“Should We Have a First Look at Our Wedding?”

A hugely popular wedding trend is to share a First Look (an intimate reveal where you get to see each other and take photos together before the ceremony) with your partner on your wedding day. In 2017, 44% of couples shared a First Look and the numbers have been steadily rising each year.


Not sure if a First Look is right for you?

The Short Answer:

If your ceremony & reception are taking place in the same location, with no gap between the ceremony and cocktail hour, I highly recommend doing a First Look.

If your ceremony (typically at a church) & reception are in different locations, with a 1.5+ hour gap in between, I would recommend not having a First Look and taking most of the portraits after the ceremony instead.

The Hard Truth:

If you choose not to have a First Look and there is no gap of time in between your ceremony and cocktail hour, that means that we only have a total of one hour to take photos of:

  • the two of you together (the most important photos on your wedding day!)
  • your bridesmaids
  • your groomsmen
  • your full wedding party
  • your immediate family
  • your extended family
  • and your reception details

(If you do that math, that equals less than 10 minutes for each, not accounting for setup or transition times!)

This means that couples rarely have any time to mingle, enjoy, or eat during their cocktail hour.

Possible Solution:

If you don’t want to have a First Look and there is no gap of time in between your ceremony & cocktail hour, I would highly recommend asking your venue if they offer a 1.5 hour cocktail hour so we have more time to take all of the portraits and reception detail shots in that time frame. Since our portrait time will be limited, please try to keep your Family Shot List as concise as possible, for the sake of time. I would also recommend carving out a 10+ minute time slot during your reception for us to sneak away to take some more photos together, since we probably won’t be able to get enough during cocktail hour. I would also recommend reserving 2+ hours for Bride Prep and 1.5+ hours for Groom Prep so we can save time by taking the separate bridesmaids and groomsmen photos before the ceremony.

should we have a first look at our wedding

Perks of Having a First Look

  1. Logistics & Timing. Having a first look allows you take all of the most important portraits before your ceremony, reducing so much stress and rushing around during cocktail hour, thus allowing you to really be present and soak in your wedding day (and time to actually eat!).
  2. Quality, Quantity, & Variety of Photos. Having more time for portraits allows us to take our time, have fun, and get photos in a variety of different settings with lots of different poses, so you’ll end up with a diverse collection of photos to look back on for years to come.
  3. An Intimate Moment Together. A large portion of your wedding day is spent surrounded by all of your friends & family. Having a First Look allows you to spend a peaceful, private, intimate moment together, to really reflect upon what this day is all about: the two of you. The major downside to an Aisle Reveal is that it doesn’t allow you to have any time to speak to each other, share a long embrace, or really revel in the moment. As soon as you see each other, the ceremony begins, your officiant will start talking, and all eyes will be on you, with a microphone in your face. When you have a First Look, you can take as long as you want to tell each other how beautiful you look, talk about how your morning went, hug, kiss, get a 360 degree look at each other, without any distractions, without the nerves or pressure of a crowd of people looking at you.
  4. Relieves Stress, Pressure, & Nerves. Many couples have told me that having a First Look really helped to calm their pre-ceremony jitters and that they loved being able to talk out their nerves with their partner. Another added benefit: you no longer have to be afraid of accidentally running into each other before the ceremony, making logistics so much easier.


A Traditional Aisle Reveal

Some couples prefer that the first time they see each other on their wedding day is at their ceremony, while walking down the aisle. The three most common reasons for this are:

  1. Tradition. 9 times out of 10, the reason couples choose not to have a First Look is because they value tradition and don’t want to disappoint any family members who may not understand the modern First Look trend. They want to get married in a similar way as their parents & grandparents.
  2. Superstition. There’s an ancient superstition that it’s bad luck to see each other before the ceremony, a superstition that dates back to arranged marriages (so the partner didn’t have time to disapprove or run away until it’s too late!)
  3. Emotion or “Dramatic Effect”. Some couples choose not to have a First Look because they think they will be more likely to cry or show signs of emotion when they see their partner walking down the aisle, and they want their friends & family to witness this reaction.
    • For some men & women, this is true. The music, the suspense, the atmosphere… all of it is super emotional to some people! However, some men feel so shy or intimidated being stared at by so many onlookers that they actually conceal their emotions.
    • Almost every time I’ve seen a man cry during the First Look, he also cried during the ceremony, so there’s really nothing to lose by doing both.
    • If you’d like to have a First Look but you want your friends & family to witness the reaction, a simple solution is to allow them to look on during your First Look (or just show them the photos afterwards)!

Whatever you choose, there’s really no wrong answer. This is your wedding day, choose whatever works best for you two. With careful planning, we can make any situation work!

should we have a first look at our wedding why or why not

Example Timelines

Here are some examples of ideal timelines both with or without a First Look.

* Every wedding day is different. I’d be more than happy to put together my recommended timeline for your wedding – just send me the start & end times of your ceremony, cocktail hour, & reception, and the addresses of your prep locations! *


1-2:15pm – Groom Prep at hotel (details, getting ready, getting dressed, etc.)
* groomsmen head to venue at 2:15pm – 15 minute drive *
1-2:30 – Bride Prep in bridal suite (details, getting ready, getting dressed, etc.)
2:45 – First Look, B&G portraits, full wedding party photos
3:45 – Family Portraits
4:15 – B&G hide away, photographers capture ceremony details
4:30 – Guests arrive
4:40 – Ceremony
5pm – Cocktail hour, photograph reception details
6pm – Reception starts
9pm – Cake cutting, bouquet toss
9:45pm – Sparkler Exit
10pm – End time


1-2:15pm – Groom Prep at hotel (details, getting ready, getting dressed, etc.)
* groomsmen head to church at 2:15pm – 15 minute drive *
1-2:30 – Bride Prep at home (details, getting ready, getting dressed, etc.)
* bridesmaids head to church at 2:30pm – 15 minute drive *
3-4pm – Ceremony
4pm – Bubble exit from church, immediate family photos
* drive to park – 10 minutes away *
4:30-5:15 – B&G portraits, full wedding party photos
* drive to venue – 15 minutes away *
5-6:30pm – Cocktail Hour, extended family photos, photographers capture reception details
6:30pm– Reception starts
7:30pm – Sneak away for some sunset portraits
 – Cake cutting, bouquet toss
10pm – Photography coverage ends
10:30 – Reception ends

should we have a first look at our wedding

* My husband and I chose to have a First Look and it was the best decision ever!! It was so great to be able to share that moment together and ease each others’ nerves before all the formalities began, and we were able to take so many portraits all over our venue’s property without feeling rushed. *


If you plan to have any of these other first looks, please be sure to budget an extra 10-15 minutes for each type of First Look you’d like to add on to your timeline.

Bridesmaids Reveal:

Father Daughter First Look:

First Touch:

Doggy First Look:

bride first look with dog

Bride’s First Look at Herself:


Read more helpful wedding planning blog posts here.

September 15, 2023

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