How long have you offered a ‘First Look’ service?
The first time we ever did a first look was in September 2009 for Kristen and Jonathan who lived in Canada but came back to Jonathan’s home, the UK, to have their wedding here. The idea was actually put forward to us by Kristen who was very open to seeing her groom before she walked down the aisle, as in Canada and the United States it is a very common thing to do. We got some lovely creative couple portraits around Nutfield Priory before the ceremony. It meant that photography time did not cut into their day and they where able to mingle with guests and enjoy seeing people close to them who had flown from all corners of the globe to be there.
What made you decide that this was something the UK market might be interested in?
The first weddings I thought I would suggest it to the couples on where Jewish weddings. The reason for this is that the bride and groom have The Bedeken prior to the wedding ceremony.
The bedeken, which translates as “veiling,” is the groom’s veiling of his bride immediately before the ceremony. The custom is said to be based upon the Biblical story in which Jacob, intending to marry Rachel, accidentally marries her older sister Leah, who wore a veil. In addition to having the groom verify that he is marrying the right woman, the Bedeken is often preceded by singing and dancing around the bride, who sits on a throne like chair. These couples are therefore openly prepared to see one another prior to the wedding ceremony and when I suggested the idea of a First Look I had a positive response. Leah & Peter at The Savoy and Joanne & Jake at The Oyster Box.
I then suggested it to another couple who where having a registry ceremony followed by their reception at The Berkely Hotel in London. They where intrigued by the idea and after seeing the results of the previous First Looks they decided to do it for their own wedding. They liked the idea that all of the portraits would be done and out the way so that they could really enjoy the cocktail hour being put on by The Berkeley and to be able to spend more time with their guests.
What has the reaction been like from clients: are some of the more traditional ones horrified by the idea?
I can judge my clients and I know who may be open to suggestions like this and who won’t be. I started off with suggesting Next Day Shoots and those where very successful. It is all about showing them your idea and explaining the advantages. I think a First Look is harder to suggest due to the old wives tale that says you shouldn’t see each other before the wedding. I found this interesting fact:
“The idea stems from the early days when marriages were arranged. In these cases, the bride and groom would meet each other for the first time at their own wedding.”
In that case I really don’t see why we are sticking to a tradition that is based on arranged marriages.
How do you set the ‘First Look’ up: do you have to have everything ready to go on the camera side so that you capture all the spontaneity?
We set up the groom in good light. The bride is usually hidden around the corner or behind a wall. Craig and I set up our camera’s for correct exposure and then give the bride the go ahead. The groom turns around and sees her for the first time. We do not direct any of this at all. What we have done is prepared the couple for what will happen and explain that we will just be shooting in the background. There are always some lovely cute, moments between the two of them. The location choice is very important. I like to ensure that it is not busy and that nobody else will be around. No stressed out bridesmaids or the like!
How long does the ‘First Look’ take and does that help both yourself and the couple in terms of timings later on in the day?
We spend around half an hour with the couple doing some lovely portraits of them after the initial moments when they see each other for the first time.
Have you noticed this idea spreading and more couples being receptive to it over the past few months?
Yes I think it’s like anything in the wedding industry. Engagement shoots, Next Day shoots, Fun Booths at wedding receptions. Once people see other people doing it they come around to new ideas.
Do you charge extra for this service or is it just part of the wedding day coverage?
No we don’t charge extra for a first look as it takes place on the actual wedding day and would be part of our standard 8 hour coverage.
A first look at The Berkley:
A first look at The Savoy:
First Look at The Oyster Box: