first look

First Look | Yes or No

Sep 11, 2022

I am a big believer in you making memories and stepping out of tradition. So I want to walk you through the benefits of having a First Look.


You recently got engaged and every vendor keeps asking you the same annoying question: “So… Are you doing a First Look?” Let’s break it down for you. A First Look is a simple way of saying, “Will you be seeing each other before the ceremony?” Traditionally, couples will wait until the ceremony before seeing each other for the first time. However, it’s becoming more and more popular to see each other just before the ceremony for a number of reasons. If you are anything like me you might just wanna know the meaning behind a tradition before using it.

Origin: During the time when arranged marriages were custom, the betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see each other before the wedding at all. The wedding symbolized a business deal between two families (romantic, huh?), and a father would have been pleased for his daughter to marry a man from a rich, land-owning family. But he also feared that if the groom met the bride before the wedding and thought she wasn’t attractive, he’d call off the wedding, casting shame on the bride and her family. Therefore, it became a tradition that the bride and groom were only allowed to meet at the wedding ceremony so that the groom did not have the opportunity to change his mind. And that veil the bride wears? Its original purpose was also to keep the groom from finding out what the bride looked like until the last possible minute when it was too late to back out of the transaction.



If you’re the type of person that gets nervous around crowds, doesn’t like to be the center of attention or gets anxious rather easily, then this is a great option for you. We’ve found that most clients are super nervous just before the ceremony, and those that thought they wouldn’t suddenly get a little freaked out. Let’s face it, your wedding is probably one of the biggest memories of your life. Depending on how involved you are in the process and your personality type, there can be a lot of internal stress built up to that moment of seeing each other for the first time. Don’t let me freak you out though; you can definitely get through it. However, doing a First Look will give you peace of mind knowing that your significant other will be there for you to help calm those nerves. Time and time again we see the stress fly away just after the couple for the first time. It’s almost like a weight is lifted off their shoulder and the rest of the wedding day activities are a breeze. A sidenote to this is that if you wanted to exchange vows and being in front of all of your guest list was the only thing stopping you then this is a perfect time to do so.


The reality is a wedding day only happens once. You set a date, pick a venue and you’re set. Whatever happens, happens. Your wedding day is not guaranteed to fall perfectly into place. There are a lot of moving parts that you can’t control. Like bad weather, people running late, traffic jams, missing rings, a setting sun, etc. The list goes on and on for the potential of what could possibly go wrong. If you decide to do a first look, it basically means you can get all your pictures done and out of the way without being rushed. Seeing each other before the ceremony lets you finish all your couple portraits, bridal party portraits, and family portraits. So after the wedding all you have to think about is actually attending your own cocktail hour and mingling with guests who are eager to congratulate you. It also provides you with a backup time slot to finish your portraits just in case something kept you held up earlier in the day. Gives you more time to get all the “things” done without the rush.


So you’ve been dreaming about your wedding day since the day you were born. Right? You’ve been thinking about how precious that one moment is going to be when you see each other for the first time. Right? Well, what if it’s not everything it was cracked up to be? What if it was special but just not THAT special? I don’t mean to be cynical here, I just want to lower the expectation level so you don’t have super high expectations for something that might not be exactly what you imagine. Mind you, I’ve seen some AMAZING moments because the couple opted out of doing the First Look. Times are so sweet, I even thought maybe I should stop trying to convince everyone to do a First Look. But at the same time, I’ve seen incredible moments at the ceremony just moments after doing a First Look. If the emotions are really there, they are going to come out regardless of what you do. Seeing each other privately before the ceremony is much different than seeing each other in “the moment” as all your best friends and closest family members are watching.

My thought is this: If you’re the type that doesn’t really want to hear about a First Look then don’t do it. But if you’re the type that is a little open minded and wants to know more then a First Look might just be right for you.


This one is probably our favorite because, let’s face it, we want you to have more opportunities for great pictures. At the end of the day all that’s left is the photography to look back on. When Brides were asked (in two separate surveys) after their wedding what they wish they spent more money on: 21% of brides wished they spent more on photography according to these articles found on the Huffington Post and Shutterfly. Which happened to be more than any other single item on the list.

Regardless though how you decide to use your MONEY make better use of your TIME. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a photographer for 12 hrs. You can be creative with structuring your wedding day timeline to get the most out of that money. It is possible to have plenty of time for pictures and relaxation without killing the bank. Getting your pictures taken on a wedding day shouldn’t be an exhausting process. I only need about 1-2 hrs total (for all portraits) depending on how many people you have in the family and bridal party.

In the meantime think about this for a sec: You spent all year long at work on Pinterest, pinning those nice, naturally lit wedding pictures. But you have a 5 p.m. ceremony time and the sun is setting at 6:30 p.m. sharp, which means you still have about 15 minutes of available light before things start getting too dark for natural light. It sounds like enough time but what happens if the ceremony doesn’t actually start until 5:30 p.m.? That leaves you with 30 minutes for the ceremony and 30 minutes for family portraits, bridal party portraits, and bride/groom portraits – Talk about a rush!

Now that isn’t always the case. You could certainly plan for an earlier ceremony time, do your wedding party portraits separately before the ceremony, and actually give yourself a little more cushion after the ceremony to focus on family portraits and bride/groom portraits. But you have to be okay with possibly missing your own cocktail hour and having only one opportunity for bride & groom shots. Also, you have to hope that the lighting and weather during that golden hour will be nice to you. For most weddings, this approach works out just fine but if you’re not the type to take any chances, please save yourself the headache and just do the first look.


“Your wedding day will go by so fast!”

This isn’t an overstatement. There is so much activity and things to accomplish on your wedding day that sometimes taking it all in just isn’t possible. Even more, a reason to have a photographer capturing those unseen moments right before you. Try thinking like this when planning your wedding: For every tradition, location, or moment in my wedding day, something extra is required from either me or my day. So if that tradition of seeing each other at the ceremony is very valuable to you, other things have to be appropriately moved around to accommodate for both. There is only so much time in one day. Unless you have all the money in the world, let’s be realistic about your day but creatively plan so that you can have the best of both worlds.

Time and time again clients have thanked me after the wedding for convincing them to do a First Look. If I sense they are really not about it, I definitely won’t push because ultimately I really want what’s best for you. But if someone is on the fence I want to lead them to make a more logical plan for their big day.

I want you to live in the moment and not just relive it through the photos. I want you to be present with your guests. A First Look gives you the flexibility to get all your portraits totally out of the way so you can engage with the people you love the most. Especially spending more of the day with your soon to be hottie. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?


First look photos are awesome. You get to share a private, giddy moment with your soon-to-be-spouse, shake off pre-ceremony jitters and enjoy more time at cocktail hour (a win-win-win, if you ask us). But while they look completely effortless, there’s a little more thought behind all those sweet, candid shots you’ve seen and love. Make sure your first look is even better than you imagined by avoiding these seven mistakes.


Rule one: Talk to your photographer about your first look vision (or, if you’re not tied to a specific vision, ask for advice). You’ll want to nail down all the logistics, like timing, positioning, and any other particulars beforehand, so when the moment comes, you’re as carefree as possible, and your photographer can take the reins.  


The last thing you want is to feel rushed on your wedding day. Doing a first look is supposed to calm your nerves and prompt happy feelings—not stress you out. Your photographer, who’s likely shot many first looks before, will be able to help figure out a timeline that works for you. Once you’ve created a comfortable schedule, stick to it. That might mean you need to wake up a little earlier to eat and get ready, but it’ll be worth it to avoid cramming everything in pre-ceremony. Plus, if you leave yourselves enough wiggle room, you’ll have time to make hair, makeup or wardrobe touch-ups before the ceremony starts (think: fix your mascara after a few happy tears).


If you’re also planning to take photos with your wedding party before the ceremony, have your crew meet you a little later—especially if you think their presence will make you more nervous and uncomfortable during your first look. This is one moment you’ll want to share with your partner only.


In the same vein, this moment is all about the two of you, so find a secluded spot where no guests can see you. Pick a location that will let you bask in each other’s company, say what you want to say, and react completely naturally—without feeling self-conscious from passersby. Stay away from the main areas where people are still setting up.. if you need help I can always pick it.


While you’re partly doing a first look to capture the amazing emotions on camera, your main focus should be on actually experiencing those emotions and sharing a personal moment with your partner. Practice shutting off your awareness of the camera. Or after the moment is captured I take a break from the camera and just be alone together.


Trust us on this one: You may not be a big crier, but you better bring something—just in case. Seeing your better half for the first time on the day of your wedding is enough to make even the least emotive person break down.


After all is said and done, the truth is, your first look can be anything you want it to be. Don’t think you need to follow what you’ve seen in order to do it “right,” because there’s no right way. If you’re not sold on doing one, but want to mix things up, try a compromise. Combine the trend with tradition and do a first read or first touch. You and your partner can stand just out of sight of each other, say, on either side of a partition, hold hands and read each other love notes aloud or say a pre-ceremony prayer. You could also leave your veil or other accessories behind for the first look, then do it for the ceremony as an extra, sweet surprise for your partner.



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