Should we do a first look on our wedding day?

September 27, 2016

One of my most commonly asked questions by excited brides is whether or not they should do a first look with their man on their wedding day. Or should they wait to see each other on the aisle?

Whether you’ve seen a beautiful set of first look photos on pinterest, or you’ve been told you should or shouldn’t do one by your recently married friends, I wanted to share my perspective. Not only as a wedding photographer, but also as someone who believes in the power and magic of adventurous experiences. 

First looks and waiting for the aisle each have different advantages depending on the timing & logistics of your day, how you feel about traditions, and whether you’re comfortable sharing your emotions with an audience or might like a more private atmosphere. 

What is a “First Look” on our wedding day? 

THE MODERN WEDDING DAY LOWDOWN: After the couple part for the evening the day before their wedding, they will hide from each other until their “first look” moment before their ceremony. On the wedding morning they each get ready- once I photograph the groom getting all spiffed up, I head over to where the bride is getting ready. The groom will head over to the first look location, and then we will send the bride over to surprise him for this emotional moment. After some sweet couples photos together, the wedding party can join for some fun photos, then the family. The bride & groom then head back to hide from their guests and each other before the wedding, before walking down the aisle. After the ceremony, we usually head into some couples photos to capture that first moment of joy before the couple joins the cocktail hour and the reception party begins.

  • An intimate, intentional space carved into your wedding day for just the two of you to full experience and process this big day together.
  • A surprising adventure– we will set up your first look moment so that one of you will walk up to the other and surprise them. The groom can be set up for the bride to approach. Or the bride can face away while the groom approaches, or you can walk around a corner or a tree- the sky is the limit here. I love to set up these moments so I can be sure to capture the emotional reactions of the bride and groom in this powerful moment. 🙂
  • An emotional moment – you can feel free to let loose and experience the moment without the audience of your guests, and still have time for touchups before your ceremony. Many couples say it calmed their nerves. As a photographer, I photograph first looks from a distance- almost as I would a surprise proposal, so you two can savor the moment together without distractions.
  • Timeline freedom & flow– after your first look, we’ll usually transition into family group photos, and bridal party photos. As your wedding photographer, this is ideal for evening or sunset ceremonies. If getting great family & wedding party photos are important to you, or you have a lot of family or wedding party members, a first look eases your timeline. The lighting will be better before the ceremony instead of after, when people want to celebrate instead of gather for a photo. It also means after your ceremony you can go take some romantic photos as a couple, and have more time with your guests at the cocktail party.  

What if we want to wait for the aisle?

THE TRADITIONAL WEDDING DAY LOWDOWN: After the bride & groom part for the evening the day before their wedding, it’s a tradition for the groom to not see the bride until she walks down the aisle. This means when you get ready in the morning you will be spending time with your wedding party and family before the ceremony. Before the ceremony, the groom will sometimes be out and about greeting guests before he exits to get ready to walk down the aisle first. The bride hides in her room so none of her guests see her until the aisle. After the ceremony, the bride & groom’s family gathers for photos, then the wedding party takes their photos. The bride & groom aren’t usually able to attend the cocktail hour, but can be announced into the reception.

  • A timeless tradition- the excitement of waiting to see each other before you exchange your vows is a classic tradition, and what many couples have dreamed about over the years
  • A leisurely morning – You’ll have more time in the morning to get ready with your bridesmaids and groomsmen, and families.
  • The excitement of waiting until the ceremony starts is fun, and seeing your partner is incredibly emotional on the aisle.
  • Alternative first looks & letter exchanges- if waiting for the aisle seems right, you can also do a first look with your bridesmaids or your dad. You can also share a special moment with your fiancé without seeing each other- around a door, corner, or tree. You can exchange gifts or letters, hold hands for a prayer or meditation and keep the surprise of seeing each other for later.

3 Steps to decide if a First Look is right for your wedding

1. Figure out if you prefer a more traditional or modern approach: Talk it over together as a couple, and see if either of you are leaning a particular way. Would you like to exchange letters or gifts before the ceremony?

2. Timeline- Is your wedding later in the day? Would you like to have group photos done so you, your family & wedding party can join cocktails or lawn games after the ceremony? 

3. Talk it over with your photographer & planner and see if it fits well into your day. Each wedding day has a unique set of elements coming together, and a wedding professional can help you see how it will affect the big picture of your day.