The "first look" in the context of a wedding refers to a pre-arranged, private moment between the couple before the actual ceremony begins. During the "first look," the bride and groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day, often in their wedding attire, away from the eyes of the guests. The intimate encounter is typically orchestrated by the wedding photographer to capture the genuine emotions and reactions of the couple. Couples opting for a "first look" often weigh the desire for a special, personal moment against the traditional custom of seeing each other for the first time at the altar during the ceremony.
Navigating the intricate decisions of a wedding day involves careful consideration of traditions, emotions and logistical choices. Among these considerations, the "first look" has emerged as a pivotal moment for couples about to be married. This pre-ceremony encounter brings forth a myriad of perspectives. While some couples swear by the magic of this intimate encounter, others remain committed to the tradition of seeing each other for the first time at the altar. In this Spotlight feature, wedding experts help us explore the pros and cons of opting for a first look on your wedding day – shedding light on the nuanced factors that contribute to creating a memorable and meaningful wedding experience.
Alexa Johnson, Alexa Myli Photography
A first look is a really special, intimate moment that gets captured on camera, and you get those photos of just the two of you forever. When you walk down the aisle, yes, it’s special but you aren’t necessarily together in those photos. Even if you do a first look, many brides and grooms still get teary, emotional pictures walking down the aisle as well. Doing a first look also means that you will get more photos together overall throughout the day. You’ll get great portraits before the ceremony, no make up is ruined, no one is sweaty, AND you’ll get those great golden hour pictures later. After all this and the ceremony, you can just relax and enjoy your reception. There’s time for you and your spouse to spend time with your guests, get some appetizers and drinks, and enjoy the rest of the evening together!
Alexa Myli Photography
Chelsea Kings, Sage River Studios
Doing a first look offers you the opportunity to have a moment with just the two of you, away from the business of the day. It helps you to relax and put any jitters to rest. It also helps your timeline and allows for more much time together during the day, as if you wait until the aisle reveal, you may lose out on as much as 3-4 hours that you could have had together. You get the majority of your photos done ahead of the ceremony so you have more time to spend with your guests once you are officially married.
Sage River Studios
Lexie Cummings, Availed Wedding and Event Planning
From a day-of logistics perspective, I absolutely love when couples do first looks. The biggest reason for that is so that they can get all of their posed photos out of the way prior to the ceremony and then can simply just enjoy the event for the rest of the evening, without the added stress of still needing to take posed photos while all their guests are present. When couples wait to do their first look at the ceremony, they will typically need to extend their cocktail hour to allow time to complete all photos and not to mention, also miss that time to mingle with their guests. We totally do understand that couples want to make their ceremony extra special by not seeing each other beforehand, and we are always super supportive of that too, we just need to get more creative with the timeline, but thankfully that is our expertise!
Shannon St. Clair Photography
Sarah Trotter, Lasting Impressions Weddings
I find that my couples are just more at ease when they get to see each other before the ceremony. It's a day filled with nerves and you really want to be able to talk to your best friend when you're going through that process. A first look also allows you to get more photos when you see each other before the ceremony! We normally start photos around 2-2.5 hours prior to the wedding, so when you do not see each other before the ceremony it's hard to "makeup up" for that time.
It would also be advantageous to a first look would be if you are getting married in the Fall/Winter, as you have to consider what time the sun sets. If your ceremony starts around 4/4:30pm, it might not be an option to take photos after the ceremony.
The best reason for not doing a first look is that nothing that can replace the emotion of seeing your soon to be wife/husband as you walk down the aisle.
Trish Allison Photography
Tonya Phelps, Tonya Hjort Photography
Doing a first look is especially great for couples who don't like being in the spotlight. With it being an intimate setting, there's no pressure to act a certain way. A first look allows you to get all of your photos (portraits, wedding party, family) done before the ceremony, so you can be fully present and enjoy the cocktail hour with all of your guests. After the first look you are able to be with the full wedding party and family, spending more time with those special people to you, instead of just half of the party/family.
Tonya Hjort Photography
Melody Hall, Events by Melody
One of the biggest pros of doing a first look is that you get all or most of your photos done before the ceremony. This way you can enjoy the cocktail hour whether you are joining your guests or hopping on a party bus or shuttle to mosey around town with your wedding party. Pro tip: If you are planning on doing a first look, consider doing one with your bridesmaids and/or parent(s) as well. We love to see it!
Events by Melody
Rachel Lee, Rachel Elle Photography
Wow, if I had a dollar for every time the first look saved the day because we got rained or snowed out of the original timeline. Just last weekend, our portrait time for family, friends, AND wedding party was limited to 8 minutes before sunset because the outdoor ceremony was moved back due to weather issues. If you're doing a first look, you can be much more flexible with last-minute decisions and still get all the photos you want! Another pro of doing a first look is that your hair, makeup, dress, and florals will all be the cleanest and freshest earlier in the day! Your photographer wants to capture your dress and train before it gets dirty - and a first look before the ceremony allows for this.
Having a first look does take away that "first time" feeling when your groom sees you down the aisle. (But I promise, nothing can ruin the moment as you walk down the aisle!) You might also have some pushback from family. I don't see this very often anymore, but having a first look was once taboo on a wedding day and you may have some relatives that really push you not to have one. It's your day, so you should do what you're most comfortable with, but you might hear about it and have to be ready for that!
Rachel Elle Photography
Alexandra Robyn Photo + Design
It’s a Moment to Appreciate Where You Are: Something people ask often when debating whether to do a first look or not is: “will it make the ceremony less special?” A first look does not spoil your ceremony. A wedding is a surreal and emotional experience. It is an experience you share with all of your loved ones. But, with a private first look, I can capture a couple together completely in that moment. Yes, walking down the aisle is emotional too, but you don’t get that moment to decompress and really appreciate what is happening around you. Look at where you are! You are about to embark on an adventure with your love. I promise you will both be overwhelmed with emotion no matter what. So, superstitions be damned. Sneek a peek of your soon-to-be and you won’t regret it.
Any Anxieties Will Be Washed Away: Your wedding day can pass you by so quickly, it makes those private, intimate moments so meaningful. I highly recommend to all of my couples to take this opportunity to be together, just the two of you, while the whirlwind of a day allows. Any nerves you or your fiance might have felt, are washed away the moment you see each other. I like to check-in with my brides and grooms throughout the day. Even though each is excited to be getting married, there is always a little bit of anxiety in the morning. This is a huge, meaningful step and it only makes sense there might be some anxiety.
A Moment to Connect: But what a first look really offers, above all else, is the ability to connect with one another and take that much needed deep breath. Whether you watch your soon-to-be tear up or be overcome with joy, it is your private moment – something only you share.
Later in the day, when I ask: “when did it become real for you – that you were getting married?” My brides and grooms always reply with: “that first look.”
Alexandra Robyn Photo + Design
Natalie & Ricardo Layne, Lollipop Media
With a first look, you get to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests and have more time to do wedding party, bride/groom and family photos. However, this does take away the sacred moment of seeing each other down the aisle. You also have to start prepping earlier in the day since you have to get ready for photos time before the ceremony.
Pro Tip: If you do not plan on doing a first look before the ceremony, I always suggest that you get as much photographed as possible beforehand. For instance, doing separate bridal party photos so that those are done beforehand. Having a longer cocktail hour ensures that you aren't rushed for time to get all photos done, but make sure your guests have something to do or are entertained while they wait.
Laine Palm, Laine Palm Event Planning & Design|
When it comes to first looks in weddings, there are definitely some pretty compelling pros and cons to consider. On the upside, first looks can be a great way to ease those inevitable wedding day nerves. It's a private moment just for the two of you, away from the prying eyes of your guests, which can make it feel even more special. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to capture even more photos and helps with the flow of the day. You can get a lot of your pictures out of the way before the ceremony, freeing you up to spend more time enjoying your reception with your guests.
However, on the flip side, first looks aren't for everyone. If you're a stickler for tradition, you might not like the idea of breaking the rule about the groom not seeing the bride until she walks down the aisle. And speaking of walking down the aisle, seeing each other before the ceremony could potentially lessen the emotional impact of that moment. Plus, you'll need to get ready earlier in the day to fit in the first look and the subsequent photo session, which might not appeal to everyone.
Sarah Ascanio Photography
Reena Maheshwari, Kahani Events & Design
Personally, my husband and I didn't care about the "first look" aspect, as we'd seen each other in our outfits beforehand. But, without a doubt, we were both REALLY happy to have the time set aside for our couple pics (followed by our family pics), and that time allowed us some of our fav pictures. I recommend this to ALL my clients, even if they are reluctant and want that genuine aisle reaction.
Pros: You have time to get the couple pics that will be a part of your home, your albums, your holiday cards, and your memories forever...it's really nice to have that time before the craziness of the wedding starts happening, to not have other family & friends involved, and to not be rushed or wanting to get back to the party. After the wedding, it can be a bit more difficult to step away from the friends & family that have all gathered to celebrate with you.
Cons: You really have to plan that time out, get ready a bit earlier, and make sure you aren't handling other details during the day to do so. A bit harder if you don't have a wedding planner/manager, photo team, and/or people to handle all the other stuff needing to get done AND to keep you on track for time! Can be especially tough for morning ceremonies!!
Mariah Joy Photography
Rachel Lahlum, Rachel Lahlum Photography
If you're shy or nervous in front of people, having a first look before the ceremony offers the option to enjoy the memory of seeing each without the added pressure of everyone else being present for that very special moment.
Having a first look also opens the rest of the day's schedule to flow so you can complete 95% of your portraits before the ceremony. Completing your couples, wedding party, and family photos beforehand allows you to spend the remainder of your evening enjoying the day with family, friends, and each other.
For some couples, waiting to see each other until walking down the aisle is rooted in tradition. For others, it's the way they've always envisioned it. Whether the tradition is culture, religious, or the way you've envisioned it together, this is your wedding day, and the first time you see each other should be done the way you want to. If you're compromising your vision for convenience -- don't -- celebrate your day the way you've always dreamed of.
Rachel Lahlum Photography