Should I do a First Look for My Wedding?

I think one of the number one questions I get when helping my couples is ‘should I do a first look?’ I always feel nervous answering because I never want any of them to make a decision they don’t want however at the same time I want them to have ALL the information so they can make the best decision for them. So I won’t say yes you should or no you shouldn’t but I’m going to share what I’ve seen from my experiences photographing nearly 200 weddings over the last 4 years. Here are the things I’ve noticed and experienced at weddings:

Do couples have less of a reaction after doing a first look when the groom sees the bride walk down the aisle? No. Not at all. Usually couples have the similar reactions when they see each other for the first look when they see each other down the aisle. If anything it’s still slightly more emotional when they see each other at that aisle even after the first look. I have found that couples that are joyful and constantly smiling during the first look do the same thing down the aisle…those that cry are crying a little harder down the aisle. :) If anything those that are joyful and smiling may tear up more down the aisle. It never takes away that moment a bride walks down the aisle to their groom. It only ADDS to the day. You get two experiences (one private and one during the ceremony).

Does the first look help the timeline of the wedding day? How long are photos after a wedding if you decide you DON’T want a First Look and you decide on a Traditional Aisle Look?

The easiest way to describe this is to make two wedding day timelines for you …one with a First Look and one with a Traditional Aisle Look. Photos, on average, around 30-40 minutes for Bride and Groom portraits, 30 minutes for wedding party photos and 30 minutes for family photos. This is how that would break down for an average wedding day:

Timeline with First Look:

Getting Ready

3:30 First Look

3:45 Bride and Groom Portaits

4:15 Wedding Party Portraits

4:45 Family Photos

5:15 Break for Bride and Groom - Photographer prepares for Ceremony, photographs ceremony and reception details

6:00 Ceremony

6:30 Reception Begins

Send Off 

Timeline with Traditional Aisle Look:

Getting Ready 

4:20 Bridesmaids Photos

4:35 Groomsmen Photos

4:50 Individual Family photos - Immediate Family 

5:15 Break for Bride and Groom - Photographer prepares for Ceremony, photographs ceremony and reception details

6:00 Ceremony

6:30 Ceremony Ends - Guests head to Reception

6:40 Group Family Photos Begin 

7:00 Group Wedding Party Portraits

7:15 Bride and Groom Portraits

7:45 Bride and Groom Head to Reception

Send Off

The main difference between the two timelines is that with doing a First Look you are able to most or all of your photos before the ceremony and gives you more time during your reception and less time away from your guests. With a Traditional Aisle Look you have to wait about an hour after the ceremony to go in with your guests while you take photos. You don’t want to skip the photos because they are the most important photos of the day and the ones you will frame and hang on your walls. You will want plenty of time for those.

So a positive part of having a First Look is that you have a more relaxed day, all the photos are taken ahead of time and you get more time with your friends, family and guests.

If you decide to do a Traditional Aisle Look you can schedule a cocktail or appetizer hour for your guests to mingle and hang out for the hour during your portraits. This is a common activity I see planned during a wedding with our without a First Look.

Here is another positive thing about doing a First Look. You get MORE time together as a couple. I never think of a First Look as taking away from the Traditional Aisle look but more as ADDING to a wedding day. You get a special private time to meet together to hug together, cry together, talk, snuggle, kiss, feel the beads or lace on your dress, see his tie and his boutonniere, throw your arms around his neck and most importantly work those nerves out. I can’t even count the amount of times my couple have told me how happy they were doing a first look to help work out all their nerves and how they felt so much better after doing one. It also gives you more time together. After that part there is no more hiding from each other, now you can celebrate and enjoy the day together before you are surrounded by hundreds of people during your wedding day. When you do a Traditional Aisle look you will go right into portraits after your wedding and then right into your reception surrounded by all your friends, family and guests. Not as much time to be together just the two of you on your wedding day.

Timing. Sunsets. Weather. - Three things to keep in mind when planning a First Look or Traditional Aisle Look. If you are getting married in the fall or winter and decide you want a 5 p.m. ceremony you have to make note that the sun sets between 5:-5:30 during this time. This would mean you would get no natural light on your portraits if you chose to have a fall wedding, 5 p.m. or later ceremony and no first look. Natural light photos are the most flattering and gorgeous and show off the land, nature around you and outdoors. If you choose to do a first look you have more options if there are any weather conditions that hinder you going outside. I have had many situations where a couple opted to do a first look and we got all their photos taken before the ceremony and then it rained during the ceremony. I’ve also had the opposite sadly. Where we did a traditional aisle look and it rained before or during the ceremony and could not do any outdoor photos and had poor lighting in those situations. With a First Look you at least have more time and wiggle room in the day to see if weather will let up.

A Traditional Aisle Look may have been something you had in your head and heart set on for a long time and if that’s what you and your groom/bride want for your wedding. Do that!! Prepare for your Traditional Aisle look and make your drams happen. :)

Less Stress - I have found that when couples do opt for a First Look the day seems to go much smoother. There is more room for back up if things run long on a timeline we always know we can spare a few minutes after the ceremony for more photos if needed. If it took too long for the bride to get her makeup and hair done or the groom wasn’t ready earlier in the day we have a little more wiggle room with the timeline when we have more time planned up front for photos. I have found that couples don’t have to be anxious to get to their reception after the wedding when they do a first look…they just get to go right there! With a Traditional Aisle look I can see that couples feel the urge to go to their reception and aren’t as connected for their photos.

MORE PHOTOS with a First Look! Because there is less of an urge to run to the reception immediately couples get more photos when they do a First Look.

From my personal experience. My husband Josh and I did not do a first look. We were married 13 years ago and it wasn’t really a thing back then. If someone would have explained it to me I would have chosen a first look. We had a winter wedding, at night, inside a chapel. All of our photos are posed, flashy and in the dark. We have about 7 or so posed cheesy photos. We were so tired of taking photos after our reception we told our photographer we were finished taking photos and no one explained how important our photos were and how we would want those from years to come. We also barely spent any time together that day and it was all a blur! I can barely remember walking down the aisle because I was so nervous. I think if someone had explained it to me I would have chosen a first look. Especially just to have that moment just for the two of us. I love the privacy of that.

I hope this information helped and can help calm your nerves about your decision or help you be prepared for everything. <3

Erin Wilson