When it comes to first looks I leave the decision to my couples but I do want to make sure they are aware of the implications. The decision will be one of the most impactful on the flow of your wedding day and the photography deliverable. I personally wish most couples would do a first look between the months of October through April when it gets dark earlier.
You can get to the reception quicker and even mingle with the guests at a cocktail hour if you were able to finish all of the photos before the ceremony.
When doing photos before the ceremony there is a different vibe where we can be creative and take our time a little more where as after the ceremony everyone is pretty tired of photos, tired of standing after the ceremony, and there is more pressure to shoot quickly and just get the groups in and out rather than walking over to some shade trees as we might do before a ceremony if there was a first look.
In the wintertime when it gets dark earlier doing a first look may be the only way you can get daylight photos of the bride and groom since it could be dark after a 4pm ceremony.
Even after a first look its still an emotional moment when the groom sees his bride walking down the aisle but the first look can be an additional great moment and sometimes its just more photogenic since you are together in the same photo where you can see both of your faces. Shots of grooms looking down the aisle are often of him looking stoic and you can't be sure he isn't looking at a flower girl or groomsman approaching.
It gives the bride and groom an opportunity to spend more of their wedding day together and likewise the bridesmaids and groomsmen can spend more of the day together and not separated.
It gives the couple the opportunity to have a few moments alone right after seeing each other. It can be a long while before they get that chance without the first look.
You can get a little more variety in the look of the photos. For example before the ceremony you could get that golden afternoon light and then after the ceremony you could spend a few more minute shooting at sunset or dusk with a light to bring out some color in the sky.
At some venues (churches in particular) photographers are confined to certain areas and asked not to use flash and basically we just aren't able to get the same quality of photos we could have gotten if setting up a first look in an ideal setting with the perfect lighting.
Many couples who are leaning against doing a first look think they can get almost everything before the ceremony but you still have to do pretty much all of the family photos with both bride and groom, bridal party photos, and bride and groom portraits afterwards so it can cause your guests to have to wait longer after the ceremony.
You may want to stick to tradition.
You may not like the idea of spending much time doing portraits and prefer to do it as efficiently and fast as possible after the ceremony.
During summer months when the sun stays up late the best light may fall between 5pm-8pm and if you do all of your photos before a 5pm ceremony with a first look as early as 2pm; you could be choosing to shoot in much harsher and less flattering overhead light which can be fine when you can find shade but your photographer will still want to do some photos after the ceremony when the light is softer and the temperature is cooler.
Be sure to scroll down through first look photos below!