A Detailed Guide All About The First Look

Tips for Brides

What is a first look? Should we have one? Do we need one? What is the benefit? I know there are a lot of questions surrounding this as it is a relatively new concept. So I am here to give you it all! I have a lot of pro’s and some con’s of first looks as well as when I recommend and when they aren’t necessarily needed! So let’s dig in!


A first look is when the bride and groom see each other pre-ceremony instead of at the altar. But why? Well, there are lots of reasons! And I will get into a couple of them now!

Reason 1: Calm The Nerves

It’s no secret (and not a bad thing) to be nervous on your wedding day. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of moving parts and a lot of change coming. So on the most nerve-racking day of your life, do you want to wait all day to see your best friend? The one who calms you down and eases your anxiety? Or do you want to sneak a peek and calm those nerves? I find that when brides and grooms see each other before, they are calm and enjoy the rest of the day much more!

Reason 2: Private Moment To Feel all the things

While I love the first look at the altar, it doesn’t really allow for you to feel everything, let your emotions go, tell your bride she looks drop dead gorgeous. You have to wait until after the wedding and the instant moment of flooding emotions has usually passed after those 45 minutes. You can’t express your feelings of excitement to each other and you can’t just oh and ah over each other. The first look really allows for you to get all your emotions out in private, react to the way you both look, and express all the excitement. And it lets you really enjoy the ceremony!

Reason 3: Getting the bulk of your photos done before guests arrive

I really recommend this when the ceremony and reception are in the same place. This way you don’t leave your guests waiting too long after the ceremony for dinner to start. Your hair and makeup is also the freshest for photos earlier in the day (another pro!) So we can get most of the photos done before and then you can enjoy a bit of your cocktail hour with your guests, which is a definite perk.

And now, we’ll go into some pros (more reasons to consider doing a first look) and some cons!


So reasons 1-3 above can all be considered pros, they are the main reason’s couples choose a first look. Consider these as added perks of doing one!


With a first look, there are several parts in the day we carve out for portrait time. One before the ceremony with your entire wedding party, a short one after the ceremony to celebrate those just married moments, and one during golden hour ay your reception to take full advantage of the perfect light! You’ll get a lot more portraits back!


To back off of the point above, with more times for portraits, it insures that we will have time throughout the day in case the weather isn’t ideal. I always use this cautionary tale when my couples are deciding on a first look: I photographed a wedding in 2018, the day was beautiful. Sunny, slightly warm, perfect. They decided not to do a first look (which I totally respect and work with in case you decide against it!) We only had about an hour after for portraits with the bride and groom, full wedding party, bridesmaids and groomsmen. It was beautiful ALL DAY but as soon as it was portrait time it was a DOWNPOUR. With NO end in sight. If we would have done a first look, we would have been able to get portraits in the sunshine and just skipped photos after. It was still beautiful, but we weren’t able to get as many photos and I know it was a stressor for the bride. And don’t worry, I always have a backup plan for rain – more on that coming up in a blog soon!


If you ceremony starts late or runs late, you don’t miss out on portrait time. Your dinner will need to start on time regardless of your ceremony end time. So, if your ceremony starts 20 minutes late we might only be able to get 20 minutes of portrait time. If you do a first look and you are running behind, there will be no reason to sweat it!

And now my favorite pro!

You’ll get two special moments seeing eachother

That’s RIGHT! I know that a big hesitation of doing a first look is missing out on that traditional walk down the aisle, but let me tell you that walk down the aisle is just as special even if you see each other before then. The music is playing, he is standing alone at the altar, everyone is looking at him and you walk in with you dad. There is something about that moment that will always have the biggest impact, even if you’ve seen each other first. And I am going to tell you a secret, most of the grooms that see their brides before, have a bigger reaction at the altar than those who wait until that moment to see them. That’s right! The emotions just flood, no matter what. So now you have two moments, a private one (with your photographers) and one at the altar!


Yes there are some cons to a first look. I won’t go into too many details but here are some for you to consider:

  1. You’ll have to start hair and makeup earlier to be ready for the first look. At least 2 hours before the ceremony start time, if not more.

  2. It is non traditional for those that really want to keep their wedding day traditional. I find that most grooms want to see their brides walking down the aisle for the first time.

  3. Hair and makeup might need to be touched up before the ceremony. I always allow time to freshen up before the ceremony. We aren’t going to do anything that wrecks your hair and makeup but it’s something to consider.

the decision

While a first look isn’t always necessary (when your ceremony is earlier in the day and allows for plenty of time after the ceremony for portraits) it is always something to cosider. While I fully believe that first looks are seriously so amazing for couples’ portraits, stress levels, and the timeline, I never push anyone outside of their comfort zone for their final decision. You’ll have to decide what’s right for the two of you with the information above and with help from your own photographer.

If you’re on the fence, think about what you value more about the wedding day. Is tradition more important than spending more time with guests or having significantly more time for portraits? Skip the first look! Or perhaps portraits are the most valuable thing to you and you decide to see each other before the ceremony. Do what feels right to you and you’ll be happy with your decision!

Mar 18, 2021

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