I want to start this by saying right off the bat: Your wedding is just that – your wedding. No matter what anyone tells you and no matter the points listed below, you should always do what feels most genuine and true to you and your partner.
That said, I often have couples who are undecided about a first look and ask me for advice. I’m not here to convince anyone one way or another, but there are definitely considerations to take into account that can help a couple decide if a first look is right for them.
What even is a first look, though?
Before I jump into it, let’s first define what a first look is, shall we?
A first look is when a couple takes a few moments before their wedding ceremony, usually in private, to see each other for the first time in their wedding attire. It can be as formal or informal as you want, and it looks completely different for every couple. Usually, the main purpose of a first look is to set aside a specific time and place where the couple can have an intimate, emotional moment together and focus on just each other before the chaos of the day goes into full swing. This isn’t something every couple wants or needs, but it’s become more popular, so I wanted to share some pros and cons to doing a first look for those who are on the fence about it.
This is probably the number one reason folks decide to do a first look. For some people, it’s really important that the first time they see their partner on their wedding day is in a private setting where they can focus on each other completely and slow down for a moment. A lot of folks I’ve worked with actually aren’t huge fans of being the center of attention, so a first look is a great way for them to be a little more relaxed and present when they see their soon-to-be-spouse for the first time on their wedding day.
Also, most people say that even when they’ve done a first look, the moment of seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony was still really special. It seems that, no matter what, the ceremony always has its own weight and significance that can’t be truly replicated during any other part of the day.
Though I bake in time for couple’s photos on a wedding day regardless of having a first look, having one does give us an extra chance at a few images of just the two of you before the celebrations even really begin. It can be quite magical, as people are usually glowing and full of smiles after seeing their favorite person for the first time on one of the biggest days of their lives. Couple’s photos right after the first look are another chance for you two to focus on each other before joining the rest of your friends and family, and it ensures you’ll end up with an even bigger variety of photos of just the two of you by the end of the day.
Because a first look occurs before the ceremony, it can usually take place anywhere we like. It doesn’t even have to be at the wedding venue! With proper planning, you can have that magical moment of seeing your person for the first time any place you want. So, if your wedding venue is a church, ballroom, or other indoor location but you envision greeting your partner for the first time in the middle of the woods, amongst the greenery of a garden, or on a rooftop overlooking a city – we can make that happen!
Even if you do want to have your first look at your actual wedding venue, we’ll have so much more control over lighting conditions and background, that the photos of that moment are bound to be beautiful. I’m always happy to help scout for a great first look spot, so if you know you want to do a first look but aren’t sure where, I’ve got your back
A first look can also be a great way to save yourself some time later in the day, specifically with group photos. If you and your partner see each other before the ceremony, that means we can knock out more combined wedding party photos, and sometimes even family photos, before festivities even begin.
If you’re the kind of couple who really wants to enjoy a cocktail hour with your guests, this is a great way to make that happen. Without a first look, combined wedding party photos and family photos inevitably have to come after the ceremony, which means there’s a good 30-90 minutes of formal photo time (depending on your formal photo needs) where you’re not really getting to spend time with all of your guests. Not that the post-ceremony group photos aren’t doable (more on that in the next section), but again, if you’d prefer to spend as much time with your guests as possible once the ceremony ends, a first look can help make that a bit easier.
For some people, the moment of seeing their partner during the actual ceremony is incredibly important. There is something indescribable about seeing your person for the first time at the other end of the aisle, right before you share your vows. Though I mentioned before that this moment seems to always be extra special, no matter if a couple has seen each other already or not, it can be even more emotional if you’ve decided to wait. This is an incredibly personal decision, and for some, waiting is a really important part of how they want to experience the day.
Though a first look can help with saving time later in the day, it is always going to add to the time needed at the front end. Bare minimum, you’re going to need at least an extra 15-20 minutes before your ceremony for a first look, and if part of the reason you want to do a first look is to get some formal group shots out of the way early, then you’re looking at at least an hour or two of photography coverage before the ceremony even happens. If you don’t really want or need as much photography coverage on the front end of your day, then you might be better served waiting until your ceremony and tacking on that photography time for the post-ceremony happenings.
Again, a first look means that once the ceremony is over, you’ll have more time to just party and relax, rather than having a whole set of group photos to take care of. However, it’s good to take into account your priorities with your overall timeline and how photography will ideally fit into that.
Something else that people sometimes ask about when it comes to the first look is what to do about the fact that you won’t have yet officially exchanged your wedding bands. Most folks who opt to have a first look just do it without them, but if it’s important to you that you both have your rings for all your wedding day couple’s photos, you’ll want to take note of this. Of course, you can absolutely do a first look that includes your rings, but you’ll also have to be okay with wearing them before the ceremony actually occurs. Everyone’s got different feelings on this one, and again, most folks just do a first look without them, but it certainly is a detail to consider.
For some folks, seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day isn’t even something they want to be a thing. Not everyone is into this tradition, and some couples even opt to get ready together and/or walk down the aisle together, so they aren’t even actually separated at any significant point.
First looks, whether it be before the ceremony or during, just aren’t for everyone, and that’s fantastic, too. Every couple is unique, with their own wants, needs, and wishes for their wedding day. There are no rules here – just as much joy and fun as we can cram into one magnificent day.
First look or no first look, your wedding day is bound to be one of the most memorable and important in your life. You do you, in whatever ways best support you and your partner having the most fun and feeling the most relaxed and yourselves. And no matter what that looks like, your photos will ensure you never forget what it felt like.