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First Looks are the hot topic of the century!! They are probably one of the most talked about debates in the wedding industry and everyone has an opinion! This blog post is meant to help you understand the differences between having a first look and not having one! There are NO CONS to either option so there will only be a positive list for both to help you decide which is the right decision for you! Hopefully this blog post helps you as you start to plan YOUR perfect wedding day!

What is a First Look?

First Looks are brought up by every wedding photographer, videographer, planner, couple – everybody wants to know “Will you be doing a first look?” Well what is it exactly? Although hard to define because it could encompass a wide variety of activities, a first look is known as a short period of time BEFORE your wedding ceremony where the couple does a “reveal” and see each other before you walk down the aisle.

A first look can include a variety of moments such as vow reading, letter reading, couple portraits, or just time with each other to say hey, how’s it going and get the pre-wedding jitters out of your stomach! We’ll talk about that more later! Let’s dive into whether or not a first look is right for you!

A first look is right for you if…

You want to get to your reception ASAP

You’ve just finished saying “I do” and walk down the aisle, it’s time to take a few pictures and head on to the reception! If you have a first look before your ceremony, you will likely take care of 90% of your portraits before you even walk down the aisle! This includes wedding party (both individuals and all together), family portraits (both with the couple and with the individual partners), and your couple portraits! This is a SOLID 45 minutes of portraits – DONE! You don’t have to spend 45+ minutes after your ceremony taking portraits, wasting quality dancefloor + cocktail hour time! With a first look, we might grab a few with your grandparents or any remaining family after the ceremony, and then a few of you two with your new bling on your fingers and then bam! Time to party!!

You want to have the maximum amount of time with each other

This is probably the biggest pro to having a first look! You’ve heard that wedding days fly by and you probably won’t remember it or take time to soak it all in. This is so true and definitely one of the better reasons to have a first look! Whenever you do a first look, not only is it private and typically away from prying eyes or your wedding party and family, but it’s a time for you two to see each other and really chat. So many couples during a first look will just sit there holding hands talking about their day or how they picked their wedding dress or suit jacket, maybe even just sitting in a hug together. At the end of the day, your wedding day is all about YOU TWO and that typically gets lost in the chaos of things. You can spend anywhere from 20-60 minutes in a first look taking couple portraits, exploring the venue or surrounding area, then 30 minutes with your wedding party, more with your family, and then even sit together as you wait and watch your guests arrive from a nearby window. There’s no rules when it comes to first looks so you could spend as much time together as you’d like!

This is also a great time to get away those pre wedding jitters and nerves out the way!

You want to have a private vow reading

When you write vows you write them for each other, not for your parents, family, friends, officiant, or even me. And you may want them to stay that way – private. This is 1000% okay and totally possible when you do a first look. Trust me, no one needs to know your deep dark secrets for each other 🙂 Once you do the big reveal, you can whip out your vow books, letters, or rehearsal dinner napkin you wrote on and read each other your vows in private. You can even kick me, aka hopefully your wedding photographer, out of the area as well and make it just you two. Again, your wedding day is a day about celebrating the love and bond you two have, and if that includes private vows for only your ears to hear then so be it!

I would like to add that during the private vow readings I’ve been a part of, I have barely heard a word, maybe 10% of the actual vows because I’m focused on pictures and often leave a lot of space in between us to give you privacy and not be in your face while reciting these vows! Hopefully that helps put your mind at ease about a photographer or videographer being around for your private vows

You want to have your ceremony at sunset

Should you choose to have a first look, the bulk of your portraits will be completed before you ever walk down the aisle, like we talked about! With that chunk of time out of the way, you can have your ceremony at exactly golden hour, just like this wedding on top of a mountain in Joshua Tree, because we don’t need daylight for portraits after the ceremony. Not having a first look would require at least an hour of daylight after your ceremony, making “golden hour I do’s” not preferable!

You are a traditionalist

Weddings come from a long line of traditions, a tale as old as time. If you want to wait and spend the day with your family, friends and wedding party and wait to see your soon-to-be-spouse as one of you walks down the aisle, then by all means, wait! Let the anticipation build, the jitters fluttering in your stomach and get ready for your big reveal down the aisle!

You don’t care about getting to your reception right away

Should you choose not to have a first look, you will need to reserve AT LEAST an hour after your ceremony finishes for pictures! These pictures are the “typical necessities” such as; both of you with each set of parents, grandparents, siblings, maybe even aunts, uncles and cousins, both of you with all wedding party, and then of course the couple portraits of the two of you in pure wedding bliss!!

Your ceremony is midday

If your ceremony is early morning, sunrise or early afternoon, you might not need to do a first look! Like we talked about timing your ceremony around sunset, if you have hours of daylight after your ceremony, then there’s plenty of time to take portraits after and no need to rush it or have it before.

Your timeline doesn’t allow for it

If your timeline is on a time crunch or your photography coverage doesn’t allow for it, not doing a first look may be preferable. Whenever you participate in a first look, portraits can be dragged out and plentiful! Whenever you save portraits for after the ceremony, they tend to be more rushed and faster paced, with less shots per group. If this is your cup of tea and you don’t want a ton of photos, then by all means, don’t do a first look if you don’t want it!

Myths About Having a First Look

“He won’t cry when he sees me”

Lemme tell you one thing. I have seen approximately 4 guys cry when their future spouse walked down the aisle. It’s truly not as common as you think! HOWEVER, I have seen people with A LOT of emotion during first looks, walks down the aisle, and generally throughout the day. Just because they didn’t cry, doesn’t mean they don’t have emotions flowing through their body! Whenever I capture them standing at the front watching you walk down, they have the biggest most genuine smile on their faces. One that shows that their partner is the only person they see and only thing they care about. Crying may come, but it may not. First looks don’t take away the emotion 🙂 Just look at the photos later on where the groom bawled crying at the first look, vow reading AND the ceremony as she walked down the aisle!

“It’s selfish to have a first look, our family has nothing to do for 30+ minutes”

This is 100% a personal opinion and my advice to you, so take it with a grain of salt if you’d like! However, your wedding day is exactly that. YOURS. It’s about you two and the love you have for each other, it’s a celebration of your relationship and the start of your married life together! I personally believe it’s more than okay to take time to yourself, in private, to embrace each other, read vows, and take a few pictures! 

“But we can’t kiss during a first look”

Why the hell not? 😉

Things to do during a first look to make it even more special

First looks can be as simple as you’d like or more complex! Here’s a list of ideas you could do during a first look to make it even more special and personalized to you two.

  • Read private vows
  • Read letters you write to each other
  • Read Bible or Spiritual passages
  • Practice your first dance
  • Create a sand Hourglass
  • Sing songs together, play guitar
  • Eat snacks together (because let’s be real, you’re probably hungry)
  • Pop champagne and have yourselves a lil toast
  • Explore the grounds

Sample Timelines with & without a first look

Timelines can be confusing! Every photographer does them a little differently, but this is roughly what the timeline differences would look like!

Sample Timeline with a First look (7 hour coverage)

3:00 – Photography coverage begins – detail pictures, PJs, getting ready, etc.

3:30 – Couple gets dressed (30 minutes)

4:15 – First Look with the couple – vow reading, portraits to follow

5:00 – Wedding Party portraits, both individual + together

5:30 – Family portraits, both individual + together

6:00 – Couple down time as guests arrive

6:30 – Ceremony Begins (30 minutes)

7:00 – Sunset

7:00 – Ceremony Ends + Couple portraits during golden hour(10 minutes)

7:10 – Couple enters Cocktail Hour/ Reception

10:00 – Reception ends

Sample Timeline without a First Look (7 hour coverage)

2:00 – Photography coverage begins – detail pictures, PJs, getting ready, etc.

3:00 – Couple gets dressed (45 minutes)

3:45 – Wedding Party portraits, individual only

4:10 – Family portraits, only individual

4:30 – Individual Bride + groom portraits / downtime

4:45 – Couple down time as guests arrive

5:15 – Ceremony Begins (30 minutes)

5:45 – Ceremony Ends

5:55 – Family Portraits together

6:15 – Wedding Party Pictures

6:35 – Couple Portraits through golden hour

7:10 – Couple enters Cocktail Hour/ Reception

9:00 – Reception ends

My thoughts about first looks

There’s a lot of “hoorah” about first looks. There’s debates, opinions, thoughts, comments, questions, concerns – you name it. I love a first look, I truly do. I selfishly love getting to spend as much time with my couple together as possible. I love being able to provide my couple with the maximum amount of gorgeous, emotion-filled photos from their wedding day.

All of this said, my opinion doesn’t matter. Nor does your photographer, videographer, wedding planner, mom, dad, mother-in-law’s, father-in-law’s, brother, sister, venue – anybody. Our opinions don’t matter because the only people whose opinion matters is you two’s! It is YOUR wedding day. It only matters how YOU want to spend it!


This article was meant not to tell you how to run your wedding day or tell you to do a first look or not. It was meant to guide you into making the best decision for your wedding day to get exactly what you want!!

Need some more help deciding? I would be so happy to help you and create a custom timeline just for you and your wedding day to create your perfect day! I’d be happy to talk through your decision with you and give you even more examples! Reach out to me and let’s chat to create your most perfect day!!

If you loved the tips I gave you in this blog, I know you’ll adore another wedding resource blog I posted recently: What Exactly is a Flat Lay & 25 Things to Include

Examples of First Looks

Author:

May 1, 2024

A couple reads private vows during their first look in a greenhouse.

First Look vs No First Look (with sample timelines!)

Whitney Stark

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  1. Naomi Levit says:

    Such a great post about first looks! This is a great resource for couples getting married. Love it!

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