A bride and a groom during their first look wedding
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I highly recommend first looks at your wedding. When it comes to those emotional reactions caught on camera as you lay eyes on each other for the first time, First Look photos can be pure magic. But hey, no judgment if you’d rather stick to tradition and save the reveal for the aisle.

If you keep reading, I break down why as wedding photographer, I love first looks at weddings, the pros and cons, my client’s reactions, and some first look photos to help you decide.

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What is a first look?

The first look at a wedding is a special moment when the bride and groom (or partners) see each other privately before the ceremony. A skilled wedding photographer will help guide the couple for locations and work with the wedding planner to put the right amount of time for this in the timeline. Typically, the first look and its setting are chosen well in advance of the big day, but sometimes it happens the day of.

Groom grins at his first look at his new bride.
One of my favorite first look photographs I have ever taken.

Are first look photos worth it?

As a wedding photographer in my opinion, first-look photos are almost always worth it. They are always the most raw & emotional moments together followed by relaxed quick portrait session. That said, deciding if first look photos are worth it depends on your personal preference and timeline. They offer a private moment for couples before the ceremony, capturing genuine emotions and providing additional time for photos without rushing. This can reduce stress and allow for more relaxed and intimate portraits. However, some prefer the tradition of seeing each other at the ceremony for the first time. 

Your Timeline Will Be Easier

Waiting until photos after the ceremony together creates a hurry-up-and-wait situation that I don’t think anyone loves. You’ll spend just about the entire day away from each other, all of your group photos would have to be after the ceremony, and you’ll end up taking photos for what feels like a full 3-hour period. If you have a first look, the portraits and other things can be more spread out allowing for a break. You also get different lighting throughout the day which I feel makes for more memorable photos anyway. 

Here’s more information on wedding timelines.

You’ll have an Actual Private Moment Together

In the whirlwind of your wedding day, you are like Disney characters & everyone wants your attention. A first look offers a rare, private pause. It’s just you two, sharing a moment alone with raw emotion away from all eyes. This isn’t just another candid photo op; it’s your chance to connect, reflect, and soak in the day together, uninterrupted. Unlike the ceremony, this private space allows for genuine reactions and a bit of calm before the storm. 

If you are looking to have your partner tear up at the first sight of you, it’s much more likely when they aren’t on display in front of everyone they have ever met. 

You’ll Ease Any Pre-Wedding Nerves

Spending the majority of the day away from the person you are celebrating being connected to has always seemed contradictory to me. It creates a jitter on an already fairly tense day. The reason the images in the first part of the day have so much feeling is because you are tense with anticipation. You could go through most of the day feeling this way, or break that tension and see your partner and experience the day with them. 

Bride and grooms, bride and brides, grooms and grooms, all can agree: less stress is better.

You’ll Have MORE Photos Together

This goes without saying but, if you are more relaxed, see each other earlier in the day, and are not cramming most of the portraits of the day into cocktail hour – you will get more photos together. You will even have more relaxed group photos because they won’t be rushed. When there is a first look in the wedding timeline, I like to break apart the photos of the day into 20-minute segments so it feels like a story of your throughout the day, instead of just one sunset session together. 

Check out my portfolio from weddings around the world here.

an intimate moment at a first look wedding

When the First Look Takes Place

A first look could take place as soon as both partners are ready, or before the ceremony. Typically most couples do a first look first thing after they are ready or have had group photos with thier side of the bridal party. If you do a first look just before the ceremony, I would recommend having a makeup artist or someone who can lightly touch up the makeup before you go to the ceremony. Having a 10-minute break before the ceremony also allows for bathroom breaks, water, or anything else you need to do before your ceremony.

How long do you need for first look photos?

You can easily do a first look within 20 minutes, but I like to leave a little breathing room and finish off with some fun couple portraits after the first look. Typically I schedule 15-20 minutes for the first look then add on 15 minutes for portraits just to bring the mood back up. 

Who is typically at the first look?

Ideally, just you and your partner. Groomsman, bridesmaids, anyone in the wedding party or your parents, may want to see the first look but they often interrupt and ruin the moment the two of you are having. To put it bluntly:

GIF by Giphy QA

That said – it can be really sweet to have them viewing from a distance and get thier reactions. It depends on your preference and the kind of vibe you are going for.

Where to have the First Look at a Wedding?

The best place for a first look is in an intimate or remote location that is not your ceremony site.  You want to have variety in locations, a wide open location without tons of public traffic is usually best for a wedding. Make sure that it’s a place where you two can be together and be yourselves without holding back. 

It’s important to have a rain backup for first look locations in the event you decide to do it outside. I like doing outside if the ceremony is indoors or indoors if the ceremony is outside just for variety. You can ask your photographer what they recommend. Definitely have someone on deck to adjust hair and makeup after.

First Look Photos During a Destination Wedding?

Destination weddings usually have tons of options for locations, but everyone that’s traveled with you wants to spend time with you.  Sometimes a private first look in a remote location, garden on property, or even a balcony on the top floor of your hotel can be a good location. 

What percentage of couples do a first look?

If you are reading this article thinking “Wow he makes some good points, maybe we should have a first look.” You would be like 90% of my wedding photography couples, who also decide to have a first look. According to the Knot, 44% of couples decided to have a first look in 2017. I think that number is much higher now, traditional aisle seems like its on the decline. 

Does a first look take away from walking down the aisle?

Not in the slightest, actually you might feel the first look helps you both to be much less nervous and focus more on each other while taking in the moment during your wedding ceremony. Here’s direct feedback from one of my own couples:

I asked: What is one memory from your wedding day that you never want to forget?

“Our time together during the “first look”, when we spoke about what we loved most about each other. (thank you so much for encouraging us to do that!)” – Melissa & Dean 

Same question, but a couple reflecting on thier ceremony:

“Our ceremony- reading our vows to each other, sharing our first kiss, and walking out to Bowie. It was magical” – John & Jill

Traditional Aisle First Look at Ceremony

With the traditional aisle, you can uphold wedding traditions. Typically, grooms are less likely to show emotions during the first look down the aisle, especially with all their friends watching. It’s a ton of pressure on both of you. 

First Looks

Seeing each other before the wedding ceremony can help couples calm any nerves they may have. It’s a bonus intimate moment that is never regretted. No pressure though,  I’ve had couples decide to have a first look right before the ceremony starts. At the end of the day, all they really wanted was to see their partner.

Examples of First Look Photos from Real Couples

First look photos

Photos from non-traditional first looks outside of the ceremony.

Traditional Aisle First Look Photos

Photos of first looks during the wedding ceremony.

First Touch Photos

A first touch is an alternative that allows you to hold your partners hand, have a private conversation or read letters without actually seeing each other. You can do this in addition to the aisle first look.

First Look with Parents photos

These are photos from first looks with parents instead of a partner. This is sometimes done in addition to the first look of a partner or

First Look with the Wedding Party photos

These are dress reveal photos or first looks with the wedding party invloved.

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