Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day



A first look . . . whether to do one or not at your wedding is a totally personal decision.  Some couples choose to do a first look before the ceremony and others decide to wait to see each other until they’re walking down the aisle in the ceremony.  Neither way is right and neither way is wrong . . . they are just a personal choice by the couple.

When I start corresponding with my wedding couples, one of the things I ask them is if they are interested in doing a first look.  Some already know right away that a first look isn’t for them and they just want to see each other for the first time at the ceremony, and that is totally fine.  That is how my husband and I did it at our wedding, and is probably the more traditional way to do things.  Now, I don’t want to date myself too much, but when I got married it really wasn’t a choice that was presented to us.  We never heard of doing a first look until I became a wedding photographer!  I always tell my couples who do not want to do a first look that if they don’t, then they just need to allow enough time in their wedding day timelines after the ceremony for family photos, wedding party photos together, and bride and groom portrait time.  If they want to get the types of photos that you see on my website, you need to give your wedding photographer plenty of time to orchestrate it all and get you those beautiful photos!  That will mean that your guests will have to wait a little longer until the bride and groom are ready to enter the reception.  When I got married, we were sure to allow our wedding photographers plenty of time for bride and groom photos after the ceremony, and it probably was about an hour after the ceremony ended before we were ready to enter the reception.  I did feel a little bad that everyone had to wait so long, but I did not want to give up our portrait time!  Like I tell my couples, the bride and groom photos really are the ones that you are going to want to choose to print and hang on the walls and put on the shelves in your home.  My husband and I still have many wedding photos up in our main living space and I love seeing them regularly!

Whether you choose to do a first look or not, I have started sending out tentative timelines to my couples months before I normally would in the past, just to help them with planning the timing for different things on their wedding day, such as hair and makeup.  And even to plan exactly what time the ceremony will start so that you can have the most ideal time in order to still get the photos you desire.

From a photographer’s point of view, I can definitely see the plus side to doing a first look.  I tell my couples that a first look basically just gives you as the bride and groom time to have a private moment just between the two of you when you see each other for the first time.  Now, will myself and my second shooter perhaps be there with you?  Yes.  But will we be right up in your face and make you feel uncomfortable?  No.  In fact, many of my couples who have decided to do a first look said that it really helped their nerves because they didn’t have to see each other for the first time in front of a completely full audience of people.  It gave them a chance to just enjoy that moment between the two of them and say what they wanted to say right away to each other.  And then of course from a logistical viewpoint, the first look gives the couples a chance to be able to get a lot more photos completed before the ceremony, including bride and groom photos, whole wedding party photos, and even most of the family photos if they so choose.  This allows for the couple to be able to get to their guests a lot quicker and enjoy the reception with them!

So, besides MY reasons why I think a first look is worth considering, I asked one of my recent wedding couples who chose to do a first look to explain their reasoning behind choosing to do one in the first place, and then their thoughts about how it went after they did it.  Michelle and Greg were married in Asheville, NC in October and had a lot of guests who came in from out of town to their wedding.  Michelle told me that both her and Greg answered their questions separately and didn’t share their answers with each other ahead of time.  So, this will give both a bride’s perspective and a groom’s perspective on doing a First Look:

1. What was your main reason for deciding to do a first look before your wedding ceremony?
Bride: To take the pressure off of having such an intimate moment in front of so many people!
Groom: Since we were going to be with other people the entire day, I thought it would be nice to have a little bit of time to ourselves.

2. After you did the first look, were you glad that you did it and why?
Bride: I was so glad we did it because we got to spend more of our wedding day together, rather than just anticipating seeing each other. I was also happy I got to be right next to Greg when he saw me because what he said was so sweet (and kind of funny)! I wouldn’t have been able to hear him from opposite ends of an aisle.
Groom: Yes, for the reason mentioned above. I also don’t personally like to be surprised in front of people!

3. How did the first look help the rest of the wedding day?
Bride: Logistically, we were able to do most of our pictures before the ceremony. This also meant we could spend some of our cocktail hour with our guests and not miss out on more time with them. No one was stuck waiting for us to finish pictures until they could eat. Emotionally, I was much more at ease being with Greg before the ceremony. I get nervous in front of a lot of people, even though we knew all of them, and having him there with me helped me relax a bit.
Groom: It helped me feel a little more relaxed! It also meant that we could get almost all the pictures done before the ceremony which meant we could spend more time with our guests at the reception.

4. Did you feel that doing the first look diminished the importance or special moments of the ceremony because you had already seen each other beforehand? Or did it make it even more special or meaningful and why?
Bride: I definitely thought it made it more meaningful. My dad passed away many years ago and although I considered having my mom or brother walk me down the aisle, that didn’t seem to resonate with me. Instead, Greg and I walked down the aisle together, arm in arm into the most important moments of our lives. Obviously that wouldn’t have worked had we had not had a first look. Aside from the first few moments until you’re both there at the end of the aisle, I would say nothing is really different for the rest of the ceremony. I suppose if you didn’t do one there might be excited-ness or relief of finally being together but we’d been experiencing that all day since our first look.
Groom: No, I preferred it this way. In my opinion the day is about us so spending that time together was nice.

5. What would you say to couples who are getting married and considering doing a first look?
Bride:  I would say that every couple is different and you’ve got to decide what feels right for the two of you. Consider emotionally and logistically what your priorities are. Personally I wouldn’t have changed the way we did it at all because it went along with what we wanted for our wedding day.

Groom:I would consider it, but it depends on what you like. Some people are more traditional and seeing each other at the ceremony for the first time might be more important for them.

6. Anything else you want to add about your experience with doing a first look?
Bride: Our ceremony was in a public space in the middle of downtown (as were most of our picture locations) so nearly every part of it was on display. Although it was fun to have people congratulating us and cheering at us as we walked downtown, having a first look meant that one of the most special moments of the day was just for us to experience together. Although you and your second photographer were there, it never felt like you were intruding on our moment together. Just helping it look better! It also definitely helped that we already felt comfortable with you after having done an engagement session, emailing back and forth so much, and meeting you and your husband in Asheville. It was more like having a friend there 🙂
Groom: Nope! I am glad that we did one.

So, there you have it!  I am so appreciative that Michelle and Greg shared their answers with me about why they chose to do a First Look on their wedding day.  If you want to see the blog post from all of Michelle and Greg’s wedding day, and all of the awesome photos we were able to fit in around downtown Asheville, go to this link:  Michelle and Greg’s Asheville Wedding

Let me know if this post has helped you any in your wedding planning and deciding for yourself whether a First Look is what you want to do.  I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

share this post:

The best tips for what to wear (and what to avoid) for your photoshoot! 

Download the Free Engagement Session Guide!

%d bloggers like this: