The Pros and Cons of First Look Wedding Photos

Wedding Planning

Deciding whether to have a “first look” on your wedding day is a personal choice that can significantly impact your wedding timeline and the overall experience. Here, we weigh the pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

What is a First Look?

A first look is when the bride and groom sneak a private moment together before the ceremony starts. It’s just the two of them, away from all the guests, sharing something intimate and special. This has become super popular because it lets the couple have a quiet moment together before the chaos of the day kicks in. But, like with anything in wedding planning, there are some pros and cons to think about. The Knot has some great tips on wedding planning if you’re looking for more general advice.

Pros of a First Look

Intimate Moment Alone:

Having a first look lets you share a private, emotional moment with your partner before all the craziness starts. It’s such a special time to connect and calm each other down. Many couples find it grounding and relaxing because it gives them a break from the hectic schedule

You can laugh, cry, and hold each other close without an audience, which really sets a positive tone for the day. Some couples even exchange personal vows during this time. It’s a beautiful way to express your deepest feelings in a private setting. Check out this article from Brides for more on the pros and cons of first look photos.

Stunning Photos:

For some couples, the first look is the highlight of their wedding day. When they talk about must-have photos, the first look always tops the list. It’s such a genuine moment, capturing raw and real emotions like the excitement of seeing each other all dressed up, the joy of sharing a private moment, and sometimes even happy tears. These moments create memories you’ll cherish forever.

Scheduling the first look about two hours before the ceremony is perfect for timing. Sometimes the light isn’t the best, but your photographer will know where to position you, like out of direct sun, in the shade, by a window, or where light bounces off something light-colored like concrete or gravel. This way, you get the best possible photos. WeddingWire offers great tips on capturing beautiful wedding photos.

Calming Nerves:

Seeing your partner before the ceremony can really help calm those pre-wedding jitters. It’s a moment to reassure each other and enjoy some quiet time together. For example, many couples find that simply being able to hold hands, share a hug, or exchange a few words of encouragement helps to ease their nerves and make them feel more relaxed and present during the ceremony.

Having this time together also helps you mentally prepare for the ceremony. It’s a chance to center yourselves, share any last-minute thoughts or concerns, and go into the ceremony with a clear mind and a calm heart. For instance, discussing any last-minute details or simply sharing a laugh can help you both feel more grounded and ready for the day ahead.

Your partner’s presence can be a huge comfort. Imagine taking a deep breath together, knowing you’re about to start this incredible journey side by side—it can make all the difference in calming your nerves.

More Time for Photos:

A first look gives you more time for photos before the ceremony, freeing you up to enjoy cocktail hour and mingle with guests afterward. This leads to a more relaxed timeline, with less rushing. Couples who value more time with their family and friends appreciate the first look because it allows them to fully enjoy the cocktail hour. Additionally, this setup lets you take your time getting all the shots you want, ensuring a comprehensive photo collection. With photos out of the way, you can fully enjoy your reception without the pressure of leaving your guests for an extended period.

Flexibility in the Timeline

First looks for your wedding photos allows for a more relaxed and flexible timeline. You won’t have to rush through photos after the ceremony and can enjoy the day at a leisurely pace. This is great if you have a tight schedule or want more time with your guests. The day flows more smoothly without fitting all photo sessions into a limited timeframe, making the day feel more enjoyable and less stressful. Having cushion time built into your schedule means that if anything runs late, you’re not scrambling to catch up, keeping a calm and joyful atmosphere.

Special Gift Exchange

A first look also provides an opportunity for couples to exchange personal gifts, letters, or vows privately. This can be a very intimate and special moment, adding another layer of meaning to your wedding day. Exchanging gifts or letters can result in meaningful keepsakes that you can cherish forever. These items can also be beautifully photographed as part of your wedding album. This private exchange allows you to express emotions and sentiments that might be difficult to share in a more public setting.

Opportunity for a Rehearsal

For couples who are nervous about their reactions or want to make sure they express their emotions perfectly, a first look can serve as a rehearsal. It’s a chance to get those initial tears and jitters out of the way. This rehearsal can help you feel more comfortable and prepared for the actual ceremony. Having a successful first look can boost your confidence for the rest of the day, reassuring you that everything is going according to plan.

Enhanced Ceremony Focus

Knowing that you’ve already shared an emotional moment with your partner can allow you to focus more on the ceremony itself. You can be more present and attentive to the vows, readings, and the overall significance of the moment. Being present during the ceremony allows you to fully absorb the significance of each moment. Having already experienced an emotional release during the first look, you can approach the ceremony with a clear and focused mind, ready to engage fully.

Coordinated Hair and Makeup

A first look often occurs when hair and makeup are freshly done, ensuring that both partners look their best for this special moment and the resulting photos. Having your first look early in the day means your hair and makeup are at their freshest, ensuring that you look your best in the photos. If any adjustments are needed, you have the opportunity to touch up before the ceremony begins.

Privacy and Comfort

Without the pressure of an audience, you can be yourselves. This privacy can lead to more genuine and heartfelt reactions, making for beautiful photographs and memories. The privacy of a first look allows for more genuine and unfiltered reactions, which can result in some of the most heartfelt and memorable photos. Being alone (or nearly alone) can create a comfortable environment where you can relax and be yourselves.

Cons of a First Look


For some couples, the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony is crucial. They cherish the magical moment of seeing each other for the first time as the bride walks down the aisle. This tradition is deeply rooted in many cultures and holds significant sentimental value. The element of surprise during the ceremony can be a highlight for both the couple and their guests, creating an unforgettable moment of anticipation and emotion.

Early Start

Scheduling a first look means starting your day earlier to accommodate extra time for photos and preparation. This can add pressure to an already busy morning, especially if you have a large bridal party. Coordinating hair, makeup, and getting dressed earlier can be challenging, particularly if there are delays or unexpected issues. Starting the day earlier can add stress, especially if you’re not a morning person or prefer a more leisurely start.

Emotional Build-Up

Some couples worry that having a first look will lessen the emotional impact of seeing each other at the ceremony. They fear the aisle moment might feel less special if they’ve already seen each other. The anticipation and emotion of the aisle moment are cherished by many, and some couples prefer to experience this significant moment in front of their guests.

Privacy Concerns

While a first look is meant to be private, it still requires the presence of photographers and videographers. Some couples might feel uncomfortable with this level of attention during an intimate moment. It’s essential to discuss these concerns with your photographer to ensure you feel at ease and that the moment feels personal and private, even with cameras present.

Weather Dependencies

If your wedding is outdoors and the weather is unpredictable, coordinating a first look can be challenging. You may have to adapt your plans based on weather conditions, which can add stress. Having a backup plan for weather-related issues is crucial, such as an indoor location or a covered area, to provide alternatives if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Additional Logistics

Planning a first look involves extra logistics. You’ll need to coordinate the timing and location, which can complicate your wedding day schedule. Ensuring that everyone involved is on the same page is crucial. The logistics of arranging a first look require careful planning and coordination, including ensuring that hair and makeup are done on time, the photographer is ready, and the location is prepared.

Potential for Early Tears

If you’re prone to crying, you might worry about ruining your makeup before the ceremony. While touch-ups are possible, it’s something to consider. Arranging for makeup touch-ups after the first look can ensure that you look fresh for the ceremony. Being emotionally prepared for potential tears and having a plan in place can help you feel more comfortable.

Split Focus

Some couples feel that having two significant emotional moments (the first look and the ceremony) can split their emotional focus. They prefer to concentrate all their emotions on the ceremony itself. Balancing the emotions of a first look with the emotions of the ceremony can be challenging. Some couples prefer to save their emotional energy for the ceremony.

Guest Reactions

For some guests, seeing the groom’s reaction to the bride walking down the aisle is a highlight. A first look means this reaction has already happened in private, potentially lessening the impact for your guests. Consider how the first look might affect the experience of your guests. Some guests look forward to the emotional reactions during the ceremony.

Personal Preferences

Ultimately, a first look might not align with your personal preferences or vision for your wedding day. It’s essential to choose what feels right for you and your partner. Your wedding day should reflect your personal preferences and values. Discuss the pros and cons with your partner and decide what feels right for both of you to make your day most special.

Tips for a Memorable First Look

Choose a Scenic Location:

Pick a spot that’s not only beautiful but also holds sentimental value. Maybe it’s the park where you had your first date, a favorite hiking trail, or a beach you both love. This adds a personal touch and makes the photos even more special.

Plan the Timing:

Talk to your photographer about the best time for lighting. Early morning or late afternoon, known as the golden hour, offers the most flattering light. Avoid harsh midday sun which can create unflattering shadows.

Stay Present:

Forget about the cameras for a bit and focus on your partner. This moment is all about you two. Enjoy the time together, laugh, cry, and hold each other. It’s a moment to connect and calm each other’s nerves before the ceremony.

Communicate Your Preferences:

Let your photographer know what kind of shots you want. Whether you prefer candid moments or specific poses, clear communication helps achieve the desired results.

Make it Personal:

Consider adding personal touches like exchanging letters, gifts, or even personal vows. This makes the moment even more special and memorable.

Have a Backup Plan:

If you’re planning an outdoor first look, have a backup plan in case of bad weather. An indoor or covered area can save the day if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Trust Your Photographer:

Trust your photographer’s expertise to guide you through the first look. They can help you relax and ensure everything goes smoothly, capturing the best moments.

Involve Your Wedding Party:

If you’d like, your wedding party can watch from a distance and share in the excitement. Their support and enthusiasm can add to the joy of the moment.

Enjoy the Silence:

After the first look, take a moment of silence together. Hold hands, take deep breaths, and soak in the emotions. This can be incredibly grounding and intimate.

Additional Considerations

Cultural and Religious Factors:

Some cultures and religions have specific traditions regarding the couple seeing each other before the ceremony. It’s important to consider and respect these traditions when deciding on a first look.

Family Expectations:

Discuss the idea of a first look with your family. Their expectations and preferences might influence your decision. Some families may have strong feelings about maintaining traditional aspects of the wedding.

Photographer’s Experience:

Ensure your photographer has experience with first looks. An experienced photographer will know how to capture the best moments and guide you through the process smoothly.

Personal Comfort:

Ultimately, your comfort and happiness are paramount. Choose what makes you and your partner feel the most relaxed and joyful on your wedding day.

Consult with Your Wedding Planner:

If you have a wedding planner, discuss the first look with them. They can offer valuable insights and help coordinate the logistics to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Consider Your Timeline:

Your overall wedding day timeline can impact the decision to have a first look. Work with your photographer and planner to create a timeline that accommodates your preferences.


Be open to flexibility. If something unexpected arises, having a flexible mindset can help you adapt and enjoy your day regardless of any changes.


Maintain open communication with your partner, photographer, and planner. Clear communication ensures everyone is on the same page and helps prevent misunderstandings.

Trust Your Instincts:

Trust your instincts and choose what feels right for you. Your wedding day is a celebration of your love, and your choices should reflect your unique relationship.

Enjoy the Journey:

Lastly, enjoy the journey. Wedding planning can be stressful, but it’s also an exciting time. Take moments to appreciate the process and the love that brought you to this point.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Wedding Day

Stay Hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will keep you feeling your best and help you avoid fatigue.

Eat Well: Don’t skip meals. Have healthy snacks available to keep your energy levels up.

Delegate Tasks: Trust your wedding party and planner to handle the details so you can focus on enjoying your day.

Take Breaks: Give yourself moments to breathe and relax. Short breaks can help you stay calm and collected.

Soak in the Moments: Take mental snapshots throughout the day. These small moments will become cherished memories.

Your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Whether you choose a first look or stick to tradition, what matters most is that you and your partner feel connected and joyful. Embrace the day, celebrate your love, and create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a first look necessary?

No, a first look is not necessary. It’s a personal choice that depends on your preferences and vision for your wedding day. Some couples prefer the traditional aisle moment, while others enjoy the intimacy of a first look.

How do we decide if a first look is right for us?

Consider the pros and cons, discuss your preferences with your partner, and think about your overall wedding day timeline. Your photographer and wedding planner can also provide insights to help you decide.

Will a first look ruin the emotional impact of the ceremony?

Not necessarily. Many couples find that a first look enhances the emotional impact of the ceremony by allowing them to share a private moment beforehand. However, it’s a personal decision and depends on what feels right for you.

Can we still have a first look if we have a traditional ceremony?

Yes, you can incorporate a first look into your wedding day regardless of your ceremony style. It’s about finding a balance that works for you and your partner.

How can we make our first look special?

Choose a meaningful location, personalize the moment with letters or gifts, and focus on each other. Your photographer can help guide you to make the moment memorable.

Planning your wedding is an exciting journey. Whether you opt for a first look or follow tradition, the most important thing is to make choices that reflect your love and bring you joy. Happy planning!

Whether or not to have a first look is a deeply personal choice that depends on your preferences, traditions, and vision for your wedding day. Consider the pros and cons, discuss with your partner, and choose what feels right for you. Remember, the goal is to make your day as special and stress-free as possible.

A first look can add an intimate, relaxed touch to your wedding day, allowing you to share a private moment before the ceremony. It can also enhance your wedding photography by providing more opportunities for beautiful, candid shots. However, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the potential downsides, such as breaking tradition or starting your day earlier.

In the end, the decision is yours. Whether you choose to have a first look or wait until the ceremony, what matters most is that you and your partner enjoy every moment of your special day. For more tips and insights on wedding photography, visit Matt Green Photography Blog.