hudson valley engagement and adventure elopement

Hudson Valley Photographer: The Pros and Cons of a Wedding First Look

A first look is when a wedding couple puts aside time before the ceremony to see each other and do some or all of their formal photos.  Prior to the First Look trend, couples only saw each other for the first time during their wedding ceremony.   There are pros and cons to doing a first look and as a Hudson Valley photographer, many of my wedding couples often ask me about them.

Firstly, I realize that for some couples a first look is not an option.  Some couples deem seeing each other before the ceremony as bad luck.  Others cherish that exact moment that they see each other for the first time as they are walking down the aisle. I, therefore, let my couples decide whether a first look is right for them and fully realize that my duty is to adjust to whatever they decide.  However, if you are on the fence I hope this blog post will give you some clarity.

hudson valley engagement and adventure elopement


The number one reason many wedding couples choose a first look is so they can get the formal portraits out of the way and more fully enjoy their cocktail hour. For some couples, it makes sense then to do all of the formal portraits (wedding couple, family, and wedding party) photos before the ceremony.  While others opt to do the just photos for the couple and wedding party photos before the ceremony and their family photos during the cocktail hour. 

I personally do not like doing all of the formal photos during the cocktail hour.  I know first hand that when the ceremony finishes many couples are joyful and want to celebrate. They see their family and friends and want to express their emotions with them.  They immediately want to hug, eat, and drink with their guests.  And then here I come.  Pointing to my watch and ushering them away for photos.  I must admit this is the hardest and most stressful time of a wedding day.  Everyone is filled with excitement and justifiably distracted.  My second shooter and I then have to adjust our gear, wrangle everyone together, and accomplish an incredible amount of photos within a very short period. The wedding couple, the wedding party, and the family all seem anxious and inpatient.  They want to go to their cocktail hour! And I don’t blame them. 

wedding portraits in the hudson valley


My suggestion as a Hudson Valley photographer is to do at least the photos of you as a couple, along with your wedding party photos, before the ceremony.  Photographing the wedding party beforehand should not be too hard to manage as they should all be ready and present before the ceremony. However, making sure all family members involved in the formal photos are at the location and ready prior to the ceremony can be tricky.  Each couple can only decide if this is truly feasible.  Though, if some family members are late or missing before the ceremony, we could also easily adjust and finish up during the cocktail hour.  

Overall, I feel that doing the bulk ( if not all) of your formal photos before the ceremony creates a more relaxed wedding day.  Rushing through the photos of you and your partner, your families and wedding party, in just one hour,  is stressful for all and does not lend itself to better photos. It is much easier to take your time, put aside 45 minutes for the portraits of you and your partner,15 minutes for your wedding party photos, and a half-hour for your family photos.  Then safely tuck away,  and have some quiet moments about a half-hour before your ceremony.

Wedding first look options


he major con to doing your first look and/or all of your formal portraits before the ceremony is that you will then need to add up to an additional two hours to the beginning of your wedding day.  However, you will reap the benefit of having more time to celebrate with your guests later. 

Some wedding photographers claim that the first look allows for some quiet alone time as a wedding couple before the ceremony.  I have to be honest here,  most wedding couples don’t actually feel alone when they are being photographed.  The best is having some true alone time together, just before the ceremony.  

While some couples cherish the moments of seeing each other for the first time during the ceremony.  Others may find it more peaceful to see each other for the first time without all eyes upon them. This is reminiscent of the dilemma many expecting parents face when decking whether to find out the gender of their baby before giving birth.  With my first daughter, I waited.  With my second and third, I found out as soon as possible.  Why? Because I felt that finding out my child’s gender before was still a moment of surprise and a moment I cherished, regardless of when it happened.  I also felt knowing my baby’s gender before did not distract in any way from the moment I gave birth.  It was still a treasured moment.  The same may apply to doing a First Look –  meaning the moment you see your partner walking down the aisle will still be amazing. 

The number one con to doing a first look, from a Hudson Valley photographer’s perspective, is that the light is generally more pleasing later in the day.  Doing all the formal photos during the harsh light of midday is never my first choice.  However, a good photographer will know how to work around less than ideal lighting situations and well, they will have more time to do it!  Also, regardless if your formal portraits are done in less than perfect lighting scenarios,  I still ask my wedding couples to set about 15 minutes aside during their cocktail hour or reception, just before sunset,  to do some super quick, ideally lit photos.

intimate wedding and elopement in the hudson valley and catskills


Regardless of all of the above, if you are planning a winter wedding, I almost always recommend doing a first look, if not all formal photos before the ceremony.  This way you will still have the light of day when photographing the formal wedding portraits.  Unless, of course, you are planning an earlier day wedding.

Whatever you choose to a first look, or even all of your photos before the ceremony – my job as a Hudson Valley photographer is to always roll with it. 

I would never want to pressure someone into doing something that did not feel right on their wedding day.  I just ask that you review your options and know that above everything I want you to live fully in all the moments of your wedding day and not just relive it through the photos.  I also want you to be present with your family and friends.  A First Look enables you to get all, or some,  of your formal portraits out of the way so you and your pattern can engage more with the people you love the most. 

Wedding First Look





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