While it’s true that planning a wedding involves making a lot of decisions, it’s also fair to say that many of them are decided by traditions we often don’t even question. Things like the bride(s) wearing white, the cake actually being a cake, or not seeing your partner on the day of your wedding until what-we-shall-call The Big Reveal down the aisle.
But, while convention has its charm, there are many reasons why even some of the most classic wedding traditions may not suit you and your soon-to-be-spouse. In recent years, different trends have emerged and gained popularity, offering alternative ways of doing things for those couples looking to shape their special day to be even more tailor-made to them.
We at New Zealand Wedding Films realise these trends may not be for everyone, but they at least serve to remind us that weddings shouldn’t just be cookie cutter formats. Your wedding is all about you, so it’s important to design your day accordingly. With this mindset, the magic question for everything becomes: “Is this really what I want?”
So, on your wedding day, do you really want to wait until the ceremony to see your love for the first time?
If your answer isn’t a firm ‘yes’, take a second look with us at “The First Look”.
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The First Look
The First Look is a contemporary trend where the bride(s) and/or groom(s) see each other for the first time before the ceremony in a more private setting. It’s a moment which is shared together, and captured by us on film, in a beautifully intimate way.
The False First Look
Another lesser known trend is the “False First Look”, which is where couples have a time of connection before the ceremony but don’t actually see each other. This can be done holding hands around either side of a doorway, archway, gate, or tree, giving you a chance to talk to each other, calm any nerves, and get excited for what’s ahead. A blindfold on the groom can also be used, allowing for more freedom of movement and an open space in nature for the setting.
Early Bridal Shoot
An early bridal shoot is when the couple does some, or all, of the bridal shoot before the ceremony. This would typically follow a First Look, and the main benefit to this trend is to give the newlywed couple more time to spend with family and friends, following the ceremony.
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But we’ll unpack all the upsides of these trends a little more for you, as there’s plenty of factors to consider, which you might not have before...
If you think about it, the wedding day is one of the happiest days of your lives together, and yet, often, you don’t even see each other until something like 2PM! Then the rollercoaster ride starts and doesn’t stop until late that night, and most of it is spent without a single moment alone. So the First Look is a really great way to carve out some quality time together earlier in the day and to make a moment to remember in all its beautiful simplicity.
Emotions Run Free
A First Look can be beautifully emotional and result in some unique and heartwarming footage. And arguably, the responses couples give to each other for this alternative Big Reveal are usually a lot more expressive than at a ceremony. This is because in a wedding ceremony with a traditional Big Reveal, the first sighting is at a great distance, with a room of onlookers and the bride expected to walk slowly and gracefully up the aisle, and then only greet her love with a nervous smile of anticipation. Essentially, natural excited emotion and loving affection is held in and reserved for the climactic kissing moment and the celebratory walk back down the aisle together.
Whereas, with a First Look, you might have less than 5 metres of space between you both at your first sighting, no slow-walking is required, and no emotion or affection is expected to be suppressed. So the scene plays out more like a highly anticipated airport arrival reunion, and therefore seems, to us, to be a more honest reflection of the excitement and love felt in that moment. You can squeal, laugh, joke, gawk, touch, admire, and appreciate. There’s no script to follow or formal proceedings you have to wait for before showing how you truly feel. It’s your beautiful, private, honest moment to celebrate your love and commitment to each other before declaring it publicly to your loved ones.
Many couples have commented on how calming it was to begin their day with a First Look. Weddings can bring out a lot of nerves in people, especially ahead of the ceremony where all eyes will be on you for The Big Reveal.
As previously mentioned, a First Look allows you a chance to release and express some of your emotion early in a more private setting, and that also gives you time to feel calm, centred, and connected together before taking on the day.
Greater Film Shoot Flexibility
By having a First Look, you essentially have some of your bridal shoot earlier in the day (however much or little of it you want), which can have many benefits. One is more time, as there is certainly far less of it later on in the day. Sometimes, at the end of a late afternoon shoot (in a season other than summer), we find ourselves in a race against the setting sun to get all our filming locations and shot types in. But when we’ve shot a First Look earlier in the day, we know we have extra daylight footage up our sleeve, which relieves a little pressure later on if the day’s timeline has been held up at some point.
More Time with Loved Ones
If you choose to have a significant portion of your bridal shoot following your First Look, or even the whole shoot, a real big benefit is that it can give you a lot more time to spend socializing with your friends and family after the ceremony, rather than rushing away. Many guests will have travelled far and wide to be there to celebrate with you, so it is nice to be able to catch up properly and enjoy their company for longer.
If your first look involves tears and kissing – as they often do – brides have the chance to touch up their make-up before going on to the ceremony, which is a bonus.
Some brides also like doing an early bridal shoot when they’re looking super fresh, straight from their make-up artist’s chair. That’s because the day can potentially wear out your make-up and hair with all that it brings; tears, eating and drinking, squinting in the sun, getting attacked by the wind, or hugging a ton of people and losing patches of your NARS foundation in their shoulders...
Because it is still a bit niche, First Look shots can set your wedding film apart from others and look really special. Your setting can be somewhere quaint and sweet, or epically picturesque. We also get to capture you both within the same shot as you share this special moment, rather than separately, from either end of your ceremony venue. (But don’t worry, you’ll still get those shots too – and from our experience and what we’ve seen out there, they’re still equally brimming with excitement, emotion, and Aww-factor.)
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But, to give you the other side of the coin, we’ll mention a few potential downsides of the The First Look.
Some people find the idea of The Big Reveal at the ceremony wonderfully romantic, and for that reason, a First Look seems to spoil it – for both them and their guests. But we’ll share a few points on this. Firstly, you do still have that Big Reveal moment, it’s just at an earlier time and in a different setting – one with no one but you two (quite cute, really). And secondly, as touched on above, you still have the aisle moment too, which is a Big Reveal to all your guests and still comes with all its emotion and grandeur. The only difference is that it comes after sharing a beautiful, exciting, and intimate moment together, which we think can give everything that follows a pretty special touch.
Careful with the dress!
Something to consider with a First Look or early bridal shoot is your location and evaluating whether it will be too risky for the dress. It’s nice for the dress to be fresh for the ceremony, especially if it’s indoors, so our word of warning for anyone who wants to make sure of this would be to choose a location that is low-risk for dirt. Watch out for freshly cut grass too, as it can stain badly; so if you are shooting on grass and want to avoid that peril, try to ensure it is mowed well in advance.
Weddings that begin in the morning are potentially too pushed for time to do a First Look. Even an afternoon one may be under the pump if there are lots of bridesmaids to glam up and only one makeup artist or hair stylist. So, depending on your day’s timeline, you may feel like there is not enough time to add in a first look before the ceremony.
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It’s all up to you
Remember, whichever way you do it, there will always be the moment on your wedding day where you both lay eyes on each other for the first time. It’s a moment for taking in the beauty of the one you love, for feeling the significance of the commitment you are about to make to each other, and for expressing the emotion of love you have, without holding back. It is a truly special moment.
Traditionally, this Big Reveal moment has been a wedding ceremony highlight, accentuated by a dramatic chasm of space as one enters and the other looks on, witnessed by all family and friends present. But this is not the only way.
So ask yourself, what do I really want?