Wedding First Looks

Groom reacts to first look with his bride

Wedding first looks are a recent wedding trend that many couples that are opting to do on their wedding day.  What is a first look and why are so many couples choosing to have them on their wedding day?

What are wedding first looks?

A first look is when a bride and groom choose to see each other on their wedding day before their wedding ceremony.  We plan this mini wedding event out to be a very special and intimate moment between the bride and the groom.  And of course we are there to capture moment and the reaction on his face when he sees his bride for the first time in all her wedding glory.

The couple can decide who they want there to witness this event, whether it is just an intimate happening between the couple and no one else (except for photographer and videographer of course), or whether you would like to have parents watching and/or the wedding party.

Why would you even consider having a first look?

I mean, it totally ruins that wonderful moment during the ceremony when the bride walks down the aisle and the groom sees her for the first time all dolled up in her wedding gown, right? Well… not so fast (more on this in a moment). But, if you are going to break this long, historical tradition, there has got to be some wonderful positives to out weigh the negative, right?


The biggest advantage to having a first look on your wedding day is time management, especially with regards to your wedding photos.  Wedding day timelines are typically broken down into four main parts…

  1. Pre-ceremony (getting ready)
  2. Ceremony
  3. Cocktail hour (1 hour for pictures)
  4. Reception

The ceremony and cocktail hour are usually in the middle of your timeline (give or take), separating the two lengthiest portions of your wedding day.  And, traditionally, since the groom doesn’t see the bride until the ceremony, you only have a small portion of your day when you can take your main portraits (during cocktail hour).  And during this one hour is when you have to take all your family portraits, the entire wedding party portraits, and your bride and groom portraits.

Advantages to having a wedding first look

You will have more time for portraits in general.  Instead of having just the cocktail hour for portraits, you can take advantage of all the time before the ceremony.  This also means you will get more portrait photos from your wedding.

Also, by having more time for portraits you won’t feel so rushed to get them all done during cocktail hour.

Does your venue have lots of great photo locations?  Having a first look gives you more time to visit them all.

Traditionally, if you get behind on your wedding timeline, it is your bride and groom portraits that get cut short to make up the time difference.  The reason being it is usually the last portraits you take before you are scheduled to enter your reception.  With a first look, this isn’t an issue.

One big advantage of having a first look that is often overlooked is that it calms your nerves and helps you feel more relaxed the rest of the day.  I can’t tell you how many times grooms have said, “man, I feel so much better now!  I was so nervous. The first look was a great idea!”

Another advantage of a first look is you get to your reception and your guests much faster after the ceremony.  Now the guests don’t have to wait around for an hour while you take photos.  We normally still do the family portraits right after the ceremony. That way everyone is for sure there and ready for pictures. And we can normally knock these out in about 20 mins. But your  wedding part pictures and your couple portraits are already done!

The disadvantages of having a first look

Your day will start earlier.  Which means your all your bridesmaids and groomsmen and parents will all need to be ready earlier.

Some believe that a first look will take away from that special moment as the bride walks down the aisle.  We don’t really believe this to be true. In fact, we believe adding a first look increases the number of special moments that you get to share with one another on your wedding day and that walk down the aisle is still just as meaningful.

Because first looks happen early in the day, the portraits after usually take place during a part of the day where the lighting isn’t our favorite time to shoot.  We are professionals at working around this, and the be perfectly honest with you, we would still love to have 10-15 mins with you at sunset.

What do we prefer as your photographer or videographer?

To be honest, we really don’t have a preference with regards to having a first look or not.  We just want you to do what you feel most comfortable with.

What we do prefer is having a little time with you right before sunset.  If you are having a wedding during daylight savings time (usually between mid-March and November) when the sun sets later in the day, our favorite thing to do is having the ceremony and cocktail hour a little earlier, go to your reception for a while, and then a few minutes before sunset, we sneak you two out for a few minutes, (usually while everyone is finishing their meals), and take some gorgeous bride/groom portraits during that golden hour time.  And we can do that whether you have a first look or not.

This is more difficult to do when the sun is setting early in the day.  If that is the case with your wedding, it is usually best to time ceremony so that your portraits afterwards are during golden hour.

In Conclusion

If you are a couple who prefers more time for photos, getting to your reception sooner, or knows you need to calm those nerves before the ceremony, having a first look may be the way to go for you.

Or, if you are a hardcore traditionalist who can’t stand the thought of the seeing each other before you walk down the aisle, then a first look is probably not for you.