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Should You Consider Doing a “First Look”?

Choosing whether or not to do a “first look” is a personal decision that each couple should make for themselves. My goal is to help you decide what makes the most sense for you, and what will help you enjoy your wedding day to the fullest!

Either approach can be absolutely beautiful, but which you choose to go with will have an impact on things like your wedding day timeline, so I like to talk this out with my couples early on in the planning process!

Should you consider a first look? Photography by Emi Rose Studio.

First, what is an “aisle reveal”?

Traditionally, a bride and groom would not see each other on the wedding day until the ceremony itself, when the bride made her entrance and walked down the aisle to her groom. This is why we call the more traditional approach an “aisle reveal.”

For background, the aisle reveal originated in times when arranged marriages were common, and the couple was not allowed to see each other before the wedding, for fear that they would meet and decide they would not go through with the ceremony! Yikes – not a problem any of my couples have had to deal with!

Nowadays, most couples who choose to do an aisle reveal do so because they like the idea of a more traditional approach, or because they want their guests to be able to share in the moment that they see each other for the first time. It can be special to share that moment with your friends and family (and of course we all like to see a few tears in the groom’s eyes when he sees his bride for the first time!).

So, what is a “first look”?

These days, more and more couples are choosing a different approach, and having a “first look” before the wedding ceremony. It’s almost become a new wedding tradition in many circles! With a first look, the wedding couple shares a private moment before the ceremony in which they see each other for the first time in their wedding day best.

The first look happens away from the eyes of your wedding party and guests, so the moment is truly just the two of you (and of course your photographers, discretely capturing the magic!).

After photographing the first look, we typically move straight into portraits of you two, as well as your wedding party. With portraits out of the way before the ceremony, you’ll be able to attend your cocktail hour rather than spending that time on photos! Many couples like that the first look allows them to enjoy more time celebrating with their guests, rather than focusing on photography.

Should you consider a first look? Photography by Emi Rose Studio.
Should you consider a first look? Photography by Emi Rose Studio.
Should you consider a first look? Photography by Emi Rose Studio.

What is right for you?

What are the pros to doing a first look?
– We’ll be able to finish all of your portraits before the ceremony, so you’ll be able to attend your cocktail hour and spend time with guests instead of spending that time taking photos. Once the ceremony is over, the party can start!
– The first look is a private moment, so you won’t have the pressure of all of those eyes on you as you experience that moment with your soon-to-be spouse. In my experience, this is especially a pro for shyer couples!
– Many couples feel that doing a first look helps to calm their nerves before the ceremony.
– You’ll have more time to appreciate the moment and all of the emotions that it brings. Rather than getting right into the ceremony, you’ll be able to hold each other and be in the moment as long as you’d like.
– Your hair, makeup, and dress will be fresher in your portraits, since you’ll have finished getting ready just prior to the first look.
– If you’ll cry the first time that you see each other, you’ll have time to freshen up before the ceremony.
– Important: If you’re having a winter wedding, doing a first look means that we’ll be able to make beautiful portraits when it is still light outside!

What are the cons to doing a first look?
– Your family and friends won’t get to experience the moment that you see each other for the first time with you. Sometimes family (especially parents) may feel left out if they won’t be able to share in an aisle reveal. You should never make a wedding decision based solely upon what others want, but you may wish to discuss this with your families to see if this will be a factor in your decision!
– Your day will start a bit earlier to be ready for the first look. Hair and makeup will happen earlier, and you’ll end up wearing your gown longer.
– You may need to touch up hair and makeup after the first look and portraits, before the ceremony. Unless you arrange for your hair and makeup artists to stay longer, you or your bridesmaids may need to make these touch ups yourselves.
– If you do your portraits before the ceremony, you won’t actually be married in your portraits. Often, couples opt to wear their weddings rings in the photos anyway, but if this will bother you, then consider whether a first look is right for you or not!

Many photographers that I’ve encountered strongly encourage (or even require!) couples to do a first look over and aisle reveal, since it leaves more time for portraits. I am happy either way, as long as we plan for your choice! Your wedding is not a photoshoot – it’s a marriage, and a celebration of you and what matters most to you. I will be able to capture beautiful, emotional photos of the two of you, regardless of what you decide.

If you’re planning a wedding and you’re not sure whether to do a first look or not, get in touch! I’m happy to talk through the pros and cons, and how it might fit into the overall photography experience for your wedding.

The images in this post were taken while shooting as an assistant photographer for Alexandra Elise Photography!


The Guide

A lot of moving pieces go into planning a wedding day timeline and it can be hard to know where to begin. Grab this free guide to plan the perfect timeline for your day!