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The Pros and Cons of Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day

August 1, 2017

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Timeline suggestions for weddings with both a First Look AND without a First Look! 

Hi, there!  I am so glad you decided to hop over and spend some time chatting with me about whether or not to have a First Look!  It’s sorta been all the rage over the past few years, but in my time working with couples, I’ve realized a few things about this whole First Look thing and there’s one BIG myth about having a First Look that I want to address.  Lastly, I’ll throw in a little bit of my own personal opinion on the topic.  Now, let’s get to it!

Pros of Having A First Look
1.  Allows for Natural Light Portraits.  If you are planning an evening wedding, and especially in the winter months, you’ve probably already considered that it may be dark outside during the ceremony.  A first look allows you to take photos prior to the ceremony when there is still a lot of dreamy, natural light outside.  This is especially important if you are working with a natural light photographer and you are expecting your wedding day portraits to be true to the style of that photographer.  Otherwise, you’d need to be sure you hire a photographer who is proficient in the use of flash and that you are happy with all of your portriats being taken by that means.

2.  Allows for Quiet Time Together.  Wedding days can be cray-ZAY, friends.  And while you may think you’ll be able to embrace all of the special moments that come your way during the day, it’s sometimes not an easy feat. So many times, I have had couples tell me how quickly the day passed…they didn’t get to visit with their Aunt Sue that flew all the way in from Germany…or really sit down and eat dinner…much less really SEE each other.  A First Look ensures that, at a minimum, you will have a few quiet moments together–just the two of you (and your photographer, of course). You actually get to LOOK in each other’s eyes, take in all the details…the veil your mother made from her old wedding dress, the cufflinks you gave your groom as a gift, the way your groom’s face lights up when he turns to see you for the first time.  Much of the remainder of the day will be busy, so this is your time to take it all in. Together.

3.  Eases Nerves. If you or your groom struggle with anxiety, a First Look may definitely be something you’d want to consider.  Several of my couples have been super anxious about having SO many eyes on them when they walk down the aisle, and the idea of having to see each other for the first time with 200 pairs of eyes looking their way made them want to get sick.  If this sounds like you, having a First Look provides you with an opportunity to share that moment in private, get the anxiety out of the way (or at least under control), and move forward with your wedding day.

4.  Lets You Enjoy Your Own Cocktail Hour.  If you have a First Look, you have the opportunity to plan ALL of your wedding photos gets most photos out of the way pre-ceremony and be able to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests.  Several MRP couples who are largely focused on spending quality time with their friends and family have chosen a First Look for this reason.

Cons of Having A First Look
1. Mid-Day Lighting Is Harsh.  This is something to consider depending on your photography timeline.  If you are having a summmer, 5pm wedding, for example, you’d be looking at a First Look around 3:00 pm.  Mid-day, overhead sunlight is not ideal for portraits. As always, your photographer can help with this, so talk with her about any questions regarding timing and lighting as it arises.

2. You Prefer Strict Tradition.  While my personal train of thought is that your wedding is YOURS and you can do whatever you want, not everyone agrees with me and that’s ok!  If you or your family is SUPER traditional and wavering from the standard routine will NOT go over well, then you may not want to have a First Look.  More and more couples are choosing to incorporate a First Look into their day, but it’s still ok to choose a more traditional approach, especially if one of you OR your family has a very strong opinion about it.

3. You Are Superstitious.  As you probably already know, it’s supposed to be bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding day.  I don’t believe in this stuff, but if you do, you won’t want to jinx your entire marriage just to have portraits prior to the ceremony!

4. Your Day Starts Earlier.  Because you will be able to plan for all of your wedding photos to take place prior to the ceremony, you, your wedding party, and your family (or whoever you’d like photographed ahead of time) will have to be present and read earlier in the day.  Sometimes family members, especially those with small children, may find it inconvenient to do this, so be mindful of who you’d be asking to arrive early and how that will impact the flow of your day.  That being said, your family and friends love you and will do what you need them to for your day to go as you’d like.


Having a First Look Decreases the Emotion of the Walk Down the Aisle.  In my experience, I have never known this to be true.  Even when you chose a First Look, the moment you face each other at opposite ends of the aisle is FULL of emotion.  This is the first time you are surrounded by the folks who love you most as you prepare to say your vows and become married.  NOTHING can decrease the significance of this moment.  And ladies, if you are wanting tears, you’ll still get them! ūüėČ

Personal Opinion

My two sense, for what it’s worth is this:

-No couple who has ever chosen to do a First Look has regretted it.  Even the most hesitant grooms (for some reason they tend to hold onto tradition more than my brides) often tell me afterwards that they enjoyed the time with their bride and were so glad they decided to include the First Look in their day.

-At almost ALL weddings I’ve photographed where the couple decides NOT to have a First Look, it is rushed to complete the photos after the ceremony and the couple is eager to get to the par-tay!  This is completely understandable! Who doesn’t want to celebrate such an occasion. However, when the wedding day is over and the honeymoon has come to an end, you are left with your photos.  That’s it.  If you realistically will want to get to your party and cannot commit to allowing ample time after the ceremony for all family photos, all wedding party photos, AND all portraits, consider the First Look.  I promise you will want more than 5 images of you and your new spouse.

-If one partner has a VERY strong opinion on the matter and absolutely does not want to do a First Look, even after explaining the benefits and why it would be important, let it go.  It’s not worth arguing over, and your photographer will help you make sure your timeline is solid and allows for enough portrait times.  Just be sure to communicate with your photographer ahead of time to address issues such as what time the sun goes down and how long you will need to allow to capture the images you want.

Lastly, I’ve found that every single couple is different.  Some couples are completely comfortable with throwing tradition to the wind and planning their wedding day to the beat of their own drum, and that’s GREAT!  I’ve also worked with couples who are more conservative and want to stick to the very traditional structure of wedding days they’ve experienced for years, and this is equally as GREAT!  There truly is NO right or wrong when it comes to this, and no photographer should make you feel as though there is.  This is YOUR day, and you should be happy with ALL of it. Make the decision that is best for YOU!

I hope by now  you’ve had a chance to check out our first edition, 10 Tips to Creating A Solid Wedding Day Timeline.  If not, you can find it here.  Until then, take a look at some First Looks of a few MRP couples!  I just LOVE these moments!

  1. […] to business and a LOT of content in the¬†first two posts in the series which you can find here and here, but today will be a bit lighter.¬†¬†We are going to take a look at¬†ALLL the things about […]

  2. […] to business and a LOT of content in the¬†first two posts in the series which you can find here and here, but today will be a bit lighter.¬†¬†We are going to take a look at¬†ALLL the things about […]

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I'm Michelle, and I'm so happy you're here. This blog a journal about our lives and my work as a wedding photographer.

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As a wedding photographer in Virginia, and beyond, for over a decade, I don't arrive to a wedding day without a solid timeline.  Click below to get a sample of my wedding day timeline, both with and without a First Look.

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