Featured weddings and sessions, resources, travel guides, and my own personal musings.
When you begin to plan the finer points of your wedding day, you might wonder, “Should I do a first look?” A pre-ceremony first look might make a sweet memory of your wedding day. It’s also a great photo opportunity that captures a private moment between you and your future spouse. But the first look is not for everyone. After all, it goes against the superstition that it’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony. Some brides love a first look; others realize they’d rather wait for an aisle reveal. Here are the top pros and cons of a first look to help you decide.
It goes without saying that weddings are stressful. And it’s all the more nerve-wracking to spend the morning and afternoon getting ready when your future spouse is out of sight. By the time the ceremony starts, you might have a whole flock of butterflies in your stomach. And on the day of your wedding, everyone wants a piece of your time: bridesmaids, groomsmen, friends, relatives, and vendors. It’s not easy to find time to yourself! A first look is one way to give yourself a quiet moment with the one you love, away from the demands of the rest of your wedding.
Look into each other’s eyes, squeeze each other’s hands, and remind yourselves of what this day is all about before you stand up in front of all your guests and declare your commitment.
A first look is a practical choice when it comes to your photography. With most weddings, an aisle reveal means you’ll need to schedule an hour between the ceremony and reception to take wedding portraits of your family, the wedding party, and of you and your new bride or groom. That puts you on a tight schedule: you don’t want to be late to your own reception and keep guests waiting. And if you’re rushing through your photography session with a “get it over with” mindset, you might not get the results you want! A first look offers another opportunity to take pre-ceremony photographs and portraits, so you won’t have to hurry through it all.
Taking portraits before the ceremony also means you’ll have the chance to enjoy your own cocktail hour. Your wedding day will keep you busy. If you’re stepping off for an hour of photography after the ceremony, you might feel like you’re missing out on the chance to mingle with your guests—and enjoy a few tasteful hors d’oeuvres while you’re mingling. If that feels like a deal-breaker for you, a first look will solve that problem. Take all your wedding portraits before the ceremony and free yourselves up during cocktail hour so you can enjoy that time alongside all your guests and relax before the reception.
Generations of brides and grooms have waited to see each other until the ceremony. If you know walking down the aisle and seeing the look of surprise and joy on your partner’s face is a moment you’ll cherish forever, it’s fine to forego a first look. An aisle reveal can be just as special, and maybe that moment is one you want to share with all your loved ones. There’s nothing wrong with being old-fashioned!
During a first look, all that posing might mean that your carefully coiffed hair and makeup need a touch-up before the ceremony. That’s especially true if the day is warm or breezy. This might or might not spell trouble, but if you don’t want to fuss with your hair and face twice, you might prefer to wait until after the ceremony so you look your best when you say, “I do.”
While a first look can make your schedule more flexible, that photography time needs to come from somewhere. To do a first look, you’ll need to be fully prepped and photo-ready at least 1-2 hours before the ceremony starts. It also means booking your photographer for more time: first looks add an additional 1-2 hours to typical wedding day coverage. If you don’t have enough time to prepare earlier in the day, an aisle reveal might be the more practical choice.
Weigh the pros and cons together and decide whether a first look or an aisle reveal is right for you. Remember, there’s no right or wrong here. All that matters is that your wedding is the way you want it to be, not the way everyone else wants it to be.
If you have any other questions about first looks versus aisle reveals, please let me know!
Whether you’re working with a wedding planner on a multi-day event or you’re planning an intimate affair, you’re still dealing with many moving pieces right up until your big day. Having photographed more than 200 weddings, we’ve come up with the answers to our most frequently asked questions and turned them into this guide, from day-of timelines to inclement weather, from engagement sessions to first looks.