March 5, 2020

Four Reasons to do a First Look (plus one reason to NOT!)

One of my favorite things about being a wedding photographer is my ability to help guide and assist my brides and grooms as they plan their day. Being a part of so many wedding celebrations has given me a unique perspective on the ebb and flow of a wedding day: what helps, what works, and what gets in the way of a stress-free day! For today’s Bridal Basics post, I am going to talk about first looks! More importantly, I’ll share how incorporating a first look impacts REAL wedding days. Outside of choosing your ceremony time, this decision is the most important one you’ll make when creating your wedding day timeline!

I know some photographers really push for their couples to do a first look, but I always leave that decision up to my brides and grooms. However, like any decision, I believe it’s best to be well-educated on the topic before coming to a conclusion.

First looks may be a break from tradition, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically a bad idea! Here are four positive outcomes to consider when deciding on whether or not you want to do a first look on your wedding day. And don’t just take my word for it — throughout this post, I’ve scattered survey responses from past #samireneecouples who chose to do a first look, too! You’ll see their quotes in italics to separate their experience from my thoughts. Let’s get started!

Four Reasons to do a First Look

#1: Extend your time together

If you’re a bride who wants to maximize the amount of time you’ll spend with your groom, then a first look is 100% for you! Think about it: if your ceremony isn’t until 5:30pm, you won’t see each other until that time, too! It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget when planning the day. You could gain an extra two, three, or even FOUR hours together by choosing to do a first look. As an extra bonus, this also means you’ll have an easier time socializing with guests later on in the evening since you’ve already spent quality time together.

“A first look is also a great time to just spend time together before all the craziness begins. If you ask anyone they will tell you that your wedding day comes and goes so quickly, so having those few extra moments with your husband on your wedding day means a lot.”

“Our wedding was scheduled for late afternoon. We wanted to share the entire day together and enjoy taking pictures with our bridal party and families before the actual wedding. It was so great to see each other in the morning and spend all day with each other!”

#2: Enjoy the surprise of seeing each other freely

One of the main reasons grooms share that keep them from a first look is not wanting to lose the surprise of seeing their bride walk down the aisle for the first time. However, that surprise is not lost — you really just get to enjoy it twice! Without a first look, the first time your groom will see you will be in front of hundreds of people. You won’t be able to talk, or hug, or twirl around so he can see the back of your dress, either. With a first look, you’re able to enjoy seeing each other¬†freely — without the eyes of all your guests watching.

“It was exhilarating to see each other in our dress and tuxedo for the first time. We both cried and loved sharing the private moment together.”

And then, when you walk down the aisle a few hours later, the feeling is brand new all over again! Which brings us to our next point…

#3: It really doesn’t take away from the ceremony experience at all!

I feel like there’s not much I can say about this to convince you…so just take these examples from past brides and grooms to heart:

“Walking down the aisle was still very emotional for me. There are many factors that make that moment special. Of course walking down the aisle to your groom is #1 and for anyone who is wondering, I still cried seeing him at the end of the aisle waiting for me (and I’m not much of a crier, I didn’t even cry during the first look). ¬†Moreover, having your father walk you down the aisle and the sudden realization that every single person you love and cherish is in one place to support you and your husband is enough in itself to make that moment very emotional and overwhelming in the best way possible.”

“Seeing my bride walk down the aisle was more emotional for me than doing the first look. I thought that after going through rehearsal and doing the first look that it would lessen the moment, but the emotions were still great. I had to fight back many (happy) tears and try to catch my breath!”

“I personally was very nervous to walk down the aisle, having so many eyes on me. Seeing Kyle before that big moment definitely helped calm my nerves and I felt like I was actually better able to take that moment in and cherish it.”

#4: Enjoy your cocktail hour

If you don’t have a first look, your portraits will take place during cocktail hour. While that’s typically plenty of time to capture the images we need, if we’re able to do so earlier in the day…you then have that hour freed up for something else! Some couples choose to have a private cocktail hour with their bridal party, and some choose to throw tradition to the wind and join in on their guests’ cocktail hour, too! I’ve even had bridal parties use this time to visit their favorite restaurant for a quick cocktail with their best friends, too! Any way you choose, doing a first look allows for more flexibility during the cocktail hour portion of the day.

*Bonus* One reason to NOT do a first look is when…

…your ceremony time is earlier in the afternoon! If you’re getting married anywhere in the 12-3 range, it typically makes more sense to save all portraits for between the ceremony and reception. Not only will you have better lighting (as opposed to taking your images when the sun is at the highest in the sky!), but you’ll be able to enjoy your morning more and not feel rushed. When there is a significant gap between the ceremony and reception, it’s easy to visit several locations, and we’ll have plenty of time to get a variety of images. I’ve even had couples still set aside time for just the two of them in this space before the reception, so they’re able to have that alone time a first look provides without having a first look!

And of course, the main reason to not do a first look is if you just don’t want to do one! After all, it’s YOUR day! If that’s you, make sure to check back next week for Part 2 of this post, where I’ll share all about how to make any wedding day flow WITHOUT a first look (and the only scenario that would ever make me require a first look, too!). Happy Thursday, friends!



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Sami Orndorff is a Wedding Photographer & Lifestyle Newborn Photographer located in the greater Indianapolis area.