Is a First Look Right for Me?

So many decisions go into planning a wedding that whether or not to do a first look may be something you want to simply check off your list: “No. I’m a traditionalist.” Check. Moving on. But before you nail that decision down with your photographer, here are some things to consider. I’ll show you both sides so you can decide which is the best fit for how you envision your day.

There is something to be said for the traditional bride and groom not seeing each other until the wedding march is cued, the doors are flung open, the people rise, and the groom gets choked up at seeing his bride for the first time dressed in white. It’s a special moment. Most definitely. And when we shoot weddings, we have two photographers so each person’s expressions can be captured to remember that moment forever. Those first look pictures will capture THE moment the couple prepares to begin the ceremony that will make them man and wife. That’s a great positive, but that is the only one I can see for not doing a first look. If this is enough reason for you, that’s awesome, but you may want to consider these benefits to doing a first look earlier in the day, even if you’re pretty sure your mind is made up.


First off, some of you may wonder what a “first look” session entails. Before the ceremony, the couple is staged in a pretty location: maybe it’s the sanctuary, or maybe the couple wants something outdoors in a scenic setting. We run off all other wedding party members and family so the intimacy of the moment can be shared between the couple. The groom is positioned with his back to his bride and told when he is allowed to turn around while Brad and I are busy getting the perfect pictures to capture each person’s reaction. We throw on some of your favorite music to accompany the moment as well.

So now that you know what it looks like, why should you consider if a first look session is right for you? Let me give you some food for thought.

Helps with the Nerves


Weddings are a wonderful but also anxiety-ridden day for many brides. There’s so much going on, a tight schedule to keep, and the anticipation of the day’s coming events. It’s easy to see why many brides turn into a bundle of nerves by the time they prepare to say I do. We’ve surely all seen the bride so nervous she thinks she’s going to pass out before walking down the aisle. Being surrounded by your best girlfriends is all well and good, but there’s probably no one who can better relieve your tension and make you take a deep breath to enjoy the day as your husband-to-be. Seeing your groom before the ceremony can help you to be able to better enjoy all of the day’s festivities.

Keeps Things Moving after the Ceremony so Guests Don’t Leave

In my opinion, the biggest benefit to a first look session is that it keeps things moving after the ceremony so your guests don’t have to wait. I’ve been the guest at weddings before where the pictures were all done after the ceremony. I’ve watched as guests waited and waited, munched on snacks, but finally started thinning out before the couple ever arrived to celebrate with them and enjoy the meal. 

THE most important pictures of the day, the ones that you will treasure and hang up on your walls, are the ones of you and your newlywed. You don’t want to feel rushed during that shoot, knowing that you’ve got a room full of people awaiting your arrival. We like to allow for a full hour of those favorite, special shots, and by the time you factor in wedding party pictures and family formals, you’re looking at a good chunk of time.

I’ve also seen couples do it where they schedule the reception to begin a couple of hours after the ceremony. That’s certainly an option, but you should consider that there will be those people who don’t want to have their entire Saturday bogged down with a strange window of downtime in between, and they may opt not to come back for the reception, deciding they already saw the important part and got their name down in the guestbook. 

Doing a first look before the ceremony allows for you to have plenty of time for those all-important bride/groom shots as well as the wedding party. The only thing you’ll need to take care of after the ceremony are those family formals. Not too shabby.

With all of the bride/groom portraits and bridal party pictures out of the way before the ceremony, that leaves only family formals before the reception. 

With all of the bride/groom portraits and bridal party pictures out of the way before the ceremony, that leaves only family formals before the reception. 

You Can Get in Close, Not across a Sanctuary

Another benefit to a scheduled first look session is that it enables photographers to get in close for the shots. While pictures are super important, there’s a balance to getting the right shot without detracting from the moment by being right in front of the action and people’s view.

You Still Get Shots during the Ceremony

Even if you opt for a first look session, you still get those shots of the special moment you see each other as you walk down the aisle. And it’s still a special moment. When a football player catches a pass in the endzone to score a touchdown, it’s still exciting, even though it’s been done many times before. Even if you’ve already seen each other earlier that day, that moment is still going to be photo-worthy, and hey, you get bonus pictures since you technically have two first looks.

Better Lighting

These are neat pictures, but do you want all of your bride/groom portraits to end up being at this time of night? The timeline of your day and sunset are important factors to consider.

These are neat pictures, but do you want all of your bride/groom portraits to end up being at this time of night? The timeline of your day and sunset are important factors to consider.

The couple in these pictures had scheduled an outdoor sunset ceremony (gorgeous), but originally they didn’t want to do a first look session. These pictures were taken immediately after the family formals were taken. I love these images, but could you imagine if all of your wedding pictures of you and your spouse were taken in the dark? This is something to consider when planning your wedding and deciding on the first look session.

Another thing that most people wouldn’t consider is the quality of the images when taken during the ceremony. When shooting pictures as a couple walks down the aisle, the photographer can’t set up off camera flash with softboxes and reflectors to get the picture perfect image like he or she can do when the first look is staged. Obviously all of that equipment would detract from the moment. Will the pictures be nice? Absolutely. But it’s not going to be the same as when we’ve set up all of our lighting equipment since most sanctuaries tend to be dimly lit.

Is there a right or wrong answer to the question of whether or not you should do a first look? Absolutely not. Your day is going to be perfect whether you see your groom for the first time when the wedding march sounds or when you do a private first look session. These are just some things to consider before deciding which option is the best for you.