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What to Think About When Considering a First Look



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As the wedding day starts to get closer, one of the most important conversations that I like to have with my couples is whether or not they’re considering doing a first look on their wedding day. While plenty of wedding photographers will openly encourage their couples to plan for a first look on their wedding day, there are definitely two sides to consider. I have plenty of modern couples who decide to not go with a first look on their wedding day – so before you make that decision, here are a few things to consider.


Bright and stylish wedding photography at the classic Westglow Spa in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


First of all, what exactly is a first look? If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition, a first look is when a bride and groom see each other before the ceremony starts, and typically after the actual first look they have a few moments together, there is some time allotted for couple’s portraits and maybe even some family portraits before the ceremony starts. It’s an excellent time to get some necessary day-of photos checked off the list before the party really gets started, and it’s also a wonderful time to spend a few solo minutes with your future spouse before you spend the rest of the day in a room with 200 of your closest family members!

When put that simply, it sounds like something everyone would incorporate into their wedding schedule; however, some couples choose to forgo the first look because they want to keep there wedding more traditional, and build up the emotions of the day up until the moment where the bride walks down the aisle. If you feel strongly that a first look isn’t for you, then that’s perfectly OK and there are some excellent alternatives that can still provide meaningful moments before the ceremony, such as a first touch or reading a letter to each other from opposite sides of a door. If you are considering a first look for your wedding day, here are a few reasons why I absolutely love first looks.



01. It grounds the day in the entire purpose of the day – you two.

Your wedding day is going to be packed with people, there’s no way around that. Whether you’re having a small and intimate wedding or a large event, you’ve invited a list full of people who love you – and who cannot wait to tell you how happy they are for you. Pretty much from the moment that you walk down the aisle, you can go ahead and get ready to be around a constant stream of your guests until the minute you exit your reception. While this is one of the best feelings in the entire world, it can also be a little overwhelming, and I’ve seen plenty of couples who end up actually spending very little time together after the ceremony because they’re constantly being pulled in a million different directions. By having a first look before the ceremony, you’re allowing yourself to start the flow of the day off with a special and memorable moment between you and your almost-spouse. I’ve also found that it tends to alleviate any pre-wedding stress or jitters, and instead allows the two of you a moment to get excited together before you see each other back at the aisle.



Bright film wedding photography during a classic Meridian House wedding in Washington, DC.


02. It makes the post-ceremony pictures much quicker and more efficient

One of the toughest things is working with an already tight wedding schedule, or a rapidly setting sun, and trying to cram what should be an hour of combined family and bridal party and couple’s portraits into a half hour. It’s stressful on everyone involved, and leaves a lot less room for relaxed and candid photos. By doing a first look, you’re putting so much less pressure on the post-ceremony portrait time slot. First looks are typically scheduled with plenty of time to take both couple’s portraits afterwards, and maybe some bridal party portraits or family portraits. This can cut down on most of the time needed for posed photos after the ceremony, and allow for a wider range of more candid and interactive photos. Also, remember that cocktail hour that you spent so much time planning? By going this route, you ensure that you can actually show up to it and grab a drink.



Bright and modern wedding photography from a classic Washington DC wedding.


03. It means more photos

No matter how intentionally a wedding day timeline is structured, there is usually a pretty clear flow to it – typically, there’s a slight lull after the getting ready and detail photos as everyone waits for the ceremony, and then there’s usually a fair bit of controlled chaos after the ceremony as all of the formal portraits get checked off the list. By doing a first look, you’re going to naturally ensure that you have more photos with your fiancé because you will also likely end up doing another small round of photos after the ceremony. Additionally, you’re using a time that typically wouldn’t be super packed with many photo-worthy moments to get plenty checked off, leaving more free time for coverage of the natural interactions that happen at cocktail hour and after the ceremony.


Bright wedding portraits photographed by Georgia wedding photographer at a TPC Sugarloaf wedding.



04. You’ll be able to touch up your makeup post tears and kisses

This is a real thing – it’s likely that you’ll cry during your first look, and even more likely that you’ll kiss your future spouse. Even though you’ll probably be doing both of those things throughout the day, doing a first look before the ceremony ensures that you’ll get a break to touch up your makeup after the tears and kisses involved in seeing them for the first time. This also makes a difference in cases of windy or rainy days, where conditions aren’t bad enough to completely prohibit outdoor photos, but you’ll want to still have your hair and makeup team present to help ensure that you’re looking your best throughout the rest of the day.



Elegant outdoor summer wedding photography at a historic Maryland wedding venue.


05. I’ve never had a couple regret doing a first look

It’s really as simple as that. I spend a lot of time discussing the idea with couples, and while I still definitely get a few every year that have clearly decided that they don’t want to do it, most couples tend to not have strong opinions either way and end up doing a first look. After their wedding is over, after the photos are sent off, the only feedback I ever hear about the first look session is that they’re so glad we ended up doing it. Whether the ceremony ran long and the family portraits ended up being a rushed affair, or like in this wedding above, it was a winter wedding and not doing a first look would have meant no outdoor couples portraits from the entire day, they’re always grateful that we ended up planning this time for photos.





All of that to say, ultimately the only people who should make this decision are you and your fiancé – if one of you has strong personal feelings about the matter, then that’s really the only thing that counts. As a wedding photographer, my experience is that a first look makes the day a little more stress-free, and makes the timeline flow a little bit easier. But ultimately, all that matters on your wedding day is that you and your fiancé feel happy and comfortable, and that it’s the day that you’ve always dreamed of.


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  1. […] up to you whether you want a first look or not. Some opt for one, while others prefer to hold off until the aisle moment. If you choose to […]

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