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The First Look – Yay or Nay??

From time to time, I meet other professionals who have amassed a wealth of experience and knowledge in wedding planning.  The Couples’ Concierge – Sarah – is one of those individuals who has gone into battle and came out victorious creating the #bestdayever for her clients.  She has worked in the wedding industry since the young age of 16 and now organizes the planning schedules for an event team of six planners, 3 assistant planners, and 9 “day-of” supervisors.  Her insight will offer another prospective on how and what make the perfect wedding celebration.  I am pleased to share her experiences with all of you.

The Wedding Warrior

Helping you through the do’s, don’ts and won’ts of wedding planning

Written By: The Couples’ Concierge

I have worked in the wedding business for almost 10 years now learning the necessary aspects to create a couple’s #bestdayever. Working with event planners like the Wedding Warrior and others who have been in the business for twenty plus years I have seen what works best and what can ruin someone’s big day.

The first look is something that many photographers will push you to do so that you can go to cocktail hour. This sounds great right? You can get all of your pictures done before you even go down the aisle allowing you to go to the amazing cocktail hour that you spent your time and money planning. This is not always the case though, so always make sure to weigh all of your options before making the choice to do the first look just to go to cocktail hour. You should also remember that cocktail hour was actually created so that the bridal party could take pictures while the guests were being entertained.

“The awkward moment” is what many of the event planners I have worked with call the first look; it is not always a moment that couples want to remember. At the point in time which you’re about to see each other you’re putting the weight of the world on the groom’s shoulders. Not only are you planning and posing for a moment that should be natural, but you’re expecting and hoping that your fiancé will react in the exact way you want them too. Whether you’re hoping for them to break down with happy tears, run up and kiss you, or have their jaw drop to the floor, every bride has some expectations for how she wants the first look to end. Unfortunately, this moment does not always turn out how you imagined, making for some not so great memories.

Below are some photographs taken of first looks. Some show a precious moment caught in time and others show that things really can get awkward when this moment is staged, versus the spontaneous joy when you see each other for the first time as you walk to the altar.

When asking brides why they chose to do the first look many of them answer with, “I wanted to be at my cocktail hour.” This is understandable as they spent a year planning this day and they want to be as much a part of it as possible, but there are other ways. You should also understand that just because you had the first look does not mean you will be able to attend the entire cocktail hour.

If you don’t want to take the chance and create an awkward moment or you want your moment to occur naturally while walking down the aisle here are a few options:

  1. Most photographers, depending on the conditions they are working with, will be able to get enough formal photos taken in about 45-minutes. Conditions meaning size of bridal party, location flexibility, and timelines. That being said, if you were to lengthen your cocktail hour by another 30-minutes you could have 45-minutes to take photos and 45-minutes to mingle with guests at cocktail hour.
  2. If adding time is not an option then make sure your planner understands that you would like the bridal party to be as much a part of cocktail hour as possible. At Stroudsmoor we continuously send Hors d’oeuvres to the couple and family while taking photos making them feel as if they are truly part of the cocktail hour like everyone else.
  3. While this last option is not recommended, you can always add time between the ceremony and reception if they’re in different locations. Just remember though that your guests will need some place to go during this time and most venues will not allow early access unless pre-planned.

For some couples the first look may be the perfect choice, but just remember YOU HAVE OPTIONS! You can enjoy your cocktail hour and down the aisle moment too. Here are a few tips for those of you who choose to do the first look:

  1. Make sure you inform your event planner and venue coordinator when you choose to do a first look. Many venues will not allow early access to the building to take these photos unless planned ahead of time. If you are unable to access the building early, ask for other options. For example, you will find multiple “smile spots” around the property at Stroudsmoor Country Inn. These are designated areas where couples can go to take first look photos. The areas have been accented with items such as log benches, gazebos and arches to enhance their beautiful natural surroundings. Below, you will find a picture of a “smile spot” at Stroudsmoor.Wedding Warrior - Romantic moment with man and woman
  2. Understand that everyone will not be with you before the ceremony. For example, pictures with grandparents, close aunts and uncles, or even Godparents will have to be taken after the ceremony…during cocktail hour.
  3. Finally, don’t hope for the perfect reaction, just be thankful for the one you receive and always remember that your fiancé loves you.

When it comes to your wedding day just remember there are always options and you don’t always have to sacrifice one thing for another.

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