First Look | Pros and Cons

First Look Wedding Photography

 As the official start to wedding season draws near, we've been meeting with our clients and talking to them about what they envision on their big day. The one recurring theme seems to be "first look" wedding photos. We're noticing that more and more of today's modern bride and grooms are realizing how important professional wedding photographs can be and how important it is to allow enough time for these images.

Traditionally, the bride and groom do not see each other before their ceremony. A lot of couples have been breaking this tradition, as so many people are realizing how important time management is in regards to their wedding. It's always been common practice to take family formals immediately after the ceremony, then move right into the most important part of the day, the portraits. The portraits are the most important part of the day because these are the photographs that you are going to be hanging on your wall, sending to friends, uploading to Facebook, Twitter and setting as your desktop wallpaper. What usually ends up happening is the portraits get rushed because they are taken during the 60 minute cocktail hour and have to be taken after the family photos. Understandably, the family wants to congratulate the newly married couple, which eats into the time allotted and giving the photographer even less time to spend with the couple.

Taking photographs before the ceremony changes all of that and in my opinion, gives our clients even higher quality photographs. We always suggest starting photos before the ceremony with a first look session. This is 10-15 minutes that we can spend with the couple as they lay eyes on each other for the first time on their big day. After the first look is completed, we suggest doing your group photographs with all the bridal party. Getting the bridal party shots done frees up more time for us to spend with the couple, and keeps the bridal party from getting bored! The time set aside for bridal party portraits is when we get to become really creative with the couple and our surroundings and not having to rush to get to a reception helps us get you the photographs you want.

If you're still unsure about a first look photo session, here's some pros and cons we've come up with that will hopefully help you in your decision:


  • You will be able to really take in the excitement of seeing each other for the first time and enjoy some quiet moments alone with each other. You'll be able to smile, laugh, cry, dance, etc
  • Most brides cry when they see their fiance’ at the end of the aisle, giving them less-than-perfect makeup for all the photos taken during the ceremony
  • Amazing photographs full of genuine emotion shared by you and your soon-to-be spouse will be captured
  • You'll have more time for mingling at your cocktail hour/reception
  • You and your spouse won't be rushed
  • You’ll get to see each other before the ceremony.  Any stress, fears, jitters, or nerves will be gone by the time the ceremony starts.  You’ll be calmer and more present during your ceremony.
  • If you’re going to cry when you see each other for the first time, you’ll be able to freshen up before the ceremony.
  • You won’t miss cocktail hour if we take your portraits and your family formal portraits before the ceremony.
  • Privacy.  Enough said.  You won’t have anyone’s eyes on you, no guests will be taking pictures with their iPhones, no bridal party will be shrieking.  It will be a moment that is yours, and yours alone.
  • You’ll have more time together to emote.  If you wait until your ceremony, you have to get right into the ceremony itself.  If you do a first look on the wedding day, you’ll be able to hold each other and be in the moment as long as you’d like.
  • You will probably have more time for portraits of the two of you together.  We can spend twenty minutes, an hour, two hours, or more together taking portraits at multiple locations, if you desire.  If you wait until cocktail hour to take your portraits, we’ve got forty-five minutes to seventy minutes (depending on the length of your cocktail hour) to get all of your family formals done, as well as all photographs of you two together.
  • If we wait until cocktail hour to do your portraits, there won’t be many (if any) images of your cocktail hour.
  • You can choose the location for your first look.  If you want to do it outside, on a pretty staircase, or in another cool location, you can.  We can control the setting and the lighting.  That’s not usually an option during the ceremony.
  • If you’re having a winter wedding, and it’s going to get dark early, you can have your portraits taken during daylight.
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  • A first look session could take away the suspense and anticipation when you first see each other down the aisle
  • If your family (grandparents, etc.) is very traditional, seeing your fiance’ pre-ceremony may upset them
  • If anything runs late before the first look, we’ll lose out on time.  We’ll have less time for portraits, and everything will be pushed back or end up being cut out of the day.
  • If you do a first look on the wedding day, you’ll have to get up earlier, get ready earlier, and be in your wedding clothes longer.
  • Your parents, bridal party, and guests won’t be a part of when you see your spouse for the first time.  That can be a very emotional, meaningful moment for them, especially the parents.
  • Your dress might get dirty.  If we go to a park, gardens, or let’s be honest, anywhere outdoors, it will be 100% impossible to keep your dress pristine.  If that bothers you, a first look on the wedding day might not be a good choice for you.
  • Unless you hire hair and makeup to stay longer, you’ll have to touch yourself up between the portraits and the ceremony.
  • If you do your portraits before the ceremony, you won’t actually be married in your portraits.  That bothers some people, doesn’t bother others, but should be considered.  Will it be less meaningful to look at those portraits later, knowing you weren’t actually married yet or wearing your wedding bands?
  • If you feel strongly about not doing a first look on the wedding day, but you’re feeling pressure from a bridesmaid, a family member, or another vendor, don’t make your decision based on what someone else wants you to do! (This could also be listed with “Why TO do a first look!”)
  • If the tradition of waiting to see each other at your ceremony is important you, stick to that feeling.  A good photographer will find a way to make beautiful portraits for you in a limited time post-ceremony.
  • Do you feel weird about the idea?  Are you worried about how you’ll react?  Or how your future spouse will react?  Does it make you nervous at all?  Some people are really freaked out about the idea of emoting on cue, or being expected to react in a certain way.
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With so many modern brides taking their fiance’ with them to do dress shopping, it's not uncommon for a couple to also opt to do photographs before the ceremony.