A First Look : Yay or Nay?

What is a first look? A first look is when a couple choose to see each other before their wedding ceremony! It's a moment when you get to see your future spouse before the ceremony- there is usually an emotional moment characterized by beautiful peace that set up the day for calm and joy!

We've done weddings with first looks and without, and we can tell you that it's more special, more romantic, and will make the experience of the day smoother and better than a traditional look- seeing your future spouse at the end of the aisle. Here's why:
  • A first look is about you! When it's just the two of you (and us, of course!), it's a lot easier to have a natural reaction and really enjoy this emotional moment. Traditional looks don’t create a space to really be in the moment. Everyone's watching you, there's music playing, you have to walk a certain way, everyone's phones are out taking pictures and videos, and nerves are high... With a first look, all walls come down. There’s a space to be able to talk to the love of your life and hug, kiss, cry, freak out, etc. and you get to make it your own. Once the pressure is off, that "walking down the aisle" moment becomes much easier and we tend to see a more genuine emotional reaction there, too! The two moments of, "You look so amazing, I am so excited to see you," and "OMG. This is happening. We are getting married," are spaced out and felt at different times, allowing you to feel each more deeply. 
  • The aisle experience is really intense. Most brides and grooms get a "deer in the headlights” look, so they may find it difficult to show a lot of emotion in that moment. There's something about the pressure to have such an intimate moment in front of all those people that just gets to many of us and that will show through in your facial expressions. Often times we see grooms totally clam up, showing little to no emotion in an attempt not to break down in front of everyone. It's so much easier to express real and genuine emotion without all the extra pressure and staring eyes.
  • It's a private moment (that you might not get again). With all the activities going on all day making your wedding the best day ever, it sometimes becomes hard to take a private moment away to yourselves. The reality is, unless you schedule it in, you likely won’t have much time to hang out with your new spouse. A first look is a great way to make sure you have this time! Your documentary team will be there of course, but we do our best to make sure that you feel comfortable and at peace. After that, you'll be celebrating and dancing all night with your guests! 
  • A Relaxed Schedule. You can schedule as much time as needed, depending on your bridal party size, to do all your bridal party and bride and groom photos before the ceremony. Then after the ceremony we can complete the family photos without being rushed and then you can go and join your cocktail hour, take candid photos with guests and/or sneak away for some sunset/golden hour photos with us! Relaxed you and relaxed us = the natural and wonderful photos you see in work.
  • 40% more portraits. You are investing a lot in wedding photography. With a first look, you'll receive up to 40% more newlywed portraits...and those are the images you decorate your home with (believe me, my house is packed full of our portraits!) With a first look, you make the most out of this large investment and get the most for your money. 
  • Having a fall or winter wedding? If your ceremony time is set too late, a first look is 100% necessary. If your ceremony is at 5pm… and the sun sets at 6pm…that means we would only have 30 minutes to take all family photos, all wedding party photos, and all couples photos. There's no way that's gonna happen. You don't want to risk missing photos and having the schedule fall apart. I just read a horror story from a fellow photographer who was hardly able to get any shots of the bride and groom together because the schedule fell apart and they ended up having just a few minutes to cram in portraits after the ceremony before the sun set. Everything became chaotic and rushed and in the end the bride said she wished she had done a first look. 
  • Definitely set on no first look? Make sure your ceremony time is early enough. If you know you don’t want to do a first look, ask your venue if you can have the ceremony start at least 2.5-3 hours before the sun sets, so you can still get the photos that you want!
  • Definitely set on no first look? A longer cocktail hour is necessary. If you don't do a first look, we will require a 90 minute cocktail hour to make sure that all your photos can be captured in non-rushed atmosphere. We want to deliver the quality of images you see in our portfolio! I know that seems long, but with enough food and drink people will be fine, I promise! We really do need all that time to have a relaxing and fun portrait time together and produce great photos. If we compress the cocktail time to 60 minutes, the amount of photos will be significantly reduced and much more rushed. More time is always better!

My clients who didn't do a first look often say, "I wish we had done one," or "Now I understand why people do a first look! I wish I had known!" I've never had a client do a first look and regret it!

Photos from some of our favorite first looks with advice from former clients below :)

From a former bride: a "first look" was a great choice for us because it was actually the only private, intimate moment we had all day. We hugged, we kissed, chatted and cried! We got to exchange a few gifts between each other and it was great getting that moment to tell each other how great the other looks. Also, you get more opportunity for photos with family after the ceremony and that means more time to party and be fully present with your guests! -Rylee

From a former bride: We are so glad we had a first look on our wedding day! It was great to spend the day celebrating with those closest to us but ultimately we wanted to have a little bit of time just for ourselves. It was a great opportunity to feel wedding day emotions together and get some tears out before we met again in front of our friends and family.  It was  the perfect way to calm those pre-wedding nerves! Having first look photos was a also great financial decision. After spending so much hard-earned money on a venue, catering, music, and decor we didn’t want to miss out on any of it! We got to fully enjoy the food, cocktails, and dance floor.  Most importantly, it allowed us to spend the most time with each other, friends, and our family. - Denise

From a former bride: deciding to do a first look was the best decision ever! I decided to do a first look because I wanted to soak up a few minutes with my husband before walking down the aisle 💕 Doing a first look gave us the opportunity to gush about how we looked in our wedding attire and calm our nerves before the ceremony. Lastly, after the ceremony we didn’t get a lot of alone time since we were busy with our guests. Doing the first look was like the calm before the storm and I’m so happy I chose to do it! P.S. It didn’t make our ceremony any less special, if anything you just get a few extra moments with your person. ✨ - Vivian

From a former Bride: doing the first look was such a great decision for so many reasons. We were able to shoot our photos before the ceremony and enjoy the time after with our friends and family - no crazy wait times. We were able to soak in the moment with just us (and our great photographers).  You get so few moments of just the two of you, and a first look really locks in some one on one time in a world wind of a day. ♥️ - Harmony

From a former bride: my husband and I come from big, lovingly opinionated families and found ourselves struggling to build into our day moments where we could relax amidst all the hustle and bustle. So for us, a first look was a wonderful opportunity to have a private moment where we could check in with each other and center ourselves ahead of the ceremony. We both had had stressful mornings and calmed down miraculously by just being able to hug each other - and because of that, the ceremony was so much more enjoyable. We also both really didn’t want his first time seeing me to be in front of everybody; that’s so much pressure on both of us! Give yourself permission to have some private moments. Once the ceremony starts, you won’t have another one until the end of the night! - Alicia

From a former bride: our wedding day will absolutely be one of the busiest days of your life. For me, it went by in the blink of an eye. I’m so grateful my husband and I chose to do a first look. It was so grounding to be able to take a breath and just spend time together. Our wonderful photographers were excellent at letting us just have our moment together to connect and share. Also, seeing those photos of my husband when he first saw me were delightful! -Christiana 


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