Why You Should Consider Having A First Look

Do you see each other before the ceremony or wait to walk down the aisle? Do you keep or break with tradition? We'd love to share some perspective and go deeper into these important questions!

Gina and Peter's first look at the Tudor Place in DC

Traditionally, the first time a couple sees each other is when the bride walks down the aisle. However, that tradition has flipped in recent years to where now the majority of couples are opting to see each other earlier in the day.

If you’re on the fence about this decision we’ve put together some things to consider. We wanted to approach this topic not only from a wedding photography perspective, but also as a married couple who didn’t have a first look at their own wedding.

What does the day look like without a First Look?

Once you get engaged, the whirlwind of planning starts. You've hired all the right people, you've tasted all the cake, you've checked off all the details. Now wouldn't it be nice to enjoy all of those amazing things...TOGETHER?

Most wedding days start with you getting ready. Hair, makeup and getting dressed while you anxiously anticipate all of the big things that are about to happen. You eventually get to the ceremony and finally see each other as you walk down the aisle. It’s amazing! This was one of the most incredible memories from our own wedding. But at the end of that aisle you’re brought together and the ceremony quickly begins. There’s no real time to stop and communicate, to embrace, to admire or to just tell each other what you’re feeling. You’re getting married right now and things are underway! You say “I do” and walk back up the aisle, turn immediately around and start taking family portraits and then couple portraits. All of your guests move onto the cocktail hour for drinks and conversation but you miss most of this for portraits. Portraits end and you rush to enter the reception, do your first dance, shove some food in your mouth, and then walk around the room to say hello to some of the many people you’ve invited. Before you finish talking to guests the toasts and dancing start up and before you know it the last dance is announced and the day ends. People have probably told you that your wedding day goes by fast, and it does! What we just described is a pretty accurate depiction of our own wedding day. 

Now let’s start the day again with a First Look…

You start the day the same as you get ready, but all of that nervous anticipation has a place to calm and diffuse when you see each other before the ceremony. Unlike walking down the aisle with many people watching and then launching into the formality of your ceremony, you are alone together and not rushed. You have time to react to seeing this amazing person that you’re about to vow to love for the rest of your days. You have time to embrace. You have time to walk around your future spouse and tell them how freaking good they look. After this moment you can go do your couple portraits at a time when you’re not missing any other part of the celebration and there’s nothing on your mind except that you’re about to get married. You are free to just be present to one another. If circumstance allows you may be able to knock the family and bridal party portraits out of the way after the first look, and then you can go relax and hide away as guests arrive. The nerves are calmed. The photos are done. There’s nothing that remains except experiencing the rest of the day and celebrate. You walk down the aisle and still look at each other with just as much joy and excitement. You get married and then you have time to go hang out with your favorite people that you invited, leaving you with more time to enjoy the rest of the reception and hopefully even eat all of your amazing food!

With a first look you maximize the amount of time you get to spend with each other and with your people. It is probably the single biggest logistical influence you have in your timeline to do that!

What are the benefits from a photographer's standpoint?

  1. Photographing guests and details.
    One of the biggest photography advantages to having a first look actually has little to do with couple portraits. It has do with being free during the cocktail hour for photographing your guests, and also photographing the details of your reception. If portraits are scheduled for the full duration of your cocktail hour then your guests won’t be photographed until the dance floor, resulting in a lot less photos of them. Additionally, if you care about photos of the reception details, the best time to document details are right after the staff is finished setting up but just before your guests enter to sit down for dinner. 

  2. Timing and avoiding delays.
    We’ve found that the wedding day schedule is more easily controlled before the ceremony vs after the ceremony. This is simply because it’s earlier in the day and there are more ways to adapt. For example, if makeup runs late we may move the bridal party portraits to later in the day. However, later in the day we might not have the opportunity to move anything which often results in portraits being shortened.

  3. Uninhibited emotional moments
    When you aren't walking down the aisle, the focus is purely on your future spouse. With no one else around your photographer literally has 360 access to your body language and facial expressions. Without the distractions or pressure of guests watching, the two of you have full permission to let your guard down. 

Groom sees bride for the first time with huge smile during first look
bride wipes tears during first look in Frederick Maryland
bride and groom read letters and laugh together before seeing each other during first look
groom waits as bride walks down steps to meet him during first look at Bluemont Vineyard
bride and groom see each other during first look and laugh with joy