How to plan a first look

first look waterford castle

How to plan a first look

mount druid wedding photography

What is a first look?

What is a first look? A “First Look” is traditionally an American thing but over the years has become more and more popular here in Ireland. A first look is where a couple sees each other before their ceremony on their wedding day. It’s a bit of private time for the couple, away from all your guests. I love them, I had one on my wedding day but I also know that they’re not for everyone. 

If you are looking to have a first look it is important to understand the pros and cons. Once you’ve discussed them with your other half, you can make a decision that’s best for both of you. Don’t do it just because you think they look cool, make sure it fits in with how you want your wedding to go. If one of you has always wanted that ‘Wow’ moment where you see each other as one walks down the aisle well then a first look is not for you. Also, don’t think you have to have one because I love them. It’s your wedding day. I’ll get killer wedding photographs either way. 

first look waterford castle

Why might you want to do a first look?

  1. It’s a great stress reliever before your wedding ceremony. Any nerves or pre-wedding jitters will be gone because you’ll have seen each other and that pressure is off. A lot of my couples have said that the moment they see each other for the first time was their favourite moment of the whole day, regardless of whether it was at the top of the aisle or not.
  2. If your hair or makeup gets messed up, your glam squad will be there to sort you out. My hair was a right mess after mine. 
  3. This is my number one reason for having a first look. You won’t miss as much of the drinks reception because you’re off having portraits done. They’ll be done before the ceremony leaving you extra time to catch up with your guests. 
  4. You’ll also have more time for portraits of just the two of you. A first look takes on average around 20-30mins and it’s usually on the grounds of your venue or a short drive from the getting ready spot. Also, your hair and makeup is the freshest it’ll be all day.
  5. You’re more likely to be on your own for your first look. Your wedding guests won’t have arrived yet and your bridal party will be busy getting their finishing touches sorted. Perfect for those of you who are camera shy.
  6. If you’re having a winter wedding it gets dark really early, the sun sets at 4pm in some parts of the country. A first look means we have more natural daylight for your portraits.

Clonabreany House Wedding Photography

Why might you not want to have a first look?

  1. Wedding mornings are notorious for running late. It’s nobody’s fault it just happens. Even if you’re always on time for everything, it’s out of your hands I’m afraid. If it runs very late, you’ll have less time for your first look which kinda defeats the purpose of it.
  2. You’ll have to start everything earlier, hair, makeup etc, and you’ll have to get up earlier.
  3. Your family and guests won’t see you seeing each other for the first time. It can be emotional and meaningful for some families. If you’re not sure how they feel about it, ask them, but don’t let it be a deciding factor. 
  4. Your dress might get a little bit dirty, generally, it’s nothing we can’t fix with a baby wipe if needed but it is something to think about. I am super careful but if you’re outside at all, chances are you’re gonna pick up a little summat. 
  5. You won’t actually be married in your portraits. Some people care, some don’t. If you think it’s going to be less meaningful because you won’t be married or you’re not wearing your wedding bands then maybe rethink having a first look. 
  6. If you’ve never wanted a first look and you’re not too keen, don’t let anyone put pressure on you to do it. It’s your wedding day, do it your way. 
  7. If tradition is important to you, stick to it. 
  8. Do you feel weird about it? Do you think you’re expected to react a certain way because it’s a first look? Don’t put undue pressure on either of you. For some, this is a deal-breaker. 

Coolbawn Quay Wedding Photos

Why did you do a first look at your wedding?

I’m a wedding photographer. At every wedding I’d been to as a guest up until my own, I missed the drinks reception. Even if I wasn’t photographing the wedding day, I had my camera with me, or I was a bridesmaid. So we wanted a drinks reception that I could enjoy and not be off away from the craic. I get really bad fomo. So we did all our photos before the ceremony. 

Horetown House Wedding photos

How to plan a first look.

1. Scout locations ahead of time

Chat to your photographer about where you’d like to do your first look. They might take a spin around the grounds before the wedding day. They may have done one there before or they might just suss it out the morning of the wedding but bear it in mind when you’re deciding where to get ready.

2. Allow enough time

I always allow an hour for a first look, it never takes that long but as mentioned above it’s good to have some padding time. So I plan it for an hour before the ceremony if it’s all happening in the one place and an hour from the planned leaving time if it’s not.

3. Keep it private

Don’t plan to bring the gang with you. It should be just the two of you and your photographer (and videographer if you’re having one). If you’re planning to do bridal party photos beforehand too, have them meet you a little later. Make the most of this time together alone, you won’t get many on your wedding day. 

4. Choose a private spot

As above, you don’t want the world and its mother passing by while you’re doing these intimate portraits. You also don’t want your guests to see you before the wedding day! 

That’s it. Most photographers will have done a first look in the past or will have enough knowledge to pull it off. First looks can be really great if done for the right reasons. Don’t forget the tissues 🙂


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