There is no right or wrong way to see each other on your wedding day. I think doing both a first look or not doing a first look has it’s upsides for different reasons. One upside of doing a first look means you can get your bridal party and family formals out of the way. Or maybe you are getting married in a season where the Sun sets sooner and your ceremony happens to be later.
An upside to not seeing each other prior to the ceremony is having the anticipation of seeing each other for much longer. Being able to lock eyes with one another while your about to meet at the alter. As a photographer I have noticed that the couples who choose not to do a first look do happen to look around less while standing and approaching the alter. You also get to get some pretty emotional shots at the alter rather then elsewhere. (That does not mean a first look will not be emotional, it just means it will be at the alter)
As far as my personal preference, I want you to decide and be happy with what you want to do on your wedding day.
For me on my wedding day, I chose to see Adam before the ceremony. I was full of nerves and just wanted to be with him. The moment I saw him I burst into tears. I was just SO relived to have him with me during our day of anticipation, nerves and excitement. He is my absolute best friend in this entire world and I REALLY needed to have him with me during that time. If I were to do it again, I would still see him before the ceremony. I would do even more than that. We would have gotten ready together. Just the two of us and our photographers. Of course our moms would come in after we dressed but I think I would appreciate the quietness and peace of just him and I getting ready to make the biggest promises of our lives together. Again he his my best friend, we do EVERYTHING together and I feel, that for US, getting ready to get married shouldn’t have been different. But I was younger, new to weddings and was just doing what I thought I was suppose to do based on “traditions”. It’s a little unconventional but that’s OK! Weddings shouldn’t be only one certain way. They should be unique to you.
NOW, for my professional opinion based on photography and aesthetic: I HIGHLY suggest that all of my couples take their longer couples portraits of just the two of you 1 hour before sunset or near sunset, granted there will be one, EVEN if you do a first look. Especially if you are getting married in the months of May, June, July and August. While making your timeline for your wedding, look up online what time the sun will set that day and leave a 20 minute period open to sneak off for that time to take photos. (Keep in mind that if you will be surrounded by tall trees or building the sun will “set” sooner) If you have hired a coordinator ( or your Caterer or DJ is writing the time line) please give them this information before hand. Yes, it might be during salads or possibly even during dinner time but dinner is only one night while your photos will be lasting a lifetime. I have also never been to a wedding where the events of the wedding are not flexible during the day and I promise you wont miss out on anything. Maybe a salad. But photos are more important than the salad. Don’t tell your caterer I said that =)
First looks are beneficial if you would like to get as many formals with bridal party and family done prior to the ceremony so you can enjoy more of your cocktail hour with your guests. Even in this case I will only do a short portrait session of the two of you seeing each other, while short it will it still be very intimate, and then move on to family and bridal party while waiting to do a longer couples portraits session during sun set. (Side Note, Some venues don’t really have sunsets like the Berkeley city club, So if you decide on a first look it’s probably a good idea to just get all of your couples photos done at that time. That goes for any venue that also will not have sunsets because of location or the way the building is built)
If you don’t want a first look and the sun will be setting an hour AFTER your cocktail, It’s totally fine to schedule your portrait session during cocktail, should you wish!
You are able to do your portraits when ever YOU want to do them. It’s your day. I’m just giving my professional advice on what I think would look best based on lighting. I only suggest, it is up to you to decide.
If you will be getting married in Fall or early Spring, it is most likely that your ceremony will be very close to sunset. So doing the your couples portraits during cocktail will be the best bet.
Summer weddings tend have a lot more sun in the sky and waiting for a while is much more important during that season. It’s too bright before the ceremony (unless we can find a fully shaded area to shoot in, then its all good) And right after the ceremony, if it’s a hot day you may be hot, sweaty and overwhelmed. Waiting just a little bit and sneaking off to do the portraits can be a great idea.
If Adam and I have concerns about the light on your day we will let you know and suggest when to do them, even if it’s …. “the light is fading we need to go NOW” … lol. ( It’s happened)
Winter weddings: If you will be having a late ceremony, having your portraits before the ceremony may be the way to go.