The No Pressure Pros and Cons of Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day

I am sure by now you have heard of a first look and understand the concept. But just in case you haven’t, I’ll give you a quick explanation! The first look is a special time set up for you and your soon-to-be spouse to see each other before the wedding day shenanigans begin. It occurs after you’re both dressed and ready and before formal portraits. This modern tradition allows formals of the bride and groom to be done before the ceremony instead of after. Now, many photographers prefer a first look. In fact, a lot of them require it. This is for good reason, as the first look does make the flow of the day go much smoother. But I feel there are pros and cons to be considered before making a decision whether or not to incorporate a first look into your wedding plans.  

As a wedding photographer who has shot a pretty equal number of both, I have seen the pros and cons of both play out and know how to counteract the negatives so that either option can be a workable and enjoyable experience. It really comes down to what is most important to you.  It’s your day, and I firmly believe that your vendors should try to accommodate your wishes as best as possible on your wedding day! 

So here are some things to consider when making this decision! A list of pros and cons for having a first look. 

1.    Pro: A first look really does make the day flow better. 

Kicking things off with a first look makes the whole day go as smooth as the frosting on your wedding cake! As a wedding photographer, I vow to make the portraits go as quickly and effortlessly as possible no matter what time of day. But even I know, a lot of people aren’t fans of having their pictures taken (*cough*groomsmen*cough*). Especially when they are just really excited for you and want to get to the party and start celebrating! Getting as many of the pictures as possible done before the ceremony even starts and with minimal distractions is such a great way to speed up the process and get this part out of the way early so everyone can relax and enjoy the rest of the day. 


2.    Con: The time of day is not ideal for outdoor portraits. 

Golden hour is no joke… it is the most beautiful light of the day and happens during the hour before sunset, while the most difficult lighting is around noon. Most often, a first look happens about 3-4 hours before the scheduled ceremony start time. Most ceremonies tend to happen between 3-5pm, which means portraits end up being (you guessed it) around noon. An experienced photographer is able to work with any light, but in all honesty, it is more of a challenge. I love to pull the bride and groom aside during that last 15 minutes of daylight to get some gorgeous, romantic golden hour shots whether you do a first look or not. Keep in mind too, depending on the time of year, outdoor portraits after the ceremony may not actually be possible (late Fall to early Spring the sun sets around 5:00pm). Now if your ceremony is earlier in the day, like 11:00 am or even 1:00/2:00pm, you may be better off keeping portraits after the ceremony so you have time for your hair and makeup appointments. 


3.    Pro: You’ll Look Your Best! 

Bride, you will look beautiful all day, I know that! But, imagine how amazing you’ll look right after hair and makeup! That’s when you’d be doing your pictures if you schedule a first look! Instead of after tears at the ceremony, the bottom of your white dress collecting dirt and dust, and wind-blown hair. The most important pictures are arguably the bride and groom and it’s so nice to look your absolute best for the portrait that will be blown up to the size of a movie poster and hung for all to see on that big wall in your living room. 

4.    Con: It Breaks the Tradition of Not Seeing Each Other Until the Aisle 

While most of us can agree that it’s really not “bad luck,” some bride’s still want that shock factor of her almost-husband seeing her in her wedding dress walking down the aisle. I totally get that! But here’s the thing... Your groom isn’t seeing the wedding dress. And he isn’t seeing the makeup and the hair. He’s seeing you. Everything he loves about you. The cute way you say that one word. The way your nose wrinkles when you laugh. How you always wait for him to watch your shows together. He’s seeing the years you’ve spent together and the future you’re going to build together. It doesn’t matter how many times he’s seen you before, it doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 days or 5 minutes, he’ll be seeing you for the first time in that moment and it will be just as special whether you’ve had a first look or not!  


5.    Pro: Your Guests Won’t Get Bored Waiting 

How many of us have been to a wedding where you get to the reception, grab a drink, and wait… and wait, and wait and wait. They probably didn’t do a first look. It saves so much time! I love that with a first look you finish the ceremony, maybe take some family photos afterward, and then head to your reception. A cocktail hour is still nice to have so you can make a grand entrance, but you likely won’t need any longer than that! To make it work for not doing a first look, we just hurry through the photos as quickly as possible. But I’ll be honest, you won’t get near as many images because of the limited time, and they’ll most likely all have to be at the same location. 

6.    Con: Too emotional of a moment for introverts?

Let’s face it, some people are just not very outwardly emotional.. There is this idea that the first look is supposed to be a big emotional moment and that it will be a disappointment if it isn’t. I wouldn’t want any of my couples to feel this pressure! So if you think one or both of you would not like a first look, it’s okay to skip it. Or if you think it’s cheesy, that’s fine too. But in my opinion, it’s just as wonderful to be happy and full of smiles than to shed tears of joy. It’s about you and your personalities, not any ideas of what “should” happen. I encourage couples to keep it true to you. Not into a first look but still want portraits before the ceremony? That’s cool too. The point is, this is about YOU, nobody else. 

7.    Pro: Seeing each other early in the day will calm your nerves. 

As wonderful of a day as it is, it’s also kind of nerve-racking. I was literally shaking down the aisle on my wedding day! That was ten years ago, before first looks were a thing. I’ve had so many couples tell me that as soon as they saw each other, hugged and chatted for a few minutes, they relaxed a ton. That’s your person, so of course he/she will make you feel better! Having a first look allows you spend more of your special day together and that makes it pretty great. I promise to use a long lens so I’m not up in your business during this intimate moment between the two of you. After getting a few shots to prove it happened, I like to step back and give you time to soak it all in. 


  So now that you have some information and ideas on first looks, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know in the comments if you are thinking yay or nay to doing a first look at your wedding! Already married? What did you do? If you could go back and redo your special day, would you change anything?