What is a First Look? - Leah Goetzel Photography

What is a First Look?
And is it right for you?

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Let me start by saying, the choice to have a first look is an entirely personal one. When you picture your wedding day with your partner, really envision how you want to see each other for the first time. I’m going to be real with you, there are lots of reasons why a first look is awesome, that’s why so many photographers recommend them. But the most important part about your day is how you feel and doing what is right for the two of you. So if that includes a first look, awesome! And if it doesn’t, that is totally okay! I am your cheerleader and your support person– not matter your decisions I will make sure your images are gorgeous.

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So what even is a First Look?

A first look is a relatively recent thing, it goes against all the age old traditions of not seeing each other before the ceremony. (If you choose to have a first look be prepared for a lot of your older guests to look at you aghast and tell you that’s bad luck. Trust me, I promise it’s not)

A first look happens after both parties are done getting ready and entirely dressed. I will find a quiet and secluded place, and then y’all can have a private moment seeing each other for the first time. After your first look, depending on your timeline, we usually do a few couples photos (usually around 20 minutes). Then, typically, we’ll move onto wedding party photos and sometimes even family photos.

What are the benefits of a First Look?

1. Enjoy a more leisurely, slow paced day
With a first look you’ll enjoy a more low-key, leisurely timeline. Without a first look all your wedding portraits have to be done post ceremony, which can be a little stressful for some couples. Since couples have already seen each other with a first look, wedding photos can be spaced out throughout the day.

A first look also is a nice quiet, intimate moment before your day kicks off. A lot of my couples take the time to pray, relax, share a drink, and just be with each other before the ceremony.

2. You’ll receive more photos as a couple and maybe even get to join your cocktail hour
Since there’s no need to keep y’all separate and hidden with a first look, you’ll receive lots more photos together as a couple. Both posed, couples portraits, but also just hanging out, candid images as well. 

Spreading your photo time throughout the day rather than in one large section also means you can join more of your cocktail hour. Most couples don’t join their cocktail hour at all, which for some is totally fine. But if you want to hang out and casually socialize with your family and guests, a first look might be a great choice!

3. Avoid bad weather or an early sunset
With a first look you get two chances for couples photos, one before and one after the ceremony. This is awesome if there’s bad weather in your forecast. Without a first look we really only have one time slot to nail the photos. 

Probably the biggest thing to consider is the time of sunset. If you’re having a late fall or winter wedding I highly recommend doing a first look. During these colder months the sun can set as early as 5pm, if you’re having a normal ceremony/dinner reception that means all natural light will be completely gone. I have done tons of weddings in the fall using all artificial light, but if you want that glowy, romantic natural light vibe- a first look (or daytime wedding) is the way to go!

4. Have a more authentic interaction
A lot of times (guys especially) feel the pressure during the ceremony to either cry (or to not to!) And with all your guests watching, sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. With a first look it’s just you two (and me, heyyy!) So y’alls interactions are much more authentic to you. 

what is a first look

What are some reasons for not having a First Look?

1. If it’s not how you envisioned your day
If you or your partner have dreamed about seeing each other at the aisle for the first time, a first look is definitely not for you. I want both parties to be excited about a first look.

2. If you want full day coverage but there’s a late sunset
Sometimes you can run into the issue of having too much daylight. If you are having a summer wedding, the best lighting can be around 7pm. If we front load most of your photos before the ceremony and you want golden hour portraits you will either 1) Need a later ceremony start time. 2) Have a good amount of downtime after your ceremony (aka a long cocktail hour). 3) Need to sneak out for portraits during your reception for the best lighting.

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How to plan a timeline around a First Look

The easiest formula is:

If you are having a first look, account for 1.5 hours before the ceremony and 1 hour after the ceremony.

If you are not having a first look, account for 2.5 hours after the ceremony.

Typically wedding party photos take one hour, family photos can take anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour, and couples portraits can take anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour.

Some sample timelines

8 hour wedding day, with a First Look

GETTING READY + DETAILS : 2 hours 

FIRST LOOK : 10 minutes 

COUPLES PORTRAITS : 20 minutes

​WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS : 60 minutes  

CEREMONY : 30 minutes 

FAMILY PORTRAITS : 30 minutes 

SUNSET PORTRAITS : 15 minutes

​ENTRANCE + FIRST DANCE: 10 minutes

DINNER : 45 minutes

SPECIAL DANCES : 10 minutes 

CAKE CUTTING/ TOASTS : 30 minutes 

OPEN DANCE FLOOR : 1 hour

NIGHT PORTRAITS : 15 minutes

STAGED EXIT : 15 minutes 

8 hour wedding day, without a First Look

GETTING READY + DETAILS : 2 hours 

PARTY #1 PHOTOS : 20 minutes

PARTY #2 PHOTOS : 20 minutes

CEREMONY : 30 minutes

FAMILY PORTRAITS : 30 minutes 

​WEDDING PARTY PORTRAITS COMBINED : 20 minutes

COUPLES PORTRAITS : 45 minutes 

ENTRANCE + FIRST DANCE: 10 minutes

DINNER : 45 minutes

SPECIAL DANCES : 15 minutes 

CAKE CUTTING/TOASTS  : 30 minutes 

OPEN DANCE FLOOR : 1 hour 

NIGHT PORTRAITS : 15 minutes

STAGED EXIT : 15 minutes 

These timelines are just samples, your wedding day timeline will probably look a little different from these, but it’s a good foundation to start at! Some things that will affect your timelines are:

  1. Do you want a lot of getting ready photos at the beginning of the day? Do you want details photos (dress hanging, invitation suite, close-up of your rings, etc.) If yes, add an hour.
  2. Did you choose to have a second photographer? If no, you will have a lot less getting ready coverage and we won’t be able to do separate wedding party photos at a different place but same time.
  3. Do you want photos are your ceremony space and reception space empty before guests arrive? If yes, add 20 minutes before the ceremony and 30 minutes after (not necessary if you have a second photographer).
  4. Would you be down with a staged exit? If no, then you’ll need to slide your coverage to much later in the day. A first look might not be possible.
  5. Does your event include multiple locations? Even if your locations are close by, add an extra 20 minutes for every location change. This factors in, loading and unloading the car, finding parking, etc.

Meet Leah

I so hope you enjoyed this post all about First Looks! I know that it might seem like an overwhelming choice, but I am happy to chat with you about your timeline and help you decide if a First Look makes sense with your wedding day dreams and logistics. I am here for you, whatever you need, just send me a message and let’s chat about your special day!

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