Boston & New England Wedding Photographer Deborah Zoe

Boston & North Shore Wedding Photographer creating timeless imagery for classic New England weddings with a fine art approach.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal

Pat and Liz s Wedding-First Look and Portraits-0057 copy.jpg

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal

Welcome to Wedding Love, my blog series dedicated to all things Wedding Planning! I started this series almost five years ago (!!!) with the hope of inspiring the Bride to Be as she plans her wedding. Over the years I have shared my experiences as a Bride and Photographer in hopes of equipping Brides with insightful content and fun stories!

When it comes to Wedding Planning, there are three areas that I am frequently asked about by my Brides : The Engagement Session, The First Look and the Family Formals, all of which I will talk more in depth about in the coming months. For today I wanted to tackled the topic of the First Look. If you’ve been around the blog for any amount of time you know how strongly I feel about the First Look (you can read more here & here). I’m unashamedly for the Bride and Groom carving out time for each other on the wedding day. Today we're going to talk about the differences of the First Look and Traditional reveal and hopefully give you insight into what might be the best option for you. Before we dive right in, let's chat about what the First Look is exactly...

The First Look is when a couple chooses to see each other before the ceremony. It is a private moment alone together before the rush of the day begins. Shocking? Yes and no. As more and more couples become aware of the First Look they are choosing to take advantage of this option for their wedding day. Around 90% of my couples choose to see each other before the ceremony. When my husband I were married in 2006 we didn’t even know that this was an option! Almost 10 years later and this “trend” has only gained in popularity, with more and more couples deciding how THEY want their day to flow.

Looking back, I wish we had a First Look. I was only familiar with the traditional way of doing things and so that's exactly what we did. The morning of the wedding, I was SO nervous. (It was the first and only time I’ve ever had to breath into a paper bag!) All I could think was that I just wanted to see Dave, he is the person who gives me peace, assurance and security. But we waited unitl the ceremony. What I thought was going to be some magical moment at the church aisle turned out to be nothing like I had imagined. I was a hot, sweaty mess. My dress caught in the doorway and my Dad and I could barely fit down the tiny aisle together. I couldn’t see because I was crying to badly. Dave was so nervous to be the center of attention he forgot to smile! AND to top it all off, everyone had stood up and blocked my view of my hubby to be! We didn’t have a moment alone together until later that night when we had left the reception. Looking back, oh how I wished we had a First Look.

As a photographer I can only share my experiences. Each and every couple is different, some want the traditional aisle reveal while others want to spend their time together before the ceremony. My job as your photographer is simply to educate you as to what might be the best decision for you. While I am a huge advocate for the First Look, I know that option might not be right for everyone. So with that in mind I have compiled two lists to help make that decision process easier. Choosing a First Look or Choosing a Traditional Reveal! Let’s dive in! 

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look:

  • It’s a time JUST FOR YOU. I can’t stress enough how quickly a wedding day passes and how limited your time together is. A First Look pauses the day and gives you an opportunity to be alone during an otherwise very packed and busy day. 
  • If you find yourself nervous, jittery or anxious, a First Look allows you time to release that energy before the ceremony starts. As I’ve shared above, I was that Bride! Knowing that I could have seen Dave before the ceremony would have alleviated much of that anxiety.
  • A First Look realigns the timeline allowing you to take many of the portraits such as Bridal Party & Family before hand, freeing up your time to enjoy parts of the day with your guests, like the cocktail hour. 
  • Emotions. When it’s just the two of you, you’ll be more likely to express how you are truly feeling. It is much harder to display your emotions and the impact of seeing each other when you’re in front of all of your guests. 
  • Many of my clients worry about privacy during the First Look. Because I truly believe that this should be a time for just the couple, I work very hard to ensure that this moment is private and documented in a respectful way. If you’re going to have a First Look, we want to ensure this moment is meaningful and special. 
  • If you are getting married later in the year (late fall & winter), a First Look might be your only option to ensure portraits in daylight. 
  • MORE PORTRAITS! A First Look allows us more space in the timeline for portraits. And because we are not fighting against a reception start, it is a much more relaxed and calming atmosphere. Portraits are my favorite part of the day and as a photographer it’s where I feel like I truly shine. I also believe that given the time and space along with a calming and enjoyable atmosphere, a couple is more likely to let down their guard in front of the camera. Which in turns produces beautifully honest images of two people in love.
Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a Traditional Reveal :

  • A Traditional Reveal at the Ceremony is how many Brides to Be envision their wedding day. Plus this is what most guests are accustomed to, so there will be no explanation needed for guests or Family.
  • Along with that, your family and guests will be a part of your reveal, a moment that many Families want to witness and be a part of. 
  • Your dress will not have been exposed to the elements before the ceremony. 
  • If you are feeling pressure to have a First Look, but you know that it’s just not for you : DO NOT DO IT. (skip down to #5 in A Few Things to Consider!)
  • If anything runs late the morning of the wedding such as hair & makeup or a wardrobe issue, it will not interfere with a First Look.
Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

A Few Things to Consider :

  • If you are getting married in the late fall and winter months you will have a very limited window of natural daylight. As a natural light photographer, I would strongly encourage you to have a First Look.
  • Parents and family can absolutely be a part of the First Look if that is something you are interested in. In fact it can be an incredibly emotional time sharing that moment with the people you love! 
  • If you choose not to partake in a First Look, the Bridal Party (Bride with Bridesmaids & Groom with Groomsmen) will be taken before the ceremony.
  • If you choose not to partake in a First Look, the Bridal Party, Family and Bride & Groom portraits will be taken afterwards meaning you will miss much, if not all, of your cocktail hour. Your reception details will be photographed after the guests have arrived and may be disturbed before being photographed.
  • As your photographer I will need 30 minutes with the Bridal Party, 30 minutes with the Family and 30-45 minutes with the Bride and Groom on the wedding day. If you only have 10 minutes for your Couple Portraits you will have a very limited amount of images and limited variety in your wedding portfolio.
  • Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve! Whether you choose to see each other for the first time during your First Look or during a Traditional Reveal, share your emotions! Don’t hold back! This is your opportunity to let your spouse to be know how you feel regardless of who is watching or where you are. This is a day to celebrate! Your wedding day will be happy and memorable occasion for you as a couple, share that joy with those around you!

From The Pros :

“ I loooooved our first look. We both cried like babies. It was so special and honestly my absolute FAVORITE part of our wedding day. It was like time slowed down and that's the part I can remember the best!” - Stephanie

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

“Our first look was one of my favorite moments of our wedding day! So glad we decided to do that, Jason's reaction was priceless! It was such an intimate time that we have captured forever!!” - Amanda

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

“The decision to do a First Look at our wedding was a little controversial, but ultimately it's a decision we're both very glad that we made.  Our families were a bit confused about the whole idea because it goes against tradition, but I got everyone on board! The First Look was time just for the two of us. I've really come to cherish the moments from our First Look because they would not appear again until the reception was over and everyone went home. Seeing each other before the ceremony lifted all the stress and butterflies away. It calmed our emotions and anxiety, allowing us to really enjoy the ceremony and the special moments of our wedding. It was a special part of our day that still stands out as a favorite!” - Marlo

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

“My favorite part of our wedding was our ceremony. We were able to take the best parts of a traditional wedding ceremony and make them our own. In particular, I loved that we brought together all of our closest family and friends to stand beside us as we recited our vows. In a sentence, it was the moment where I felt the deepest amount of love between us and surrounding us.” - Lisa

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

“Our first look was the best part of the day. While primping and prepping I had worked myself up and grown more and more anxious. When I walked outside to the park, I tapped Rob on the shoulder and immediately felt at ease. We were able to be ourselves and cuddle while Deb captured some intimate photos. That time alone to reflect on how lucky we were was just what we needed. From there on out, I just knew what an amazing day it would be and all the nerves went away!” - Rachel

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

"My favorite part was the the anticipation leading up to seeing my groom for the first time. Focusing on him as I walked down the aisle was the most magical and romantic moment of my life! I still remember the look on his face!" - Lindsey

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

“The morning of the wedding was a stressful time for me. Having a First Look shortened the waiting period to see my Bride to Be, which was wonderful and exactly what I needed. I could see Hannah and this time allow us to soak the day in a bit. I think that's one of the biggest perks about the First Look. There was time before the ceremony for us to see each other, there was a flow, a reasonable and enjoyable pace to the day, that let us enjoy each other and the party. Furthermore, given that we got married in a field and the 'aisle' was really long, being able to actually see Hannah in her dress from a reasonable distance was preferable to me over seeing her walk across a large open field from far away. The fact that I had seen her previously didn't detract from seeing her walk down the aisle, but let me take more of it in!” - Barrett

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

Choosing a First Look or Traditional Reveal by Deborah Zoe Photography.

As you've read, choosing whether to choose a First Look or Traditional Reveal is a very personal decision. I would challenge you to think carefully as you approach your wedding day as to what decision is right for you. As your photographer, regardless of whether you see each other beforehand or at the ceremony, I will work hard to capture that special moment in a way that is meaningful to you. Either choice is extraordinarily personal, one is not right and one is not wrong. Simply put, one is the perfect fit for you and your day. I hope that this post has given you more insight into the First Look and pointed you in the direction that is right for you! 

Group participation time! Did you have a First Look or Traditional Reveal? What did you enjoy about your time together? I'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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by Deborah Parker