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To ‘First Look’ or to Not ‘First Look’?

By John Cain Sargent
Dallas Country Club Wedding

In the past few years, a ‘first look‘ has become more than just the decision of whether or not a bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. We now see a few other ‘first look’ moments scheduled into wedding day itineraries for the father of the bride and the bridesmaids.

There are several vantage points to consider when creating your timeline. While I would never say there are ‘cons’ to creating ‘first look’ moments, but each presents a unique decision that will affect how you experience and feel on wedding day. These moments also take time and, ultimately, our process helps you strongly consider how you spend wedding day. For some brides, a c’est la vie approach to wedding day is all that they could hope for as it happens. For other brides, we pad the schedule in 20 minute increments to introduce all the key players to the bride, culminating with the groom himself if that is chosen.

For all parties involved, you will see all your loved ones eventually on your wedding day, scheduled or not. What we desire to address here is if a private/prepared moment that is specifically photographed as such. As we mentioned, each of these moments takes time so we never want to cut these short if it’s desired to be scheduled. For each moment, set aside 10-20 minutes to the pre-ceremony ritual before portraits.

The John Cain Photography teams discusses all these events and decisions in planning meetings with our brides leading up to wedding day. Some brides have long awaited all three ‘first look’ moments and approach the decision unaware there was even a decision to be made! The expectation is that ‘everybody does it’, right? Not necessarily. Other brides have been completely unfamiliar with a ‘first look’ with bridesmaids and some who felt contrived after learning about it. There is truly no right or wrong decision, but our goal is to ensure you know the options with plenty of time to decide. We would never want these to all of a sudden be desired and that be a surprise on wedding day because they take time, and allotting the right time prevents stress for all.

In the past few years, a ‘first look’ has become more than just the decision of whether or not a bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. We now see a few other ‘first look’ moments scheduled into wedding day itineraries for the father of the bride and the bridesmaids.

There are several vantage points to consider when creating your timeline. While I would never say there are ‘cons’ to creating ‘first look’ moments, but each presents a unique decision that will affect how you experience and feel on wedding day. These moments also take time and, ultimately, our process helps you strongly consider how you spend wedding day. For some brides, a c’est la vie approach to wedding day is all that they could hope for as it happens. For other brides, we pad the schedule in 20 minute increments to introduce all the key players to the bride, culminating with the groom himself if that is chosen.

For all parties involved, you will see all your loved ones eventually on your wedding day, scheduled or not. What we desire to address here is if a private/prepared moment that is specifically photographed as such. As we mentioned, each of these moments takes time so we never want to cut these short if it’s desired to be scheduled. For each moment, set aside 10-20 minutes to the pre-ceremony ritual before portraits.

The John Cain Photography teams discusses all these events and decisions in planning meetings with our brides leading up to wedding day. Some brides have long awaited all three ‘first look’ moments and approach the decision unaware there was even a decision to be made! The expectation is that ‘everybody does it’, right? Not necessarily. Other brides have been completely unfamiliar with a ‘first look’ with bridesmaids and some who felt contrived after learning about it. There is truly no right or wrong decision, but our goal is to ensure you know the options with plenty of time to decide. We would never want these to all of a sudden be desired and that be a surprise on wedding day because they take time, and allotting the right time prevents stress for all.

For the Father of the Bride

First things first, Dad needs to know when he needs to be dressed and ready in his tux, and where to be at what time. On a basic front, this secures a prominent player in the wedding day on the front end. Personally, and I am biased because I have a daughter and lean into the emotional aspect of this moment, I love it. I look forward to experiencing this, Lord-willing, with her someday. Is this moment for every bride and her dad? Not necessarily.

I would first ask each bride to ask their if it’s something they want to do together. The dynamic of your relationship will dictate this first. Typically, we see the MOB and/or MOH helping the bride get dressed and, once she is ready, Dad is given the first opportunity to see her.

Some dads have been involved all along—present at bridal portraits and saw the wedding dress beforehand. In this instance, the moment is less about revealing the look and more about taking the opportunity to reflect in an instant all the years leading up to this point finally being here. If you somehow can keep everything ‘secret’ until this moment, and I wouldn’t say one way is better than the other, but it adds an element of surprise if it’s what Dad wants here. You’re already keeping it a secret from your soon-to-be husband, possibly your bridesmaids, so I would encourage to let that decision be up to Dad.

I would discourage this being as staged as the ‘first look’ between bride and groom where the bride approaches the groom and he turns around. Here no one turns around to see the bride for the first time. Turning the corner entering the bridal suite/hotel room/bedroom is enough the capture the sweet reaction.

For the Bridesmaids:

Your tribe will be ecstatic to see you whether they’ve seen the dress before or not. One thing I have distinctly noticed is that your energy in this moment is contagious! If you are excited, they will be tenfold. Something fun I have seen in the is moment has been when the bride truly keeps her gown a secret from bridesmaids and has them guess what it will look like beforehand. If they have no clue what your gown is, it will show on their faces when they turn around.

Pro tip: this moment varies in time depending on the size of your bridal party. We always allow 10-15 minutes just to get everyone in position on the wedding day because, inevitably, someone may forget their bouquet, need to use the ladies room, or have a last minute touchup. 27 bridesmaids? No problem, but we may need 20 minutes instead of ten to get everyone in place.

We strongly recommend doing this after you see your dad because the energy really trends towards excitement after this point. If seeing dad first is sweet and intimate, seeing your bridesmaids is electric and more like a pep rally with your life’s greatest cheerleaders. I’ve even see a group of bridesmaids break out in song at this point like a scene from a musical. It’s a fun transition into portraits.

On the other side of the coin, you might enjoy having your gown hanging in the room for everyone to see while you get ready and collect the ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ throughout the morning, especially if being the center of attention isn’t your thing.

The best for last—seeing your groom before the wedding.

There is an abundance of digital literature across the web on the topic of “whether or not to do a first look”. Conversationally, I have some input that may not be commonly discussed on the internet.

From a man’s perspective, one of the only things held onto about the wedding is the moment the doors open and your bride is walking down the aisle.  A ‘first look’ does not take away from the moment, however, and is mutually exclusive from the ceremony. If you think about walking down the aisle to your groom ,it is an event witnessed by all your guests and traditionally there is literally an exchange that takes place in the moment that does not happen in a ‘first look’: your dad is literally giving you away to the man promising to commit his life to yours as you do yours to his.

I start with the only to allow the next decisions to be free and clear of the thought that a ‘first look’ makes the ceremony less special. If anything, it allows you to really focus on what is happening.

We may be among small minority of photographers that will not try to persuade you one way or another towards a ‘first look’. There are two priorities to be weighted that are unfortunately sometimes in direct conflict with each other around this topic: do you want to plan your wedding around photography, or plan to enjoy your wedding how you’d likely experience it and have it documented really well? The decision to do a ‘first look’ is sometimes made for emotional reasons, but sometimes it is a logistical decision to accomplish a goal for photos at sunset.

There are weddings where I would actually advise against a ‘first look’ (photographically) because fo the season, time of year, and sunset. If the bride feels anxious, however, the ‘first look’ may not be for the photos, but rather for the bride and groom’s nerves ahead of standing in front of all their guests.

A ‘first look’ doesn’t always mean better photos. Good light always makes for the best photos. So, when is sunset? Are you getting married in June when the sun sets at 8:47 pm? Doing a ‘first look’ at 3 pm would not be high on my list of recommendations. It is hot and bright outside during those hours.

Are you getting married in December or January when the sun sets at 5:24 pm and your ceremony occurs at 7 pm? Do you envision outdoor photos in natural light? Photographically, a ‘first look’ decision is made here to have pictures of you and your groom outdoors.

To close, there is not right or wrong choice. Our joy is discussing these decisions with you at length so you can visualize your wedding day and the photos you receive. The same way that you tried on multiple dresses before choosing the dress, we encourage you to consider multiple approaches to your photography. Ultimately, we want you to say YES to the plan we create in light of what you’ve said no to so the decision is informed.

We hope to capture these moments for you and hope the memories they may preserve are some of the sweetest on wedding day! If you have any specific questions, please send them our way.

Dallas Country Club Wedding
Mary Welch2020-03-25T13:25:13-05:00Categories: Weddings, Lifestyle, All|Tags: , , |Comments Off on To ‘First Look’ or to Not ‘First Look’?