bridal tips

Why Doing a First Look is a Great Idea!

Hi there! If you are reading this I am guessing you are a bride-to-be considering doing the first look or are the fiancé who is being compelled to read this by your lady so you will be convinced on why you NEED to break from tradition on your wedding day.

First off, let’s start with what a First Look is…in case you have no clue what the heck I am talking about. It is a private moment between the bride and groom to see each other prior to the ceremony. It is just the two of you getting to fully take in each other without a few hundred eyes on you. It is the groom seeing his bride in all her beauty and getting to hug and kiss her all he wants. And this gives the photographer a chance to capture those tears of joy and huge smiles more intimately.

Now let’s get to what a first look is not. It is not having all of your family and your entire bridal party present to watch. At that point, it’s not a private intimate moment and the whole purpose of a first look then becomes pointless. 

Kevin and I would love it if every single one of our couples did a first look and here is why. It allows for an extra hour of photos on your wedding day. Yes, a whole freaking hour!!! To some that might not sound like a lot but on a wedding day that’s an eternity! It gives us time to get all the bride & groom portraits and all the bridal party photos out of the way. That’s huge! Without a first look, we have to cram bride & groom, bridal party and family photos all within a one hour window. That doesn’t leave time for a whole lot of photos.

Another pro to doing the first look is that you get to enjoy your cocktail hour. You get to go hang out with your guests and enjoy those tasty cocktails you paid for. Not doing a first look means you skip all of that because you will be busy taking photos. How lame is that!?!?

Let’s do a timeline comparison to see what your wedding day will look like with both options.


3:15pm  First Look

3:20pm  Bride & Groom Portraits

3:50pm  Bridal Party

4:20pm  Photograph Ceremony Decor

4:30pm Guests Arrive

5:00pm Ceremony

5:25pm Ceremony Ends

5:30pm Family Photos

5:45pm Newlywed photos with Bride & Groom

5:50pm Bride & Groom enjoy cocktail hour

6:10pm Photograph Reception Decor

6:25pm Guests Seated for Reception

6:35pm Grand Entrance

***You’ll notice in the above timeline with a first look we still do the family photos after the ceremony. Logistically this has proven to be the most effective because all of your family is already gathered in one area and can easily be pulled aside for photos rather than having to track them down later in the cocktail hour or asking them to arrive early to the wedding. If you want to enjoy your cocktail hour in its entirety, we can definitely move things around and get family photos done before the ceremony too!***


4:20pm  Photograph Ceremony Decor

4:30pm Guests Arrive

5:00pm Ceremony

5:25pm Ceremony Ends

5:30pm Family Photos

5:45pm  Bridal Party

6:00pm  Bride & Groom Portraits

6:25pm Photograph Reception Decor

6:30pm Guests Seated for Reception

6:40pm Grand Entrance

***When we don’t get lucky to have a first look on a wedding day that sometimes means that we might have to cut photographing the stunning reception decor before your guests are seated. Honestly, this breaks our hearts because so much thought and money goes into the reception decor and not getting to photograph it in it untouched state really sucks! But when we have to cram all of those photos into one hour sometimes tracking down your family or bridal party can mean the difference of photographing your reception decor or not.***

As you can see based on the two timelines above, the one with a first look is much more relaxed and allows for so much more time for photos! 

Now let’s chat about the groom’s reaction when the bride walks down the aisle. 10 times out of 10 the groom still cries when he sees his bride walk down the aisle even after doing the first look.  So if that shock factor is your worry it’s nothing to stress about. Seeing the bride walk down the aisle brings on a whole different set of emotions that weren’t present during the first look.

Still not convinced? Hear from some of our past brides and grooms as to why they loved doing the first look.

From Past Grooms:

“Wedding weekend is absolute madness. From greeting out of town guests to organizing last minute details to making sure your groomsman have shoes without holes in them (It’s a long story), it can be overwhelming. The one thing you notice is how little alone time you get with your bride-to-be. The biggest reason I am glad Katie and I decided on a first look was because it was a moment just for us…and a few photographers. Even with the cameras, it felt like my one opportunity to step back, take a breath, and soak in just how beautiful the woman I was about to marry looked. Even more important, I got to tell her how amazing she looked and how excited I was that we were about to get hitched. Had we waited until she walked down the aisle, that moment would have been shared with everyone there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but for me, it made the day that much more special since it was just the two of us.”

-Eric Rothman

“First looks are great! What I loved about doing the first look was the anticipation of seeing my bride-to-be for the first time and the moments leading up to it being captured on camera. I was so nervous but so full of joy and excitement. She was full of anticipation to show herself to me for the first time. During our first look I was turned around waiting anxiously to see her just like every other moment prior to this one. I waited to hear footsteps. As she got closer my heart dropped more. Her footsteps stopped and there was nothing but silence until I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen, it was my soon-to-be bride. Those moments are most memorable. The first look also gave us time to hug and enjoy one another without all the guest watching. That allowed the pictures to come out great because we weren’t rushed. It made it even better because it was during the time of day when the sun was still out for good natural lighting.  Without a first look those moments wouldn’t have been captured so beautifully.”

-Jamaal Sabree

“It was great to get to see my bride for the first look because it really helped with the nerves! I got to see my beautiful bride and it took some of the pressure off. It was convenient to get a lot of pictures done beforehand and did not take away from me seeing her come down the aisle. I had an opportunity to see her (relatively) privately before all the craziness of the day.”

-Brad Schell

From Past Brides:

“Originally I wanted to have the ‘First Look’ when I was walking down the aisle, however after it was coordinated- I am glad I went with the latter. Less pressure, just the 2 of us and the photos that you both captured are with us forever- they are priceless and I still remember the emotions that I was overwhelmed with just walking up to him and tapping him on the shoulder. It was even more special the way he reacted and it really just made the whole process feel real.”

-Mandy Wright

“Having a first look was the best idea ever! Sharing that moment, just between you and your future husband, makes it feel more intimate and lovely, from the tapping him on the shoulder to seeing his lit-up face when he sees you and only you in a beautiful white dress. My husband and I had personal time to relish in our love and excitement for the upcoming ceremony all while getting some great photos during it (thanks Stephanie for that!). It also worked out for us because our ceremony was late afternoon so we caught the perfect sunlight that we would’ve otherwise missed out on. I tell all my friends who are now engaged to definitely consider the first look, if not for the logistics but for that special memory that you and your husband will share forever.”

-Gabby Aguayo

Cliffside Santa Barbara Wedding Photos at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara_Jacksfilms-First Look-The Ponces Fine Art Photography

To see some weddings that have an adorable first look, check these out.

Erin & Jack | Ritz-Carlton Bacara

Katie & Eric | Quail Ranch

Ann & Erik | Laguna Gloria

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