First Look Pros and Cons

To First Look or Not?

If this is the first time you’ve heard this next sentence then hold onto your butt because it definitely won’t be the last! Your wedding day goes by in a blurr. It’s one of the best days of your life, and it goes by so fast. SO FAST! With that in mind, I have a lot of couples ask me my thoughts on whether or not they should do a first look. I’m working on a series of blog posts to help with the little details of wedding planning, and I thought a helpful place to start might be looking at all the pros and cons of the ever-popular first look. ๐Ÿ™‚

For all my traditionalists out there, I’m going to start with the cons. And, honestly, there aren’t very many of them.

Reasons to Skip a First Look

Groom seeing bride coming down the aisle for the first time without a first look.
This is the Big Aisle Moment most couples who choose to not do a first look are hoping to have!

Con #1

Skipping the first look protects your big “aisle moment.”
This is probably the number one reason people decide not to do a first look. They’re picturing the Aisle Moment. Like Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses talks about when she says her favorite moment in the whole wedding is when the bride is about to walk down the aisle; the crowd stands up, and everyone is trying to get that first glimpse of her. But she prefers to watch the groom’s face to see his reaction to seeing his bride for the first time. People fear that doing a first look will make the aisle moment less impactful because the groom has already seen the bride.

Con #2

Adding a first look can make the pre-ceremony timeline tighter
If you decide to do a first look then you effectively add an extra “event” prior to your ceremony. This may mean starting hair and makeup a little earlier. It may mean less time to hang out in matching robes with your girls. If a slow, relaxed pre-ceremony time with the girls is a priority then a first look may not serve you best.

And, honestly, guys? That’s all I’ve got for cons. So, we’re moving on to the pros. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Reasons to Have a First Look

Tearful moment during a bride and groom's first look-- these moments are always so sweet!!

Pro #1

Adding a first look protects your big aisle moment.
I know that con #1 literally says the exact opposite of this, but stay with me for just a second. My husband and I decided against a first look on our wedding day, and I don’t regret that choice. But, if we were going to go back in time and get married all over again, this is the number one thing I’d change from our wedding day. Our wedding included a LOT of guests. Our aisle was fairly long. These two things kind of messed up my big aisle moment for two reasons. First, my husband isn’t a super emotional guy. And having 250 pairs of eyes on him to see how he was reacting to seeing me for the first time meant that he wasn’t about to crack. And second I had a long enough walk down the aisle that I couldn’t even see his reaction anyway. But, I think that if we’d done a first look all of that would have been different. With just the two of us, he wouldn’t have felt like he had to hide an emotional response. And, obviously, it would’ve just been the two of us, so seeing everything would not have been a problem.

Pro #2

Adding a first look gives you more time with your guests.
Including a first look in your day gives you the option of taking all of your portraits before the wedding. Since hiding the bride from the groom isn’t necessary once he’s already seen her, you can go ahead and do bride and groom portraits, bridal party portraits, and family portraits before the ceremony. This allows you to actually attend your own cocktail hour! You can actually spend that time visiting with your guests!

Pro #3

You look better in your portraits if you do a first look.
I know this sounds like I’m being silly, but I really mean it. Think about it like this. The first thing of your day is getting ready. Your hair and makeup artist is a genius, and your hair and makeup have never been this perfect. Your bridesmaids look like they belong on the cover of a magazine. If the next thing on the timeline is your ceremony, and it’s a super hot summer day– or humid or windy– and then portraits aren’t until after the ceremony? Your hair and makeup will have already been subjected to the heat/humidity/wind during your whole ceremony. It probably won’t still be perfect after 30+ minutes of hot/humid/wind. You might be sweaty and windblown. But, adding a first look can change all of that. Instead of going straight from getting ready to the ceremony, you can go straight from getting ready to PORTRAITS! Your hair and makeup are still perfect. Your bridal party still looks magazine worthy. You look better in your portraits if you do a first look.

Pro #4

You get more portraits if you do a first look.
Since a first look allows you to take all of your portraits before your ceremony AND enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests you can also fit in 15 minutes of just bride and groom sunset portraits. Your first pictures as husband and wife! And, from that extra 15 minutes you can count on about 30% more portraits in your final gallery. ๐Ÿ™‚

The joy on a groom's face seeing his bride during their first look.

Pro #5

A first look gives you a few minutes to just be.
As I already stated, your wedding day goes by in a total blur (see, I told you that you’d hear this a lot!). Even if it only takes 10 minutes, adding in a first look gives you 10 minutes to just be with your soon-to-be spouse. People tend to be super respectful of a first look. They give you space. Even though the whole moment is being photographed, I tend to use my longest lens to photograph first looks. Most other photographers I know do as well. You really are given those few moments in total privacy to just soak up your last few moments as fiances. There is no other moment like this in the wedding day if you opt out of the first look.

So, Do We Have To Do One?

Even without a first look, we'll always get beautiful wedding portraits!

Ok, I just threw a lot of information at you. Please read this and know that I am in no way trying to tell you how to plan your wedding. I photograph so many weddings where the bride and groom decide not to do a first look, and THAT IS TOTALLY FINE! I make a custom timeline for all of my couples, so I will make SURE that we fit everything in whether you choose to do a first look or not. And I will do everything in my power to make your day run smoothly whether you opt for the first look or not. You will have beautiful portraits no matter what. And your vendors truly do not mind one way or the other. We’re there to serve you and make your vision come to life. If that includes a first look, great! If not, still great! So, if you (or your groom!!) have always dreamed of that big aisle moment, and you just know that a first look will ruin that, then girl!! Hold out for your big aisle moment!! There is no right or wrong answer here. Do what makes you and your soon-to-be spouse happy. We (your vendors) are here for THAT!

And, if you’re looking for more help with wedding planning, then check out this blog series I wrote last year about planning a pandemic wedding!

Happy planning!

And tell me. What are your thoughts on a first look? I want to know!

A bride and groom enjoying their private first look

February 19, 2021

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Charlotte, NC Wedding Photographer