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Why You Should Consider a First Look for Your Wedding Day

Bride wipes a tear during an emotional first look.

When you are planning your wedding, there are a MILLION different decision to make! Some of those decisions may feel like small ones, but they actually have a pretty big impact on your wedding day as a whole! One of those decisions is whether you want to see your soon-to-be spouse before the ceremony and share a first look, OR if you want to go the traditional route and see each other for the first time walking down the aisle. Now the most important thing to remember is:

No matter what, whether you have an aisle reveal or a first look it’s going to be special when you see each other for the first time on your wedding day.

I personally am a big fan of first looks, and most of my couples are too, for lots of reasons! To help outline everything, I’ll share my thoughts, as well as some personal testimonials from past couples who did go the first look route! Here are just three reasons you should consider doing a first look:

Bride & groom share an excited and emotional first look.

1. Maximize your time with your guests!

Doing a first look with your soon-to-be spouse allows you to make the most of your time with your guests! When we are able to spend pre-ceremony time taking bride & groom portraits, bridal party photos, and family pictures that means you get to go to cocktail hour! Without a first look, cocktail hour is spent taking photos! While your guests are there, you’ll get to spend time with them celebrating rather than being out taking photos! Getting a head start on mingling during cocktail hour takes off some of the pressure to make it around to every single table during the reception!

2. Fully soak in that moment when you first see each other.

When you do a first look before the ceremony, it’s one of the very few times you get to be alone together on your wedding day. Having the privacy of that moment to be between just you two (and your photographer discreetly), lets the emotion really sink in. And you don’t have to wait through the entire ceremony before you can hug, talk, and kiss! You can share and experience it together right then and there. It also helps to settle any nerves before the ceremony, (it’s like a team huddle before the big moment!) so you can really focus and feel more relaxed at your ceremony to truly soak it all in!

4. Extend your day!

You’ll hear this a thousand times, but your wedding day will FLY by!! With so much joy and excitement filling the day, it goes by so quickly! One minute you’re getting hair and make up done with you girls, and the next you’re running through your sparkler send off, and the day is over!! When you have a first look, you get to have a more relaxed timeline and extend your wedding day to be just a little bit longer. Rather than cramming all your photos in after the ceremony, your day will start a little earlier to take photos before the ceremony without being rushed. And when you get to be present for all of the day (cocktail hour included), it’ll also feel like you get a little more time on your big day!

First Look Testimonials

Rather than just hearing it from me, some of my couples have found it helpful to hear from past brides and grooms about their experiences with first looks! So I asked some of my sweet couples to share a little bit about their first looks, why they decided to do one, what they loved about it, and if they would recommend it to other brides and grooms! Here’s what they have to say…

Alana & Ben: Spring Lake Manor

From Alana & Ben:

We decided to do a first look for a lot of reasons. A lot of them were practical reasons but the biggest one was to get rid of a lot of the stress and fear that comes along with this big day! We both new that if the first moment we saw each other was from opposite sides of our church with 200 people staring at us, we wouldn’t have reacted in a way we normally would. The first look allowed for us to have an unforgettable moment between just the two of us. We loved watching the each other’s jaws drop and then checking out each other looking better than ever. It gave us time to process and let all the nervousness of the day settle and turn to excitement. 

Stephanie & Brendan: Indian Trail Club

From Stephanie & Brendan:

For us – a first look was the obvious choice. Being a couple who wasn’t getting married at a church – we didn’t have any time between the ceremony and cocktail hour to take portraits. We made the decision easily to have a first look to ensure we didn’t miss out on our cocktail hour (for obvious reasons!) Also this took the pressure off taking MANY photos in such a short window of time. 

Having an intimate moment as our first look was more special than we could have ever dreamed. For that 10 minutes, time stood still. We didn’t have to worry about anyone else but each other and just breathe for a few minutes. Being able to show Brendan my mom’s wedding dress lace on my bouquet, and the way the silk on my dress swayed when I twirled are things I obviously could not have done during the ceremony.   He lovingly showed me the watch I had gifted him that morning and how well it paired with the cuff links we scrambled to buy a week or so before the wedding and we shared a laugh. The best part of all was that a few hours later – I came down the aisle and he still cried at the sight of me. Having a first look took a ton of pressure off the timeline of our wedding day and allowed us to relax through our portraits and enjoy our cocktail hour. Having a first look really checked all the boxes for us.

Check out a video of their first look by the wonderful, talented ToneMedia:

Trish & Dan: Hall of Springs

From Dan:

When Trish presented the idea of a first look, it was purely utilitarian.  How can we structure our event, time and photographs in such a way as to allow us maximum freedom.  We wanted our photos to be largely complete so we’d have time to greet guests and enjoy cocktail hour.  

What began as a logistical decision did end-up providing a truly memorable moment.  There is so much tantalizing fun in keeping the bride and groom separate before any ceremonial unveiling, however I imagine that I wouldn’t have had as much fun had it been the walk down the aisle.  The first look, prompted by a tap on the shoulder was a rush of emotion that I’d have difficulty explaining in words. I mean…I cried. There, I said it! I saw my beautiful bride-to-be, for the first time and it was overwhelming.  In front of a crowd of 275, I’d have felt a need to be a little restrained and formal. Not so with the first look. Outside of some distant spectators, it was a private, exciting moment just for us.

From Trish:

There were three main reasons I really wanted us to do a first look:

  1. Logistics of the day and wanting to have pictures finished so we were able to be in the full cocktail hour with all our favorite people – you will never have enough time that day with everyone you love so do whatever you can to be fully present in the cocktail and reception, you won’t regret it. 
  2. I get really anxious with people looking at me and with a large wedding of 275  guests I feared I would completely miss out on the emotional moment first seeing Dan when I was coming down the aisle because I’d be too distracted/anxious about the crowd – wow am I glad I had already seen him.  I was so unbelievably overwhelmed by the view of all my favorite people and how truly touched I was to see how many people made the effort to be with us and the love there that day I completely broke down, had I not already seen Dan I would have been a complete mess of tears with all the emotions, even more than I already was and then pictures would have been so sad haha.  
  3. I wanted to spend the most time possible that day with Dan and to have some real time “us” time before the guests arrived – we got to hold hands for hours and enjoy laughs and jokes with our bridal party which was so nice before the great chaos of the day truly began, once the guests arrived the rest of the day was a wonderful whirlwind with not many “just us” moments.  

The first look was above and beyond anything I could have imagined – it was truly magical.  To see my groom for the first time and get to see up close his initial reaction of my bridal look/both realize together omg this is really happening was one of my favorite, if not the favorite, moments of the day.  To get to see your best friend and forever love for the first time on your wedding day is beyond words, and a moment I will cherish forever – you don’t want anything clouding that moment. Spending that moment together, just you two, is so special.  When I think back on all the amazing moments of the day, I cherish that solid memory of seeing the love and emotion in his eyes for me to be his wife because we were able to truly enjoy the quiet/almost time stopping moment of the first look.   

Alyssa & John: Park Chateau

From Alyssa:

A first look was a definite must for me for a couple different reasons. For one, we got married December 22 which is one of the shortest days in the year. Our ceremony was at 4pm and sun set at 422pm, so if we wanted any photos in the daylight, we needed to have a first look. This is definitely something to consider for all of the November, December and January brides. Secondly, having a first look allowed us to spend more time with our friends and family during the cocktail hour. You spend months and months planning the wedding, and the day goes by so fast! You want to make sure you enjoy yourself, embrace the moment and spend the most time celebrating with your guests! Our bridal party thanked us as well because they got to enjoy the full cocktail hour with their significant others.

From John: 

The first look was something my wife felt very strong about. At first I did not have a preference, but in the end I am glad we ended up doing a first look. The first look decreased the anxiety of seeing each other for the first time. There are so many emotions that take place on the wedding day, it was nice to see each other before everything began and spend the time together just us two. When you do a first look just the two of you, you get to actually embrace the first look-cry, say whatever you want to say, etc. When you are in front of all your guests the first time you see each other, you can’t necessarily do that. I definitely recommend a first look.

Maurade & Jason: Perona Farms

From Maurade:

I loved the idea of a first look because I knew that we wanted to take advantage of taking pictures before the ceremony.  I also thought it was a great opportunity to make the experience a little more personal and intimate, rather than him seeing me at the same time as the rest of our guests.  I loved the pine area of our venue and as soon as I saw it I knew it would be the perfect place to capture the moment! 

From Jason: 

I liked the idea of a first look because it allowed me to have some time with Maurade before the ceremony.  I also knew that we wanted to take advantage of taking photos together so it was great that we were able to spend all our time with our guests rather than taking photos after the ceremony.  That allowed for more candid moments with our guests. I also loved that I was able to finally see Maurade’s dress before everyone else! 

Lauren & Tom: Rock Island Lake Club

From Lauren & Tom:

We chose to do a first look for several reasons, and we are so glad that we did! At the very least, we had most of our bridal portraits and group shots done before the actual ceremony so that we could enjoy cocktail hour with our guests. We also found that doing a first look made walking down the aisle in front of all of our family and friends much less stressful; our ceremony was very easy to enjoy when we were present in the moment, and not overcome with emotion. Finally, the main reason that we chose to do a first look was to have an intimate moment together to take it all in, and for that we were so thankful. It was truly one of very few moments that we spent alone that day, and there is nothing like it in the world. Looking back through memories and our pictures, I still feel the same butterflies as when his eyes met mine for the first time that day, and I will never forget how amazing that was.

I hope this blog post is helpful if you’re on the fence about doing a first look! I truly think it’s such a special new tradition, that only adds to all the joy and emotion of your wedding day! Happy wedding planning! xoxo

Want some more tips for brides?! Check out “5 Easy Ways to Take Your Wedding Day Details to the Next Level”!

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