Wedding First Looks: The Ultimate Guide

June 24, 2022

wedding first looks with couple holding each other and smiling

So you’ve officially planned your big day, and now you’re wondering… should you plan to have a first look with your partner?

Well, you’re in luck because this post was written with you in mind. It covers everything there is to know about first looks, including their benefits, why you might consider NOT having them, and even some creative alternatives if you don’t want a first look.

As a central Pennsylvania wedding photographer, I’ve been lucky enough to work with many different couples on their wedding day and have had lots of experience with first looks. However, not every couple may want one, and that’s totally ok. I’m here to help you decide!

Here’s everything there is to know about wedding first looks.

What is a wedding first look?

Before discussing more about first looks, it’s important to get clear on what exactly they are. To be honest, it’s exactly what it sounds like!

A wedding first look is the first time that a couple sees one another on their big day, but BEFORE the ceremony starts. 

On average, these tend to be around 15 to 30 minutes but may vary depending on your photographer. The time is needed not only for the couple to be able to finally see each other for the first time on their wedding day but also for the photographer (me) to have ample time to take beautiful pictures of it!

So, now you’re probably wondering… where do these wedding first looks take place? That usually depends on the couple and also where they will be getting ready in the morning. This could be at a different location near the couples’ houses or even at a location right at the wedding venue. It truly varies!

Psst… are you in the Lancaster, York, or central PA area? Check out this post on the most dreamy Lancaster PA wedding venues to get some inspo on where your wedding and first look could happen!

Wedding First Looks: Why You Might Want Them & Why You Might Not

Now that we know what exactly a first look is, let’s take a look (pun absolutely intended) at some pros and cons of having one. 

Reasons Why You Might Want a First Look

It Can Be Extra Exciting

It’s your big day! You’ve done all the planning, and everything is falling into place perfectly for your wedding. You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, and you can’t want to start the rest of your life with your soulmate by your side. Doing a first look just adds to that excitement. 

You know you’ll have an intimate moment with your partner where you’ll actually be able to talk to each other and share time with them in ways you just can’t when you’re up on the altar.

It’s one more small aspect of your wedding day that you get to look forward to and be excited about. And while it may not last that long, the memory is sure to last forever! 

It Gives You a Quiet Moment 

A first look gives you the chance to share a special moment with your person outside of all the craziness that is your wedding day. 

It’s a chance for you and your partner to be by yourselves (because, let’s be honest, that doesn’t happen much during your wedding day) and honestly, just take a moment to take a breath and reflect on the fantastic things that are about to happen.

Doing a first look allows you to get all of those nerves out before you say “I do,” and it gives you a chance to spend a couple of minutes with the one (and most likely only) person who can help calm you down. You can both just take a deep breath together before taking the leap! 

You Get to Spend More Time Together

Many couples can forget that even though their big day will be tons of fun, it can be pretty hectic. There’s usually lots of different events going on in the timeline and once guests arrive, they will want to congratulate you on your new marriage!

Everyone talks about how their wedding day flies by in a blink of an eye. The most important part of the day is the love between you and your partner, so you should spend as much time together on your wedding day as possible to experience all the amazing memories together!

The Photos are More Intimate

Now, let’s be honest; all your wedding day photos will be memorable, but there’s something so special about the wedding first looks.

Who doesn’t love seeing that look of pure awe and love on someone’s face when they see their soon-to-be-spouse for the first time on their wedding day. Those tend to be some of the most extraordinary pictures captured throughout the day. Doing a first look just makes those photos even more memorable. 

You don’t have to worry about bad lighting or Uncle Joe standing up and ruining the shot, or missing one of your reactions as you catch the other. Your pictures will just be you and your partner, and there will be nothing else to distract from that perfect moment when you first see each other. 

Want to Enjoy Cocktail Hour

Typically, if a couple chooses the traditional route of seeing each other for the first time at their ceremony, their cocktail hour will be filled with family, wedding party, and couple photos.

Many couples put lots of time and thought into their cocktail hour and want to have the opportunity to enjoy that moment of their wedding day with their guests rather than having to knock off a checklist of photos.

If you decide to incorporate a first look into your wedding day, you can have your photographer take all those photos before the ceremony, giving you ample time to grab some apps and drinks with your people!

Reasons Why Someone Might Not Want a First Look

Just like there are reasons why someone might want to have one, there are also reasons why they might choose against having a wedding first look. Here are a few of those reasons!

Personal Opinion

Some couples just prefer not to have a first look at their wedding, and that’s completely okay. This could honestly be for any reason whatsoever. 

Whether they have other things they’d rather happen at their wedding or they would prefer to have the photographer snap photos of something else, it’s completely okay! If your personal opinion is not to have a first look, then it’s okay not to have it.

Want to Stick With the  Tradition

Believe it or not, but not seeing each other until you walk down the aisle is an old tradition. Many people believe that it is bad luck to see each other before you are up on the altar. 

This tradition can be something that your family has done for generations and thinks of as very important. At the end of the day, it is up to the individuals themselves on what they want to do on their special day. 

Some couples may choose to be more authentic with themselves and break those old traditions, especially if that’s what they stand for!

It Doesn’t Work with the Timeline

Couples who want a first look at their wedding tend to have to get ready earlier in the day to ensure it happens. This can mean making sure that it fits into the schedule or even starting the day a lot earlier.

In addition to the couple’s schedules, this can mean coordinating many other schedules, too, like the hairdresser, makeup artist, etc., which could be a difficult task if not planned for in advance.

Some couples would prefer to get ready later in the day, even right before the wedding, which is totally okay. It’s alright to have the more traditional first look when walking down the aisle instead if that’s the case!

Weather/Lighting May Not Be Great

Lastly, and this is more of a photographer thing, sometimes the lighting isn’t the best during first looks. A great photographer will be able to work with any type of lighting to edit your photo to make it look perfect, which is what I do, but make sure you find a photographer who can shoot in all types of light if you really want a first look.

Another thing to note is that the weather changes throughout the day. In some cases, it could be rainy in the morning and then complete sunshine in the afternoon. While I’m a firm believer that rain can be magical, some couples may prefer to just skip out on first looks due to the weather.

First Look Ideas & Examples

Want some first look wedding photo ideas? Check out some selected photos of first looks from weddings I’ve been lucky enough to shoot! 

Alternative Ideas & Examples

Not sold on a first look but want another memorable moment? Check out some selected photos of first look alternatives that still give you an AMAZING photo opportunity before your wedding ceremony.

First Looks with Kids

Family Members

Wedding Party


Should you have a wedding first look or not?

Well, that’s totally up to you! Many couples choose to have one on their big day, but they also aren’t required to have the perfect wedding for you. I’m all about being authentic, so be true to yourself!

Are you still looking for someone to capture your big day? Click here to check out my wedding packages, or here to get in touch!

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