First Look Pros and Cons – Should you have one?

First Look Pros and Cons

When planning out your wedding day, you want to make sure every moment means something to you as a couple and that it reflects what you always envisioned – that includes the super popular “First Look” that has quickly become a staple in modern day weddings. Deciding whether or not to have one should only be made after you have gone through all of the first look pros and cons. Luckily for you, we went ahead and did all the hard work for you and put together this ultimate first look guide!

Cover photo by Chrissy Gilmartin Photography
Trend Turned Into Tradition
Whether you love them, loathe them or are indifferent, first looks have become a special part of today’s weddings. More and more couples are opting for this sweet moment before their big day begins. Because it is a somewhat of a new concept, most brides who opt for a first look only do so after careful consideration. When we think of getting married in the traditional sense, most imagine walking down the aisle and seeing their significant other for the first time. That very first glimpse shared with family and friends is what many guests look forward to. While the first look does not entirely take that moment away, it does allow the couple to keep emotions between the two of them.
In this article I am going to lay it all out, the pros, the cons and even bring in the opinions of some pro photographers. After reading this resource, you will have a better understanding of whether or not a first look on your wedding day is right for you.
first look Pros and cons
Photo by Astray Photography
The Pros of a Wedding First Look
  1. Opting for a first look allows the couple more time to take photos with their family and wedding party after the ceremony. Often, there is a big rush after the ceremony to make sure all the photos get squeezed in. Having a first look eliminates the need for couple portraits later on while making more time for groups shots.
  2. Most ceremonies are held in the late afternoon. Having a first look earlier in the day allows for the photographer to plan and adjust lighting and location – something that is not possible during the ceremony. For the most part, the conditions surrounding the first look location could be somewhat controlled. If it rains, it can be easily moved indoors, if the lighting is off, the photographer has time to adjust settings and bring in lighting accessories.
  3. The couple has an opportunity to share a special moment of calmness as they take it all in and get their emotions out of the way before the ceremony.  Sarah Elizabeth says “I think it  gives a chance for the groom to really show his true reaction seeing his bride for the first time, under less pressure. Sometimes the more shy grooms will try to hide their reactions when they know they’re being stared at by all their family and friends.”
  4. First look pictures are simply amazing! The genuine emotion they capture can’t be recreated anywhere else. They are a candid photographer’s dream.
  5. Couples can choose any location they like. Being that there are no requirements on where a first look can be held, you are only limited by your schedule and imagination.  I have seen first looks on rooftops, mountaintops, by the ocean or in a hidden garden.
  6. Most first look couples may even find that they have enough time to join their guests for cocktail hour.  Couples who choose to go the traditional route often miss out on cocktail hour because they need that time to take pictures.

same sex first look

Photo by Kevin Heslin Photography

“When I’m describing the “first look” to my couples during our consult – I always tell them that this moment with your soon-to-be spouse is SO special and it doesn’t take away from the moment you walk down the aisle with your dad. Instead having a first look before you walk down the aisle gives you TWO special moments,” says Rachel King. “Ultimately our brides and grooms decide what is best for their day, but we have never had a couple experience the first look and have regrets! They are always thankful they chose to do a first look!”

Kevin Heslin says, “I love first looks! It is a chance for just the couple to be together and have a moment before the ceremony and really express themselves without any pressure from people watching. It also gives the wedding couple a quiet moment to support each other and give each other encouragement before facing the big crowd,” He adds, “A nice little bonus is it gives us a chance to also have mini mini portrait session. “
Photo by Sarah Elizabeth Photos
The Cons of a Wedding First Look
  1. If the schedule for the day is running behind, the first look may cause an extra delay.  Sometimes the makeup artist or hairdresser may get caught in traffic or there may be a wardrobe malfunction. These unpredictable events can cause a delay and may force some of the days events to be rushed – making the first look potentially stressful.
  2. You will need to get up and ready earlier in the day. Because of scheduling, they first look may need to be done well in advance of the ceremony, if this is the case, you will need to get ready hours earlier.
  3. Parents, wedding party, and guests will not be able to share in the moment of you and your spouse seeing each other for the first time. This is probably the biggest deciding factor for most brides, they simply can’t picture their day any other way.
  4. Your gown could get dirty. Depending on the location and weather, a remote first look location opens up the possibly of your gown getting dirty just before the ceremony.
  5. You will most likely need a retouch of makeup afterwards. Most people can’t predict their emotions and the first look can bring on a whirlwind of happy tears.  The likelihood that you will need to pay your makeup artist to stick around to touch up your makeup is very high.

Photo by Penny Photographics
Sarah Elizabeth believes that both options are just as romantic. She says, “Most of the time my brides have already decided on their own whether or not they will do a first look. But if they do ask me my opinion, I don’t really try to sway them either way but instead give them what I believe the benefits are of both and try to figure out what is most important to them.   I don’t want the more traditional brides and grooms to feel like they are making the wrong decision not opting for a first look though. Waiting to see each other until you get to the altar is also just as romantic and beautiful.”
wedding first touch
Photo by Capturing WNC Photography
Alternative First Look Options
If you choose not to have a first look, there are still ways to recreate the moment without taking away from your walk down the aisle.
  1. Some couples will opt for a “first touch.”  This is when a couple meets up with a door or a wall between them. They are still able to speak to each other and hold hands but they wont be able to see each other. It also a good time to read handwritten notes to each other or a favorite poem.
  2. Another way to do a first look is to have one between Father & Daughter. These can be just as emotional and special since this is one of the last moments before a father sees his daughter before she becomes a wife.
  3. The bridal party first look is a fun twist on the idea. Usually the bridesmaids will wait in a specified location where the bride will come out to greet them just after she is finished getting ready. These tend to be more exciting instead of emotional.
  4. A fun alternative that we love is to have the groom remain blindfolded the whole time.  You still will enjoy all the benefits of the first look but you will still be able to preserve the tradition of having your groom see you for the first time as you walk down the aisle.
first look bride surprises groom
Photo By Rachel King
Ultimately, it is up to you and your significant other if a first look is the right decision. After reading the pros and cons above, I hope that you have been able to make an informed decision. If you are still on the fence, I have put together a Q&A on some of the most common questions I get from our readers below.
How long does a first look usually last?
A first look can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. There can also be a certain amount of time needed to prep, so extra time may need to be factored in for the wedding pros to prepare.
What am I supposed to do during a first look?
I say – just enjoy yourself and the moment! There are no rules so just do what feels natural. If you feel like you need to add an extra element, you can exchange a small gift or a note. 
Who should walk out and who should be waiting?  
This depends on your preferences, if your first look is out on the beach you may want to have some help with your dress to get to the location and have your groom walk out to you so that you are not dragging your dress on the sand.  If it’s indoors and you can make a grand entrance, it may be a good idea to have the bride walk in while the groom waits.
Where is the best place to have a first look? 
The best spot is one that provides privacy and has good lighting for photos. A remote location where outsiders are not visible and where there is minimal distraction is ideal. You want the moment to be as intimate as possible.

We hope you enjoyed reading through the first look pros and cons. Let us know in the comments what you decided to do for your special day?

Looking for more wedding planning tips and advice? Check out our wedding planning checklist for all the advice you need to plan with ease!

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