There have been many articles written about first looks. Some photographers love them, some don’t…. there are plenty of arguments on both sides. Personally, the only thing that matters to me is what the couple wants! If you’ve always dreamed of seeing each other across the aisle, then don’t do a first look! On the other hand, if you love the idea of a private moment before your ceremony, a first look is perfect for you.

Maybe you’re not sure. Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to ponder all the ways a simple decision can ripple down and affect many others. For a moment, let’s put emotion aside and look at 5 different scenarios that may convince you to do a first look… or not!

1. You’re having a really early ceremony

There are some ceremony locations, like St. Paul’s Cathedral, Heinz Memorial Chapel and Duquesne University Chapel, that are in high demand. You might end up with a much earlier ceremony time that you’d like… even as early as 11am! A first look would make you get up really early. Probably too early.

2. Your ceremony is at 4pm… in November, December or January… and you want daylight photos

Check a sunset calculator. For a good part of these months, it’s going to be dark, or getting dark at 5pm. Is it ok with you if all of your portraits are either indoors or outside in the dark? If you want photos in daylight, you’ll need to do a first look. I’m a pretty skilled photographer, and I can make lovely nighttime portraits, but I can’t create blue sky if it’s dark outside.

3. Your ceremony and reception are in the same place

If you don’t do a first look, we’ll have to do all photos that involve both newlyweds during cocktail hour. That’s family photos, bridal party photos, and couple photos. If the reception room wasn’t ready before the ceremony, we’re also going to need to photograph that space and your details in that same hour. This is not impossible… it can be done! But it’s going to be a very fast-paced hour with very little margin for error. If you don’t do a first look, I’d strongly recommend planning to go out during dinner for a few more portraits, because we may not have had time for many portraits before the reception begins. I’d also recommend doing bride/bridesmaid photos and groom/groomsman photos before the ceremony to save a few minutes there.

4. You want to go to multiple locations for photos

This one could go either way, depending on your ceremony start time. If it’s later in the day, a first look is going to give you the time you need to travel to your desired locations. But if your schedule creates a big gap between ceremony and reception, you’ll have plenty of time then.

5. You anticipate feeling very anxious/tense/nervous

Ok, I know I said to put emotion aside, but I’m going to include this one after all. If you’ve decided to get married, odds are that this person you’re marrying is your favorite person in the whole world. If you feel anxious about the wedding day, a first look may provide just the calming effect you need.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong, whatever you decide. I’ll be happy to work with you to be sure that you get the photos you want! But it is important to keep in mind that we can’t change your schedule and we can’t change what time it gets dark :)