect of timing has to do with what your guests will do after the ceremony and before the reception. If a couple chooses to do a “First Look,” they can plan for the reception to follow the ceremony almost immediately, or shortly after. This allows for a small gap, maybe a cocktail hour, but not a three hour gap where your guests are left wondering what to do.
One of the main oppositions I hear to doing a “First Look,” is from a bride not wanting her groom to see her before the ceremony. I’ve mentioned that tradition already, but the reason many brides cite for sticking to this tradition, is the desire to see her groom’s reaction upon first seeing her.
Following a ceremony, I’ve heard from many brides who claim that it was all a blur.
“Thank goodness we had you photograph it, because I don’t remember that happening at all.”
When asked specifically about their groom’s reaction, many brides tell me that they were too busy making sure they didn’t trip on the stairs to notice. Or they were so far away that they couldn’t really see. And in my experience, if a groom is going to react emotionally, he will do so regardless of seeing his bride before, or during the ceremony.
During a “First Look” a couple is completely present. They are in the moment. It has become a kind of intimate little ceremony which many brides have told me was far more romantic, poignant and satisfying.
As a photographer, getting genuine emotion is key to getting the kind of images couples love. “First Look” sessions allow myself, and other photographers to be ready for those real moments. Speaking of real moments, “First Look” sessions are also a great opportunity to tell your fiancé that you’re pregnant!
Many couples who are not from Kelowna, or the Okanagan valley, don’t realize how hot it can get here in July and August. Consequently, by 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, hair and flowers have wilted significantly. And tears and sweat always do a number on a brides makeup. Doing formal portraits right after a “First Look” ensures that everything is fresh, happy and beautiful.
The best reason, as far as I’m concerned, is all that time before your ceremony when people were not doing much, can then be used to get great photos where everyone involved can be relaxed and enjoy the day. No rushing to make up for lost time. After the ceremony, couples don’t feel they are ignoring all their friends and guests who may have travelled to see and share in the experience of their wedding day.
As for the cons – I can’t think of any. Except maybe that your mother-in-law might raise a fuss. But in the end it’s your wedding; not hers. You do what you want!