Why You Should Consider a Private First Look at Your Wedding

Have you ever heard of doing a first look? Chances are if you’re getting married in the near future, you’ve heard of it from a friend or a wedding planning website. They’ve become MUCH more popular over the past few years. I often get asked by my couples what a first look even is, and why couples choose to do them. Let’s break down what the hell a “first look” is and why you should have a first look at your wedding!

What is a wedding first look?

First of all, let’s get clear on what a first look actually is. If you’re familiar with any wedding traditions, you know that traditionally a couple doesn’t see each other until they meet at the aisle for their ceremony. This tradition actually came about because with arranged marriages, people used to fear that the couple wouldn’t like each other if they saw each other before they tied the knot, and would run away + not get married! Now, it’s just considered bad luck to see each other before the ceremony.

But. . . why?! The whole point of your wedding day is to BE with each other and enjoy the experience together, right? So why not spend MORE of the day together and focus on celebrating your love, rather than appeal to what traditions tell you to do?

A first look is when you see each other before your ceremony. Simple as that - the first time you see each other is before you arrive to walk down the aisle, your “first look” at your partner on your wedding day. 

After photographing countless weddings, I’ve seen tons of couples do first looks! Plus many others go the traditional route of waiting until their ceremony. There are SO many benefits to doing a first look, so let’s talk about why I think you should at least consider doing a first look and breaking tradition!!

Real quick – just because I’m giving you the pros of a first look doesn't mean you HAVE to do a first look. No pressure from me, I always encourage my couples to celebrate in whatever way feels right to them. If you’ve always wanted to wait till your ceremony to see your partner, hell yeah! My goal is simply to make sure you’re aware of all your options when making that decision. Let’s dive right in!!

5 reasons to do a wedding day first look

1. To get extra, intimate time together

Think about it with me for a second. If you wait until your ceremony to see your partner, you’re basically spending half the day apart. You spend hours and hours getting ready in the morning with your friends. Just to finally get to see your actual future spouse. Only to have half the day left to celebrate with them! Why would you want to spend so little of your wedding day with the person you’re literally there to celebrate with?!

By doing a first look, you’ll get a chance to be with your partner in a quiet, private environment. All before celebrating with your guests and entering into the potential craziness of the day. You get time to breathe and be present with each other. So that you can take it allll in rather than rush right into the party. From my experience, couples always seem calmer when they’ve been able to do a first look and have that intentional time together!

Take Ellie + Justin, for example: they both got riad at the riad we stayed at in Morocco. Then they moved to a quiet space to do a first look. This gave them time to enjoy being with each other and take in the emotions of the day before seeing their loved ones! Check out their Desert Moroccan Riad Intimate Wedding to see how stunning their entire day was!

Alisa + Kyle had a slightly different day. It was just them two the whole time, no guests, at their Sunrise Lake Powell Elopement. They already got to spend the whole day together, but their first look at sunrise overlooking Lake Powell gave them an intentional space to take in all their emotions + the beauty around them!

2. It helps your timeline run smoothly

If you’ve ever been a member of a wedding party or family of somebody getting married, you’ve probably experienced the rush of family photos that happens immediately after the ceremony. You’re all ready to party the night away, only to be called away by the DJ telling every family member to gather up for pictures. Then you have to wrangle up your five uncles who are already slightly tipsy to stand still for 15 minutes of photos!

If you do a first look, you’ll actually be able to take most of your wedding party & family photos before your ceremony! If you don’t see each other until your ceremony, you can’t be together for family photos, so you’re forced to wait till after.

By getting more photos out of the way before the ceremony. You can finish your ceremony and get straight to enjoying time with your loved ones. Instead of having to spend 45+ minutes on photos! This means you won’t fall behind if family photos take a while and you won’t have to stress about gathering everybody up after they’ve already wandered away from the ceremony site.

3. You can actually be a part of your cocktail hour

Since you typically have to do all of your photos after your ceremony, you really don’t get a chance to attend your own damn cocktail hour!! Who wants to spend time grouping family members up for 100 photos when you could be enjoying the cocktail hour you paid for?

If you get photos out of the way before your ceremony. You can check that off your list & ACTUALLY enjoy cocktail hour with your loved ones! Eat all the snacks you paid for, drink the drinks you hired a bartender to make and enjoy mingling with the guests you invited. What’s the point of cocktail hour if the honored couple can’t even be there?

4. A chance to read vows, letters, or exchange gifts in private

If you’re somebody who gets nervous in front of crowds, or would just rather keep your intimate vows within the privacy of you and your partner, a first look is perfect for that!! This time alone gives you so many opportunities for super special, memorable moments together.

In the past, I’ve seen couples make first looks their own. They do this by writing letters to each other and reading them just before seeing each other. This builds up that emotion - just like Emma & Trent did! They wrote letters to each other beforehand and read them prior to their first look, which made the moment that much sweeter. Their reactions to seeing each other were priceless!

OR, instead of doing vows at your ceremony in front of everyone, you can do them together during your first look in private! Nobody needs to hear your intimate vows if you don’t want them to. Madeline + Mikell had a beautiful first look in the forest, where they read their vows to each other under the gorgeous trees at Loloma Lodge. It was the sweetest moment to witness!

In the past, couples have made it their own by writing letters to each other and reading them just before seeing each other to build up that emotion. OR instead of doing vows at the ceremony and in front of everyone, they will do them together during their first look in private

5. No need to rush through photos later on 

Finally, doing a first look means you get another opportunity for portraits of just the two of you!

Sometimes weddings run so late that we’re forced to rush through the sunset photos we planned, and I always want to avoid that if possible. I never want to have to rush through these emotional photos - I’d rather you have the opportunity to take in the day and be present with each other!

After your first look, we can do tons more portraits of the two of you! Then if for whatever reason we don’t have time for sunset photos - or you’d rather hit the dance floor and be with your guests - we can absolutely do that. 

Especially if you’re having a wedding during the fall or winter months. If you choose to not do a first look, I recommend having a second shooter since we’ll have less hours of sunlight. If I have a second shooter, they can help me get all the best angles in a shorter amount of time so we can really take advantage of the light we do have!

First look alternatives

If you want to stick to tradition and not see each other until your ceremony. Yet, you still want SOME way to interact with each other before your ceremony, there are totally ways to do that!!

A “first touch” without seeing each other

One option is to find a spot where you can do a “first touch". Find a spot where you can stand back to back or around the corner from each other so that you can hold hands/embrace without seeing each other. Then you can talk for a few minutes, read vows, or just breathe it all in, and be present with each other while avoiding actually seeing one another. 

Give each other letters

The easiest way to have some sort of touchpoint before your ceremony without seeing each other is to write letters & read them while you get ready! I can pass along letters to & from each of you, and you can read them separately while you get ready, or once you’re in your wedding attire. This helps build up that emotion and will get you extra excited to see your partner at the ceremony!

What about parent first looks?

Lately I’ve seen more and more couples do their first look with their PARENTS, too, and I’m absolutely loving it!! Whether or not you do a first look with your partner. A first look can also be a super special way to see your parent(s) for the first time that day. Bride & dad first looks always get me teary eyed!

Wedding day timelines with & without a first look

Sometimes it’s hard to visualize what your day will look like without writing it out. Here are two timeline examples, with and without first looks to help you see what your wedding day could potentially look like! The main difference is that with a first look, we have time to knock out photos before your ceremony. This means I may photograph slightly less of your reception, depending on the amount of time you hire me for.

(These are super simple timelines without any specific activities listed out, just for the sake of example!)

Sample 9-hour wedding timeline with a first look

1:00-2:00 - Getting ready + detail photos

2:00-2:30 - First look + couples portraits

2:30-3:30 - Family + wedding party photos

4:00-4:30 - Ceremony

4:30-5:30 - Cocktail hour

5:30-6:15 - Dinner

6:15-10:00 - Reception + party! (wedding games, cake cutting, sunset portraits, dances, etc.)

Sample 9-hour wedding timeline without a first look

1:00-2:45 - Getting ready + detail photos

2:45-3:30 - Separate wedding party photos

4:00-4:30 - Ceremony

4:30-5:30 - Cocktail hour / family + full wedding party photos + couple portraits

5:30-6:15 - Dinner

6:15-10:00 - Reception + party! (wedding games, cake cutting, sunset portraits, dances, etc.)

Now that you know what a first look is and the benefits of doing one. I hope you’re excited to make the decision and see what feels right for the two of you! I’ll always encourage you to do what will make your wedding day the best experience possible. If you’re ready to start planning your dream day and want my help planning - say hello here & we’ll get this thing started!

For more helpful wedding tips, check out some of my recent favorite resources below!!

5 Reasons Why You Need to Order a Personalized Wedding Album

My Top 10 Tips for Killer Engagement Photo Outfits

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