Should We Do a First Look?


One of the many questions I get asked from brides and grooms is, “should we do a first look?” Some couples already know what a first look is and they just can’t decide if its right for them. Others have heard of it but don’t even know how it would effect their wedding day, pictures and the moments they want captured.

Lets dive in to a first look and answer all the questions you might have so that you can make a decision thats right for you, so first….

  1. What EVEN IS a first look?

Before we start on the benefits and drawbacks of doing one, we need to know what it is! Traditionally, the couple would not see each other before the wedding, the first time would be walking down the aisle and all the formal pictures would be taken afterwards. I am not a historian and I have no idea who came up with the idea of doing it differently but behold we now have a new common trend. The first look is the concept of setting up a private or mostly private time that the couple will see each other BEFORE the ceremony. After getting ready and usually set up by the photographer or coordinator, the bride walks out toward the groom and they share a private moment. After that there is time to do couples portraits, bridal party portraits and sometimes even the family portraits all before the ceremony even takes place.

first look

2. What are the benefits of doing a first look?

Let me just say right off the bat that I am not a proponent one way or the other for first looks at weddings. I can see how they are right for one couple and not for another, but there is no denying some benefits that it can have on your wedding day.

- Removes nerves and gives you a quiet space to see each other without everyone watching.

- Creates an opportunity to recite private vows to one another if doing that in front of a crowd is uncomfortable for you.

- Possibly gives you more time to do portraits if you have a later ceremony or packed after ceremony schedule.

- Gives you time to enjoy your cocktail hour and spend more time with guests.

As you can see there are many benefits for some couples to doing a first look! However, just like each individual wedding is unique so is each individual couple and some may feel like the negatives outweigh the positives…

3. So… what are the drawbacks of a first look?

I am the first to admit that I am a huge sucker for seeing the faces of the bride and groom as they see each other as she walks down the aisle. I won’t lie and say I haven’t shed my share of awkward wedding photographer tears as I see the look of wonder on the grooms face for the first time. On top of that I am a bit of a traditional gal and I just love the emotion of not doing a first look. I will say that the reasons for doing a first look are more practical and the reasons for not are more emotional, but on a wedding day emotion reigns supreme so either is a valid choice! So what are some benefits of keeping it old school and not doing one?

- Can add emotion that wouldn’t be quite as strong to walking down the aisle for some couples.

- Can give you a more intimate portrait time with all the stress from the ceremony being over.

- Keeps with tradition which may be important to some couples.


4. Is there such thing as a partial first look?

A good alternative if you don’t know what to choose is to do a partial first look. This can be done in many ways! For some that means a first look with dad, for others that means praying or talking beforehand while being next to each other but not actually seeing each other, or it could be as simple as chatting on the phone beforehand. If time is your concern than choosing to do all family formals beforehand besides the ones that include both the bride and the groom can be helpful as well!


5. What shouldn’t influence our decision?

I love the idea of thinking of others, in fact I think that should be a hallmark of the life we live BUT I don’t think choosing a first look should be based on how it effects friends and family. I often hear from the couple that they don’t like their guests to have to wait but I would argue that nobody minds. Your wedding day should be about you, that may sound selfish but it isn’t. Marriage is a big deal and your wedding day is the beginning of that. Whatever you decide about a first look should be primarily about what is most beneficial to you as a couple. I have had many couples that had beautiful first looks and would have been stressed out to do it any other way, but I have had others that wanted to keep seeing each other as a surprise and a first look would have ruined that.

6. Who can help us make the decision?

Your wedding coordinator and wedding photographer should both be able to help you think about pros and cons and help you decide what you would like to do. Neither decision is wrong and talking through it with someone who has experience can help take the stress out of the choice! Either way your wedding will be a day to celebrate the start of the two of you so make that the focus!