6 Reasons to Consider Doing a First Look At Your Wedding

May 7, 2024


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First looks have become more and more popular at weddings over the past few years, especially since COVID happened and kinda turned the wedding industry on its head + made everyone question everything they thought they knew. Traditions? Who needs ‘em! Big wedding days? Nah, let’s elope instead! If following every single wedding tradition in the books isn’t quite your thing, then you’re in the right place. Because today, I’m giving you the breakdown of wedding day first looks: what they are, how they affect your timeline, 6 reasons to consider having one, and more. By the end of this blog, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of what a first look is + whether or not it’s the right decision for your wedding day!

What is a First Look?

Traditionally, you and your partner won’t see each other until the moment you walk down the aisle at your wedding, which is a beautiful moment and one that is important to a lot of couples! However, a first look can be just as special—if not more. 

A first look is when you and your partner see each other for the first time BEFORE your ceremony, rather than when you meet at the altar. If you’re a traditionalist, I know that can sound kinda crazy! Seeing your babe in their wedding attire before the ceremony is bad luck, isn’t it?! Let me tell you a little secret: it doesn’t have to be.

Some cultures do believe that breaking certain traditions on the wedding day can cause bad luck in your marriage, but if that’s not something that align with you and your vision for your wedding, that’s totally okay! Doing a first look does NOT mean your marriage will fail or that your wedding day will go terribly, it’s simply an alternative to the traditional altar first look that just feels better for some couples. 

FAQ’s About Wedding First Looks

Now that you know what a first look is, you might have a few more burning questions—let’s dive into some FAQ’s about how first looks can impact your wedding day.

Is there a right or wrong choice?

No way! While I will be sharing some of my personal opinions, and highlighting the reasons that I think doing a first look can be so incredibly special, by NO means is that me saying that having a first look is the “right” way to do it. There’s no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to first looks, or even when it comes to your wedding day as a whole, for that matter; all that’s important is that you make the decision that is best for YOU. I simply want to show you all of your options and then you can make an informed decision for the two of you 🙂

If first looks are the trend now, is it less special to choose NOT to have one?

Absolutely not!! If you and your boo have your hearts set on seeing each other for the first time at the altar (whether it be because you love the tradition, it’s part of your culture, or you simply prefer it over a pre-ceremony first look), the moment will still be so, SO special. One of my previous couples, Mallori and Brian, didn’t see each other until she walked down the aisle, and just look at Brian’s reaction to seeing his bride for the first time! No matter how you choose to do your first look, the most important thing is that it’s special for you. The anticipation leading up to your wedding day will be exciting and cause all the feels whether you see each other at 11am for a first look or at 1pm for your ceremony!

Can we have a first look if we’re eloping?

Totally! All of the info & advice in this blog post applies to any kind of wedding, whether you’re having a large celebration at a venue or a private ceremony in the mountains. Though there are a few points that might not be quite as applicable for elopements, e.g. you won’t necessarily be saving as much time on family photos because, if you’re eloping, chances are you barely have any guests present anyway. If you’re eloping, just take from this blog post what makes sense for you and ignore whatever doesn’t!

How does having a first look affect your day-of wedding timeline?

Oooh great question. Having a first look definitely affects the way you plan out your wedding day timeline, in that you’ll need more time before your ceremony than you would if you weren’t having a first look. I’m actually going to dive a bit deeper into this throughout the next few sections of this blog post, so keep on reading to hear about the impact of a first look on your schedule!

Want to see some example timelines with & without a first look? Skip to that section here!

What are the pros & cons of doing a first look?

This is a hard one, because I don’t really like to say that there are any “cons;” like I said before, it’s less about making the “right” choice and more about making the one that is best for your unique relationship & your celebration. But I do know it can be helpful to have a quick list to look at, where you can kind of check off what sounds most like the two of you—so rather than a pros & cons list, here are a few simple ways to know whether or not you should do a first look!

You should do a first look if. . .

  • You want to spend as MUCH time together as possible on your wedding day
  • You don’t really care about tradition
  • You don’t want your first moment with each other to be surrounded by your guests
  • You want to get family and wedding party photos done before your reception (more on that in the next section of this blog)
  • You want private time together to exchange gifts, or to say your vows without an audience

You shouldn’t do a first look if. . .

  • You’ve been dreaming of that moment seeing each other at the altar
  • You want to see each other for the first time in front of your family & friends
  • You value tradition
  • You’re not super nervous about seeing each other, or about reading your vows in front of an audience
  • You don’t have a lot of photography coverage/enough coverage to document the whole day with a first look included

6 Reasons to Consider Doing at First Look At Your Wedding

As a photographer who’s been to MANY a wedding (obviously) and worked with all kinds of different couples, I’ve definitely formed my own opinion about first looks—but again, this isn’t to sway you one way or another, it’s just to share all the possibilities with you! Here are the top 6 reasons you should consider doing a first look at your wedding

1. It gives you extra time for privacy & intimacy

You know how you’ve been dying to show your partner the dress or suit that you’ve been hiding for months? There’s SO much anticipation as you’re getting ready that seeing your person for the first time can lead to a lot of emotions for the two of you to share, and for some couples they’re extra special when they can be in private! As you get ready to celebrate your wedding with everyone that you love, it’s important to take these moments alone (which can be rare on a wedding day) to remember what your wedding day is all about: YOU. To celebrate together. To cry, laugh, smile together. A first look is just one way that you can keep your day centered around the two of you and be present with just each other, before you meet back up with your guests.

2. It’s a perfect time for other meaningful moments 

Not only are first looks a great time to share a quiet moment together before the craziness of the day takes over; they’re also a beautiful time to create other memories and incorporate special, personal touches into that private moment! This could look like sharing gifts, reading letters to each other, praying together, etc. Many of my couples have even chosen to do private vow readings during their first look, which is a really special option and is especially great if you’re feeling nervous about reading your personal, sentimental vows in front of everyone. There’s zero pressure because in this moment, it is just the two of you (and me casually snapping pics in the background); you don’t have the eyes and ears of 50+ people watching and listening to you as you share your most personal thoughts and feelings. And if you have gifts you want to give each other, you can do that during your first look rather than having to open your gifts separately while you’re getting ready!

3. The photos will be some of your favorites to hold onto

Of course, as your photographer I’m biased toward getting you the best photos possible of your day, but can you blame me? Capturing the first look allows me to photograph both of you together at a really unique moment of the day, when the emotions are overflowing and you don’t have to worry about anyone but yourselves. When the first look happens during the ceremony, you won’t be in the photos together, since one of you will be at the altar and one will be walking down the aisle—which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong! But those first look photos are so full of powerful emotion and can be some of the best to look back on years down the road. I’m always in awe that I get to witness and photograph these moments because they’re truly some that you’ll never forget.

4. You get more time together throughout your wedding day

I’m assuming you probably want to spend as much time together on your wedding day as possible, right? After all, I think you do love each other quite a bit, seeing as though you’re making a lifelong commitment to one another or whatever 😉 If you don’t do a first look, then you won’t be seeing each other until your ceremony, and you’ll pretty much only have your cocktail hour/reception to celebrate together. But if you do a first look, you can see each other hours before your ceremony and have WAY more time with one another throughout the day! Why wouldn’t you want to spend as much time together on your wedding day as you can, making memories with one another and with your guests from morning till night?! If you want even more time together, you can also get ready in the same room rather than separate ones—but I’ll save that for another blog post in the future.

5. You get more time with your guests after your ceremony

If you do a first look, often times your photographer will be able to get a lot of the family & wedding party photos out of the way before your ceremony—which means you get more time to spend as a group once the ceremony is over, rather than having to gather everyone for 45+ minutes of photos when all you really wanna do is go get some yummy food and drinks. Your first look is also the perfect time to take portraits together, which means your photographer won’t need to steal you away for quite as long after the ceremony is over. What does that mean? Well, it means you can spend a whole lot more time with the people you’ve invited to celebrate with you, instead of missing out on your own party because you have to make sure you get photos of the two of you together!

For tips on how to make your family photos go smoothly, check out my guide to Wedding Family Formals!

6. It can ease the wedding day jitters

I hear alllll the time from my couples how nervous they are as they get ready, and as soon as they see each other that first time, it all just disappears. Nothing matters but that moment with your person, admiring how dang amazing they look and breathing in all the joy of starting a new chapter together—and if you can choose to have that moment earlier on in the day + get rid of the nerves earlier, why wouldn’t you?! First looks are a great option for couples who are feeling extra anxious and want to be together ASAP once their big day arrives.

Sample Wedding Day Timelines With & Without First Looks

Finally, I wanted to give you a couple of sample wedding day timelines both with & without a first look, to show you the differences! Keep in mind that these are JUST for the sake of example, and the schedule & flow of your wedding day will be totally dependent on a bunch of other factors such as how many guests you have, how many hours you have your venue booked for, how much photography coverage you have, etc. But hopefully these can help you start to visualize what your day could look like both with and without a pre-ceremony first look!

9-Hour Wedding Timeline With a First Look

1:30 pm – Coverage begins; detail + venue photos

2:30 pm – Getting ready photos

3:15 pm – Final touches

3:35 pm – Head to first look spot 

3:40 pm – First look, portraits, + private vows

4:15 pm – Family + wedding party photos

5:15 pm – Final ceremony prep

5:30 pm – Ceremony

6:00 pm – Cocktail hour + sign marriage license

7:15 pm – Dinner

8:00 pm – Toasts + speeches

8:30 pm – Cake cutting

8:45 pm – First dances

9:00 pm – Open dancing

10:30 pm – Coverage ends

9-Hour Wedding Timeline Without a First Look

3:00 pm – Coverage begins; detail + venue photos

4:00 pm – Getting ready photos

4:45 pm – Final touches

5:00 pm – Final ceremony prep

5:30 pm – Ceremony

6:00 pm – Sign marriage license

6:10 pm – Cocktail hour; family + wedding party photos

7:30 pm – Dinner

8:15 pm – Toasts + speeches

8:30 pm – Cake cutting

8:45 pm – Sunset photos

9:15 pm – First dances

9:30 pm – Wedding games

10:00 pm – Open dancing

12:00 am – Sendoff; coverage ends

Now all of these are just some of my reasons why I think first looks are the best and can be SO special on your wedding day. But ultimately, you need to consider what’s most important to you as a couple: do you want that moment to be private, or do you want to invite everyone into it with you? How emotional of a moment will it be for the two of you, and as a result of that, should you give yourselves some private time to enjoy it? How might having a first look affect the timeline you’re hoping for? No matter what you choose, that moment should be right for YOU, and I’ll support you wholeheartedly either way. Reach out now to start planning your dream wedding day + if you need help deciding whether a first look is right for your day!

More wedding + elopement resources comin’ at ya!

Elopement vs. Wedding: Which Should You Choose?

How to Tell Your Family That You’re Eloping

Ultimate List of the Top 15 Seattle Wedding Venues

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