Should We Have a First Look? A photographer’s thoughts and guide!

The only agenda I’ll ever push for your wedding is that you should do exactly what you most want and dream of doing. I’m here to support that and help you have the best possible wedding day and so I won’t personally push you to either have or not have a First Look.

If you aren’t sure how you feel about it though and are asking yourselves, “Should we have a first look?” here are my thoughts and suggestions on what you’re choosing with each option.

Bride walks towards groom in the trees - Should We Have a First Look

What your day is like with a First Look:

  • See each other before the ceremony and get some of your nerves out ahead of time.
  • Use this pre-ceremony time to exchange private vows, if you’d enjoy, or just check in and say, “It’s today! Omg!”
  • Take photos together, with your wedding party, and with your immediate family before your wedding ceremony instead of after.
  • Experience the excitement of seeing each other during your ceremony now surrounded by all of the people who love and support you.
  • Take a couple of extended family photos after your ceremony, but mostly hug all of your people.
  • Have almost your entire cocktail hour and reception to socialize and have fun at your wedding!

You’ll take some time to see each other before the Ceremony, check in, kiss your partner, whisper about your excitement and nerves, and laugh happily over the way your mom/aunt/friend cried when she saw you all dressed up. You’ll spend some time almost alone together, just letting it all soak in, and then you’ll invite your wedding party (if you have one) and your immediate family to join you for a few photos. You’ll be done with half an hour to spare before your wedding Ceremony, and then when you head in to see each other at your Ceremony spot, now surrounded by your family and friends, you’ll have a whole new set of emotions to enjoy.

After your Ceremony, you might capture a few more big group photos, but mostly you’ll head into your Cocktail Hour ready to hug, cheers, and celebrate with all of your loved ones. You might sneak away at sunset for another fifteen minutes of photos and a chance to step back and soak it all in for a moment.

If spending time at your wedding reception is of the utmost importance to you, then I advocate strongly in favor of a First Look.

In my experience, even the shortest photo list can fill up most of a Cocktail Hour, so if hugging and cheers-ing your friends and family during the entirety of your reception is the reason you’re having a wedding celebration then having a First Look is probably the best option for you.

Bride and groom before their ceremony - Should We Have a First Look?

What your day is like without a First Look:

  • Don’t see each other before the ceremony and save the ceremony and all of those nerves and wonderful excitement for the big reveal at your ceremony, surrounded by everybody who loves you.
  • Let the nerves and excitement really build up and see each other in front of your friends and family.
  • Wait to kiss on your wedding day until your First Kiss during your ceremony.
  • Dedicate more time after the ceremony for photos with your wedding party, family, and each other.
  • Don’t go to your cocktail hour and spend the time taking photos instead (wedding party photos, family photos, and photos of the two of you!)

You’ll let the excitement and anticipation build as you head towards your Ceremony time. As you and your partner meet at the Ceremony, you’ll feel all of the excitement and joy of the day finally coming together. You’ll see each other in your wedding finery in front of your family and friends and you’ll wait until the end of your Ceremony to share a smooch!

After the Ceremony you’ll gather your friends and family for some group photos and then you’ll head somewhere pretty and a little quieter to capture some portraits of the two of you alone. You’ll join your wedding reception as guests are sitting down for dinner, maybe being announced in together for the first time as married people. You might sneak away at sunset for another fifteen minutes of photos and a chance to step back and soak it all in for a moment.

If spending time at your wedding reception is of the utmost importance to you, then I advocate strongly in favor of a First Look. In my experience, if you don’t see each other before the wedding and take some photos then, you will be spending most of your Cocktail Hour taking photos before joining your party. If that’s your dream, then I am here to help you make that happen in the most wonderful, fun way that I can (I just want you to know now).

The exception to this is a very very small list of formal photos. If you don’t have a wedding party, don’t want more than a few family portraits, and either don’t want couples portraits or plan to do them only during sunset, then you can get away with no First Look and still heading to the bulk of your party.

Groom looks at bride as she walks down the aisle - Should We Have a First Look?

Will having a First Look before the wedding “ruin” the feeling?

No! In my experience, couples who see each other end up having TWO exciting and emotional “reveal” moments during their wedding. The first time is when you see each other before the wedding during your First Look. You’ll see each other in your wedding outfits for the first time, share some kisses and hugs, get grounded on such an exciting day, and just look at each other and say, “Omg! It’s here!”

Then, during your ceremony, you’ll see each other again, surrounded by all of your closest friends and family. You’ll feel overwhelmed (in a really good way) by the love and support of everybody you know. Maybe one or both of you will walk in to your ceremony on the arm of a parent or supporter or sibling, the other person waiting down at the end of the aisle for them. You’ll take your time walking down the aisle towards your partner, appreciating your parents, your friends, your family; whoever your people are who are there to celebrate with you on your wedding. It will be another wonderful, completely exceptional experience that you share, and then you’ll start the ceremony and go get married!! xx

What should we do?

Take some time to think about it and decide what sounds like the perfect wedding day to you. What’s most important to you two: A First Look moment during your ceremony surrounded by your friends and family or a private moment to see your partner, kiss, hug, and check in before guests arrive? A relaxed photo experience that also allows you to head right to cocktail hour with your guests or seeing each other for the first time during your ceremony and preserving that surprise? will you have guests coming from out of town that you want to see or is this a longer or smaller gathering that will allow you time to hug and talk to all of your guests no matter when you do photos?

There is no wrong or right answer!! When you ask yourself, “Should we Have a First Look?” just remember that your wedding is going to be a blast and one of the best days of your lives no matter what and however you choose to plan things, they’ll work out well. An experienced photographer like myself has ways of working around your dreams and creating a plan with you that maximizes what you want out of your wedding day and makes the most sense for you two and your wedding day priorities!

Have fun and enjoy seeing your partner on your wedding day! xx
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