Why I Recommend a First Look on Your Wedding Day

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Welcome to the White Quill Blog—your one stop shop for wedding planning tips + inspiration. Because, as a 6w5 with over 100 weddings under my belt, my number one goal is to make sure you're prepared in advance so you can live your wedding day to its fullest.

Hey, I’m Chelsea

Why you should do a First Look - White Quill Creative

One of the first questions I ask during a consultation is “do you plan on having a first look?”. Most couples already know the answer, but a few will turn the question back to me:

Should we have a first look?

It’s your wedding day. Other than getting married, there’s nothing you have to do.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge fan of first looks. But I also respect couples who want to stick with tradition. Because, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that your wedding reflects who you are as a couple.

Sometimes that means waiting to see each other at the altar. Other times, it means grabbing your partners’ butt on a Michigan Ave median.

There’s really no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it makes the two of you happy.

But, if you’re on the fence, here are 6 reasons I recommend having a first look on your wedding day:

1. You get to spend most of your wedding day with the person you’re going to marry.

This should go without saying, but you’re about to spend the rest of your life with this person. You should want to spend as much time with them as possible—especially on your wedding day.

You are probably going to be anxious and seeing your best friend is the cure to that anxiety. Every. Single. Couple. Says their wedding day jitters melted away as soon as they had their first look.

2. You’ll be able to act on your emotions.

If you don’t see each other until you’re walking down the aisle, you’re pretty limited in how you can react at the alter —at best, you can wipe away a tear, grab each other’s hand, and whisper, “you look great”. 

But when you have a first look, you can react in any way that feels right. You can hug, make out, ugly cry, check each other out, do a twirl, and just talk to each other. This quiet, uninterrupted time together is something you will really cherish before the day flies by.

You can also sneak in a few laughs/remind your husband who he’s about to marry by stuffing your dress into a Pikachu onesie—okay, maybe that’s just Sam.

Why you should do a First Look - White Quill Creative
Taken by Chelsea for Ed and Aileen Photography

3. You get to have some alone time.

Okay, your photo and video team will be third-wheeling nearby. But I always like to stand back for a few minutes to give you some space. Trust me, you’ll appreciate having the time to yourselves before you put your host(ess) hat on.

Take it from past White Quill bride, Amanda:

“Our first look was one of my favorite parts of the day. We were in the middle of a massive city and it still felt like we were the only two there. I got to talk to him and see him and hold his hand and hug him without interruption. It was so intimate and such a special moment for us. For the rest of the day, you’re surrounded by people, but for those moments, you’re not. It’s so perfect.”

4. You’re able to take photos at multiple locations.

Sometimes wedding venues are gorgeous and have a bunch of photo spots. But, most of the time, you’re going to want to travel around town for wedding photos. When you have a first look, you’re able to pad in as much time as you need before the ceremony to get the photos you want.

This means you can go wherever you want (within reason/a ~10-mile radius) for photos. At our pre-wedding timeline meeting, I’ll factor in travel time to make sure you can have your west loop wedding and your lakefront photos, too.

As an added bonus, you get to ride around town in a trolley pretending you’re in a White Claw commercial.

5. You’re able to build in as much photo time as you need.

Sometimes wedding venues are gorgeous and have a bunch of photo spots. But, most of the time, you’re going to want to travel around town for wedding photos. When you have a first look, you’re able to pad in as much time as you need before the ceremony to get the photos you want.

6. You get to enjoy your cocktail hour.

If you decide not to do a first look, most of your portraits will happen during cocktail hour. Since this happens right after your ceremony, loved ones are going to come rushing up to congratulate you two. And the last thing you want to do is shoo them away to take pictures for the next hour!

If you do a first look, you can enjoy cocktail hour however you want, whether you’re mingling or chowing down on apps in the bridal suite. After you say ‘I Do’ and snap some family photos, it’s time for you to enjoy the celebration! A first look gives you the freedom to do whatever you want before dinner.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT SUNSET:

If you’re getting married in the winter (when the sun sets between 4-4:30 PM in Chicago), having a first look gives you the chance to have some natural light wedding photos taken.

TL;DR: If you want photos in the daytime, you NEED to do a first look.

Downtown Chicago First Look by White Quill Creative

Still worried that a first look will take away from your ceremony?

The biggest objection I hear as a photographer on first looks is this: Walking down the aisle won’t feel special if we’ve already seen each other.

And I get that! Chances are, the whole “getting married” thing is pretty new, so you want to make sure that you don’t have any regrets and soak up every moment to its fullest. 

One option is to switch up accessories. This way, when you walk down the aisle, your partner gets to see you in a new look. Maybe you don’t wear your veil for pictures and save it for the ceremony, or you mix up your look with an overlay. Or maybe you save those killer heels for the ceremony and rock a pair of Keds for wedding party photos. (Your feet will thank you.) 

If you don’t want to switch up your look, I’ve got great news for you—your ceremony will still feel special, even if you have a first look.

I asked Amanda (remember her from earlier?) and her husband José Luis if having a first look took away from the ceremony. This is what Amanda had to say:

“I was actually worried about this but NO it absolutely did not. The moment you walk down the aisle is different. You’re there. It’s really happening. It’s so overwhelming in the best possible way; you’ve been surrounded by basically everyone you love, you’re walking toward your forever partner moments before you vow to love one another and make it official.

It’s such a different emotion from a first look. I cried from the moment the processional music started playing, for my entire walk down the aisle, and basically the entire ceremony. He cried when I walked down and for the entire ceremony. Literally. It’s a different energy and it’s special in its own way.

No matter what you pick, the day is about the two of you.

Seeing your partner before does NOT take away from the fact that you are about to commit to one another while all of your loved ones watch. If anything, the first look added to the excitement and helped me calm down.”

As your photographer, I’ll be on board with whatever decision you make. At the end of the day, I’m pumped you’re marrying your best friend and honored I get to witness it. Dig into our experience, and learn more about working together! 

Hey, I’m Chelsea

Growing up, I had big dreams of being a writer—but one screenwriting seminar over mac and cheese pizza changed everything. Now, with a film degree and over 100 weddings under my belt, I get to tell your real-life stories (and, trust me, they put my made-up ones to shame). 

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