the blog

What is a First Look? Wedding First Look Tips, Fun Ideas, & More!

Wonderin’ what the heck a first look is and whether or not it’s right for you + your boo? Look no further for all my best first look wedding tips, fun ideas, & more!!

Okay, but Mel, what is a wedding first look?!

GIRL, let me tell you alllll about it!!

A first look is prettyyyy self-explanatory, to be honest: it’s the first time when you + your partner see each other BEFORE your ceremony! I know, I know … it’s a little rebellious! Tradition has it that you do not see each other until you walk down the aisle.

First looks have become wayyy more popular in the past few years as the focus in the wedding industry has shifted from tradition → the actual couple! You know what I mean if you’ve been planning a wedding – there can be sooo much pressure to adhere to old traditions. And if those traditions are meaningful to you then, by all means, follow them! But couples are realizing that they don’t *have* to.

bride and groom

As a photographer, I love when my couples do first looks (and you’ll see why!), but I’m going to dive into both the pros & cons of having one for you today. Let’s get into it!

bride and groom embracing

Why do a first look?

You might be asking, Mel, why the heck should we do a first look? Don’t we want to build up our excitement and finally see each other when we walk down the aisle?

bride and groom feet

Well, to start off, let’s talk about summer weddings real quick. Summer weddings can often mean melting makeup, deflated hair, falling curls … you get the idea. The heat and humidity can wear ya down and can make your hair/makeup/etc. look not quite as perf as it did in the morning.

bride and groom having first look

A first look ensures that your photos are taken when you’re looking your ABSOLUTE best and when you’re feelin’ like a 10! (Just like you’ve always envisioned!) Not to mention your future hubs will be having to spend hoursssss in a jacket in the summer heat … taking photos before he gets all sweaty are just another plus. (He will thank you, too! I promise ya, Girl!)

The 3 biggest benefits of having a first look

Let’s go through the other BEST parts of doing a first look & why you should consider it:

bride and from kissing

  1. More time with your babe – seeing them earlier in the day means you get to spend WAY more of the actual wedding day together!!
  2. Intimate time to be together – isn’t your wedding day about you two?!👀 “First Looks” mean you get some intimate time to loveeee on each other and be in the moment together.
  3. You can get those photos done early – seeing each other before the ceremony means you can do your family + wedding party photos done BEFORE the ceremony, too!! No complaints from Uncle Bob after the ceremony about how hungry he is, and no trying to wrangle everyone up when they head to the bar too early, before photos are done. It’s a win for everyone, and you can go partayyyy right when your ceremony finishes!!🥂
bride and groom embracing

In my experience, I’ve NEVER been disappointed by a groom’s reaction during a one-on-one first look (with your third wheeler … aka me). PS: I cry every time. No exceptions … I’m such a sap! BUT, at-the-altar reactions with countless guests staring at him, can often fall flat and appear emotionless when that’s not the case often. He might just be trying to keep his shit together in front of everyone, so you end up with a less genuine reaction from the two of you.

What you might miss out on if you do a first look

Okay, now I don’t want to call these “cons” of doing a first look – because in my opinion, there’s really no wrong answer or wrong choice!! Nothing is a “con.” 

bride and groom first look

Whether you do a first look or not is completely up to you + your love, and not up to me or Brides magazine or that couple on Pinterest you found.

bride and groom looking in opposite directions

I want to walk you through a couple reasons you might not choose to do a first look, if you’re feelin’ more like sticking to tradition! We want to help you decide what’s right for YOU, so I want to make sure I talk through all the options & not just my personal preferences.

  1. That build-up before the aisle – if you’ve always dreamt of waiting and waiting to see each other & FINALLY getting to when you walk down the aisle, a first look might not be for you!
  2. Celebrating the big moment with all your loved ones – if you really value seeing each other for the first time with all your loved ones watching, definitely stick with that. It totally depends on how intimate or not intimate you want the moment to be!
  3. Publicly declaring your love in front of all your guests – doing a first look means you have time to tell each other how much you love each other in a private, intimate space. If you’d rather have that first moment that you see each other + declare that love be in front of your guests, do it!
bride and groom embracing

My fav fun wedding first look ideas

Doing a first look = more time together = more time for you to add some special touches to your day!

groom with a letter from the bride

A first look is the perf opportunity for you two make your day even more special + make each other feel soooo loved. Here are a few things you could do during your first look:

  1. Give each other gifts – instead of opening gifts in separate rooms to avoid seeing each other, give + open your gifts together!!
  2. Write each other letters – you can write letters the morning-of, or before the wedding day, and read them to each other during your first look. Warning: if you do this, you’re 99% likely to look over at me and see a tear streaming down my face while you read them. . .
  3. Practice your first dance – if you’re feelin’ nervous about your first dance, practice it during your first look! Get those nerves down and focus on being present with each other.
  4. Do a toast – grab your fav drinks and do a toast/shot/drink a glass together!
bride and groom in forest

A first look wedding alternative to consider

If you’re on the fence about doing a first look, I’ve got another idea for you to consider!!

My hubs and I actually did what I call a “first touch” on our wedding day. A first touch is when you & your partner find a spot where you can stand back to back, or on opposite sides of a pillar/corner of a wall, and you can touch each other without seeing each other. 

bride and groom holding hands

Find a way to hold hands, hug from behind, or lean back to back without seeing each other if you want a mix between a first look & a traditional aisle first look.

bride and groom embracing

This can also be a time where you give each other gifts, read letters, or just take a few minutes to breathe & relax together! First touches can be so so intimate + special and I always love watching the moment between couples who choose to do them.

Sample wedding day timeline with first look

I know it can be hardddd figuring out what your wedding day timeline could look like, especially with a first look changing up your schedule! Here’s a brief sample wedding day timeline with a first look vs. without a first look, to show you what the main differences are.

bride and groom holding arms

Keep in mind that obviously your timeline will totally depend on your day – the light, season, time of day, etc etc. So don’t take these times too seriously!!

Sample 8-hour wedding day timeline with a first look

1:00-1:55 – Getting ready + details

2:00-2:40 – First look + couples portraits

2:45-3:45 – Family + wedding party portraits

4:00-4:30 – Ceremony

4:35-4:55 – Sign marriage license + time to relax

5:00-6:00 – Dinner

6:05-6:15 – Cake cutting

6:20-6:45 – Bouquet/garter tosses, wedding games, etc.

6:50-7:05 – First dances

7:15-7:45 – Sunset photos

7:50-9:00 – Dancing + sendoff

**Notice how with a first look, there’s more photography coverage in the first half of the day since I’ll be there longer before the ceremony!

bride and groom

Sample 8-hour wedding day timeline without a first look

2:45-3:45 – Getting ready + details

4:00-4:30 – Ceremony

4:35-4:55 – Sign marriage license + time to relax

5:00-6:00 – Cocktail hour & family + wedding party photos

6:00-6:45 – Dinner

7:00-7:10 – Cake cutting

7:15-7:30 – Bouquet/garter tosses, wedding games, etc.

7:35-8:00 – Sunset photos

8:05-8:20 – First dances

8:30-10:45 – Dancing + sendoff

**Without a first look, there’s more reception coverage since I won’t be there for as long before your ceremony – the coverage is mainly after you tie the knot.

In the end, I want to make sure you know that it’s YOUR decision to make TOGETHER. Do what you both think truly reflects the two of you! Sometimes traditions are meaningful, and sometimes they’re meant to be broken. That’s the beautiful part: you get to decide, and I’ll be there to capture it all regardless!