Pros and Cons of Doing a First Look at your Wedding


July 6, 2020

What is a First Look?

A first look is when the bride and groom see each other on their wedding day before the ceremony. In “traditional” weddings, the groom sees his bride for the first time when she walks down the aisle. However, a first look is a planned time earlier in the day when the groom gets to see his bride in a more intimate setting, without all of their guests watching. Some folks like the “traditional” option while others see the benefits of doing a first look earlier in the day. Below are the pros and cons of doing a wedding first look in my experience as a wedding photographer!

Groom's reaction to seeing bride for first time on wedding day

Cons of Doing a Wedding First Look

Let’s start with the reasons NOT to do a first look. Then, we can end on a positive note!

It’s not the “traditional” way

Many see a first look as non-traditional. They like the idea of seeing their future husband or wife for the first time as they walk down the aisle. This is the pivotal, romantic moment in the movies! A first look is not how you typically see a wedding play out in the movies and storybooks.

You need to be ready earlier in the day

If you opt to do a first look with your fiancé, you will need to be dressed and ready to go earlier in the day! Because you will do your photos before the ceremony rather than afterward, your photos will begin at an earlier hour. This is most important for planning for the women, because they typically need to ensure hair and makeup is done.

Bride and groom hugging after wedding first look

Pros of Doing a Wedding First Look

Now let’s examine the reasons you SHOULD do a first look at your wedding.

A first look is the new traditional

Nowadays, doing a first look is actually the new norm. Of the 25+ weddings I shot in 2019, all but one opted to do a first look rather than waiting for the ceremony. The benefits simply outweigh the drawbacks, and it makes your day so much more relaxed. There are no rules anymore when it comes to wedding planning, so there is really no such thing as “traditional!”

A first look makes your timeline less stressful

I have an entire blog post outlining how to make your wedding day timeline. In that post, I lay out multiple timeline options, and all of them contain first looks. I’m just that passionate about it! By opting to do a first look, you can knock out all of your important, posed wedding photos before the ceremony. Then, after the ceremony, you’re free to hop on a party bus, join your guests at cocktail hour, and generally relax. If you wait to see each other until the ceremony, you need to capture every photo that includes both the bride and groom after the ceremony. This includes family photos, wedding party pictures, and photos of just your fiancé and you!

You can spend more time with your guests

As mentioned above, a doing a first look allows you to capture all the necessary photos before your ceremony, leaving all the time after the ceremony to mingle with your guests. If you wait to see each other until the ceremony, you will need to allott for about two hours worth of photos after your ceremony. This requires a longer cocktail hour and your guests are left waiting for you rather than spending time celebrating you!

It’s more intimate & romantic

While most people think a first look will take the romance out of the walk down the aisle, I have actually experienced the opposite. If you wait to see each other until the ceremony, there will be a large audience in attendance watching. Sometimes this makes more shy or introverted brides and grooms more anxious, and this can lead to a stiff reaction. It’s more difficult to live in the moment when two hundred people are watching you! Instead, a first look allows you to see your future husband or wife for the first time in smaller setting with just the two of you. You can actually talk and hug after you see each other instead of immediately stepping up to the altar. This actually create much more genuine emotion and romance then it does in front of an audience.

You can choose the location

If you plan to do a first look, you and your photographer can plan for this to happen in the location of your choosing. Sometimes the lighting and angles that a photographer can capture at your ceremony just isn’t that great. Instead, a first look allows for the photographer to choose a picturesque, beautiful location that is much more ideal for photos. You can also do your first look off-site and choose a spot that’s special to you, rather than having to do all photos at your venue.

You can make it your own

A first look can be personalized to you in various ways. Not only could you choose a special location, but you can also plan other things to do during this time to make it special and romantic. Many couple choose to write each other letters to read immediately before the first look. Others opt to exchange gifts. This makes the moment all the more memorable!

Bride reading note from groom before wedding first look


Now that we have weighed the first look wedding pros and cons, it’s obvious that the pros clearly outweigh the cons. In my opinion, it’s a no brainer. You should absolutely do a first look at your wedding! I promise, you will be more relaxed throughout your day, you will get to spend more time with your guests, and seeing your future spouse for the first time will always be special and romantic!

Check out my other helpful wedding planning tips on the blog for more planning advice!

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