Wedding Day First Looks: Why and Why Not and Photo Examples

SHOULD WE DO A FIRST LOOK?

As a destination wedding photographer & videographer team, this is one of the most common questions we are asked!


There really is no cut-and-dry answer – your wedding day timeline structure, personal preferences, and venue limitations will all play into how I would answer this question if you were my client!


This blog post is meant to give you a look at all sides so you can make an informed decision about what YOU want to do on your wedding day!


So, first look? Or no first look?


WHAT IS A FIRST LOOK?

A first look is when the couple sees each other before the ceremony, instead of the traditional first look happening as you walk down the aisle. Some of my couples love the idea of some private alone time to calm their nerves, and some prefer to have that moment during the ceremony. It is YOUR day and your friends, family, and vendors should support whatever you two want to do! Here are some things to consider when deciding if you want to do a first look before or during the ceremony.


YOU SHOULD DO A FIRST LOOK IF…


YOU WANT MORE TIME FOR PORTRAIT PHOTOS

Are you super excited about your couple's portraits on your wedding day? Or could you skip those and party with your friends and fam instead and be totally happy? For my couples who want a variety of couples portraits in multiple locations for more than a 20-30 minute window, I always recommend a first look. Your portraits are the photos you will hang on your walls and pass down for years to come. Only 20-30 minutes for these photos really isn’t a large window for those portraits, especially if you value variety and a more artistic take!


You also typically miss your cocktail hour to do family, wedding party, and couples formals. If you don’t love the sound of that, opting to do a first look will allow you to do those couples' formals and wedding party photos before the ceremony, meaning you get to join cocktail hour and mingle with your guests - and so does your family and wedding party.


YOU WANT PHOTOS IN THE NATURAL LIGHT

If your ceremony time ends around sunset, a first look will allow you to do your couples portraits, wedding party photos, and family photos pre-ceremony in the natural light. Otherwise, you would likely be taking photos in the dark. We love a flash moment, but you will probably want some natural light photos too!

YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH GUESTS

First looks also really open up your timeline and allow you more time to spend one on one with your person, and more time to be with your guests. You get to take your couples photos in the morning when your hair and makeup is fresh in daylight at a location you love, then some more during sunset/golden hour at the venue if you choose to.


YOU WANT AN OPPORTUNITY TO CALM YOUR NERVES

If you and your partner think you’ll feel some pre-ceremony jitters, this is a great opportunity to calm your nerves! The pressure of reacting to seeing your partner for the first time in front of all of your guests is not the most appealing to introverts. A first look is a private moment between you two to exchange personal vows, gifts and to shake off the nerves!



YOU MAY NOT NEED/WANT TO DO A FIRST LOOK IF…


YOU ARE MORE TRADITIONAL

Have you been dreaming about that first look down the aisle moment for years? So many of my couples have, and they don’t want to give that up. While I would argue that it doesn’t make the ceremony first look any less special, I always advocate for you doing what YOU want to do deep down!


YOU HAVE A LARGE GAP BETWEEN THE CEREMONY AND RECEPTION

If you are having a church wedding earlier in the day with a large gap between the ceremony end and the cocktail hour start, a first look typically is not necessary. You will likely have plenty of time in between the ceremony and the reception to do your family, wedding party, and couples' photos. You may even be able to join cocktail hour as well!


YOU WANT LESS PRE-CEREMONY COVERAGE

If you are on a time crunch with your photographer, the first look will typically add an hour and a half to two hours to your morning timeline. I personally like to spend 45 minutes doing the first look and couples portraits, 40 minutes doing wedding party photos, and 20 minutes doing family photos pre-ceremony. If you would prefer to squeeze all of those things into the cocktail hour, it will reduce your coverage hours in the morning so you can allocate that time towards the reception. However, fitting all of those photo sets into 45-50 minutes is really tight! If you can extend your cocktail hour by 15 minutes, it can really help your photographer.


I hope this blog post helped you make an informed decision about doing a first look!

Remember that your wedding day goes fast and you want to feel fully present. Whatever decision will help you feel the most relaxed and joyful is what you should do!


As a wedding photographer, I obviously have a bit of bias towards structuring the timeline in a way that is conducive to your photos. But this also typically just makes for a more relaxed experience.


I am also including two wedding galleries for you to view: one with a first look, and one without a first look - just to give you an idea of what your gallery could look like:

WEDDING DAY WITH A FIRST LOOK

WEDDING DAY WITHOUT A FIRST LOOK


Want more wedding tips, inspiration, and ideas? Check out my blog here!


This blog post was written by Grace Torres, a traveling wedding photography and videography duo based in Florida and NYC, and documenting love worldwide.