One of my main goals as a wedding photographer is to help my couples have the best day possible! While this takes many different forms, one of those ways is to help them create a timeline for their wedding day that ensures they get all the photos they’re hoping for AND making sure they get to their party on time! They’ve never planned a wedding before, so it’s my job to help guide them through the possibilities of the day to make sure they get the most out of their once in a lifetime celebration. The biggest factor when creating the timeline is if the couple would like to include a first look.
The first look is when the bride and groom have a chance to see each other before the ceremony. The groom is set in a secluded area, with no on-lookers, and his bride walks up behind him for the big reveal. She can call his name or tap his should as his indication that it’s time to turn around. He can hug her, kiss her, spin her around to get a full impression of the dress he’s heard so much about. They can pray together, laugh together, cry together, and get some of those wedding day jitters out. They get to fully react to seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day.
After they’ve taken all the time they want, we’ll transition into romantic portraits of the two of them. They get to take pictures without the pressure of guests waiting to get dinner started. After some pictures of just the two of them, their wedding party will join them so that their best friends can go straight to cocktail hour with their dates after the ceremony. First looks are wonderful! They make the day less rushed, so couples can get more time together on their wedding and have a stress-free timeline. While I never want couples to feel pressured to have a first look, I do want to make sure they know all the benefits of including a first look (before dismissing the idea because of a silly superstition that started when arranged marriages were the norm and families didn’t want the groom to run if he didn’t find the bride attractive).
With a first look, couples generally receive TWICE as many portraits of just the two of them together on their wedding day. My couples are investing in their wedding photography because they know it’s one of the only real keepsakes from their once in a lifetime celebration. They want to make the most out of their investment and a first look allows them to get even more pictures of them on the first day of their marriage. The first look puts couples in the best “lovey dovey” mode that simply isn’t there after 45 minutes of family photos and bridal party photos. It’s also more relaxing to take romantic pictures before the ceremony without all your guests watching and commentating. Taking wedding party pictures after the first look also means that your bridesmaids are fresh out of hair and make-up, which is their best look for photos!
When couples opt for a first look, they’re actually able to react to seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day! Most brides don’t realize that if they wait until the ceremony to see each other, the groom doesn’t usually get to embrace her or even speak to her (GASP!) until 30 minutes later. She walks down the aisle and the ceremony immediately begins. 30 minutes later, when the ceremony is over, his reaction just isn’t the same. And, after maybe 30 seconds of reaction time after the ceremony, their wedding party will immediately join them with congratulations, so the reaction is short lived on top of being delayed. With a first look, couples can take their time with one another and truly speak what’s on their heart. They can hug, kiss, and fully take in the moment without being rushed. Also, during the first look, when the groom sees the bride for the first time, he’s actually seeing his future wife! At the ceremony, however, when he looks up, he’s seeing 150 sets of eyes on him trying to gauge his reaction. That moment just isn’t the same when there is an audience.
While I’ve seen the benefits of having a first look as a wedding photographer, I don’t want you to take my word for it. I want to share what REAL COUPLES are saying about a first look! Would they really recommend it? Did they see any benefits from including one? What about the moment that they walked down the aisle – how was that moment affected? Here’s what they have to say:
“I would highly recommend having a first look to any of my family or friends who are getting married!! With all of the craziness going on that day, this was our chance to be alone together. It felt so special to be able to see each other before we walked down the aisle.
I was able to see the look on Stephen’s face when he saw me for the first time without all of the other eyes on us. It was a moment just for us. I showed off my dress and all of the little details on my bouquet that were special to me.
“My wife Jessica and I had never considered a first look. However, both our day-of coordinator and Mylah recommended one and it ended up being one of the best decisions we made for our wedding! It helped with nerves by giving Jess and I a private moment amongst the chaos of wedding day preparations where we could just take a breath and talk. Plus it gave me time to drink in how beautiful my very-soon-to-be wife looked! In addition it helped us have more time to enjoy our wedding by getting as many pictures out of the way as possible prior to the ceremony instead of doing it all during the happy hour and reception. I wouldn’t trade those few quiet moments we shared during our first look for anything!”
“We went back and forth deciding whether or not to have a first look. I am SO glad we did! I didn’t realize just how nervous I was going to be, or how emotional I was until getting into my dress that day. Dylan was a pro at carrying my train and distracting me while walking to the spot to meet Peter and Mylah. I appreciate him for that. He was able to keep me calm and happy. Having a first look allowed us to have that special moment – no one was watching, no one was rushing us to keep a tight schedule. We were able to just be us. It gave us the time we needed. We also were able to get so many more romantic pictures, which was my number 1 wish for the day! Having that first look was definitely the best decision!”
“My husband and I were very against doing a first look when we first started wedding planning. We wanted the traditional coming down the aisle moment to be so special and we feared that a first look would take away from that. However, after talking with Mylah and several of our friends we made the decision to do a first look. The pros that really attracted us to doing the first look were the extra time together, the extra time for pictures, and the ability to get the nerves out before the ceremony. Now that all is said and done we are both SO happy we did a first look.
“I love that we did a first look because it helped me feel calmer about the whole day. I hadn’t seen Craig for a couple days before the wedding and I had a lot of pent-up stress that I wasn’t aware that I was holding onto until it was all released when I actually got to see him for the first time! I know a lot of couples worry about seeing their partner before seeing them at the end of the aisle – but I don’t think it took away any of the magic of that special moment when your eyes lock coming down the aisle. I also loved being able to knock-out a bunch of the wedding photos before the ceremony because then it gave us more time at the end to party with our friends and family.”
“I’m not sure I can say it any better than Caitlin did! I would just add that I really liked the first look because it allowed Caitlin and I to get a lot of great photos with each other and the bridal party that we either wouldn’t have had time for or would have caused us to miss a lot of the reception had we waited to see each other until the ceremony.”
“I knew I wanted to do a first look with Riley as soon as he proposed. I’d always been intimidated by getting married because I didn’t have someone to walk me down the aisle. But doing the first look gave me a lot of confidence because it’s such an intimate and private moment that you get to share with your significant other before anyone else. If that makes sense. When I was walking down to meet Riley, I felt so nervous, I was shaking. But the second he turned around & we hugged and he kissed me, I felt so confident and I no longer felt sad or scared to walk down the aisle alone because I didn’t have a dad, I knew I had him, and that’s all that mattered. This was also important to me because I didn’t have a dad to do a “first look” with so it was really special for me to be able to share this experience with Riley knowing we’d get to cherish it forever.
I told my bridesmaids after that experience that I personally felt it was SO important to do at a wedding because it definitely takes some of the nerves off walking down the aisle and having everyone see you and your partners reactions to each other. It’s also great because you can cry and get your tears out to each other and then have your makeup artist fix it for when you actually walk down the aisle Obviously a first look is a very personal decision and is totally up to the bride and groom, but I recommend it so much because nothing compares to walking down the aisle knowing you shared such an intimate moment with the person you’re about to spend the rest of your life with. It was also great for us because we shared our vows with each other in private and we were able to laugh and cry and not have to worry about other people watching us, which can be awkward and nerve-racking. Really we were just able to enjoy ourselves during the ceremony without worrying about our vows or doing our first look in front of everyone. We both felt really confident about walking down the aisle knowing we shared such a big moment before the actual ceremony.
What I remember most about our first look is that Riley and I shared our personal vows with each other. He had this whole thing written down and had perfected it down to the last word and then decided in the moment that he wanted to speak from the heart and that was really special to me and made that moment so much more worth it (as opposed to him feeling pressured to say something perfect in front of our friends and family).”
“When [Mylah] had mentioned the idea of a first look, I was skeptical – I wanted the experience of seeing Liz in her dress coming down the aisle to be the first time I saw it. But, then we went to some weddings together, and since we were engaged, we really paid attention to the flow of the wedding – things like how much was the couple around their guests, how long did pictures take them, etc. And after seeing how some weddings went (couples gone for hours while we all just did out thing), looking at first look pictures on your blog, and talking about it, we decided to give it a shot.
I’m glad we did! First, by the time the wedding came around, I’d been hearing about this magic dress for MONTHS, and I wanted to see my wife in it! Having that moment just to ourselves was great – I could comment on it and talk to her about it without interrupting the ceremony, and I could really take the time to enjoy how beautiful she looked. We got to have some moments together as well taking pictures, and laughing, dancing – just time that we got to enjoy and hold on to. It made it so that if people mobbed us at the reception, it wasn’t as big of a deal because we weren’t trying to deal with that AND have special moments.
It also made our entire schedule smoother – we did our pictures, then after the ceremony some quick family pics, and then it was on to the reception. MUCH smoother overall, in my opinion, and we didn’t have a crowd of people waiting around for us – we got to enjoy the entire night, seeing friends and family, and we weren’t taking a ton of photos while guests were wondering where we were or what was going to happen next – they got more time with us, and that was really special, considering some of our guests came from a ways away to see us!
Overall, I’d highly recommend it. The first look gives you more time with family, special time for you and your spouse to be together and enjoy each other, and gives you a real moment to be together before the whole day starts, because it goes by so fast. Oh, and the walking down the aisle moment? Still amazing. Doing the first look didn’t take away anything. If anything, it made it more special because I’d already had a chance to see how pretty she was once, now I got to see her again as she walked down the aisle to be my wife. Pretty great stuff.”
I would tell any of my Bridesmaids considering a first look that I was very happy I made that choice. It was a quiet, intimate moment that we got to share and say some important stuff that was super genuine and in the moment. Vs waiting till we walk down the aisle and not be able to talk because the ceremony has to start.It helped with the nerves and I get kinda nervous with crowds or being the center of attention and I kinda tune stuff out and I didn’t want to tune that moment out! It was also less about routine and just more about me and him. I don’t think it took away from the [walk down the aisle] moment at all, if anything it enhances it. I didn’t wear my veil till I walked down the aisle and you’re both still awaiting and anticipating that moment, and when you think it can’t get better it Did! And you’re able to fully enjoy that happiness instead of worrying about anything as you walk towards him!It made me feel like a confident bride and completely solidified that this was the best choice I ever made!”
“The first look was really perfect for us because it meant that we got some privacy before our ceremony to see and react to one another without the pressure of so many people watching. It was really special for us to savor the day for a bit and tell one another how excited we were to say our vows. In fact, some of our most clear memories from the day are our first look. It was one of the only parts of the day that didn’t feel rushed or distracted.When planning our wedding day, we knew that we wanted to spend every moment that we could with all of the people who came to celebrate with us. We decided to include a first look in our wedding day timeline so that we could get our photos out of the way before the ceremony. This meant that after the ceremony we went straight to the reception and got to enjoy the cocktail hour we had planned with our favorite drinks and appetizers! I think our bridal party was really appreciative too. When the ceremony was over they were free to join their significant other and friends at the reception straight away.I remember getting to see the handsome man I would be marrying in a few moments and was just filled with gratitude. We were able to chat and hang out for quite some time. I got to tell him all about how I chose my dress and what my day was like and he shared about his day. I remember giving him a big kiss on the cheek and it leaving a big lipstick mark. We had a really good laugh and have some great photos of that sweet moment.”
“We loved being able to see each other before the ceremony. It was very romantic. I still cried seeing him again because I was walking down the aisle to marry the man I love. Seeing him earlier that day didn’t change that feeling. We did a first look because when you think about it, weddings are not efficient. The bride spends the whole day getting ready and hiding in a closet from her guests. And then after the ceremony, you are expected to take photos with the groomsmen, bridal party, the entire family, and fit in a few just-married photos. The reality is that 30 minutes to an hour is not enough time. Having a first-look allowed us to take most of the family photos before the ceremony. Mom and dad are already there, why not get it done? Lastly, we were surprised how much more we loved our first-look photos more than our just-married photos. We looked more relaxed. It seemed like, after the ceremony, the adrenaline kicks in and no one wants to pose for pictures anymore. We all just wanted to join the party.”