The 7 Reasons to Do a First Look

When planning your wedding day, one of the most important, and often most difficult, questions you face is, “Do we do a first look?” And I get it! Even as a wedding photographer, it was a question my wife and I discussed at length; do we see each other first and have a little more time for pictures, or do we keep it traditional and not see each other until the moment you start to walk down the aisle?

Conveniently, to help you decide, I have compiled a totally unbiased, balanced, impartial list of 7 reason you absolutely have to do a first look

1. Spend more time together!

It seems obvious when you see it written out, but your wedding is a celebration of the day you dedicate your life to the person you’ve chosen to be with forever, so why not actually spend the day together?

When planning the timeline, couples often overlook how little time they will actually get to spend time with their fiancé/spouse. Since you’re planning it together, you kind of think of the day as something you’re doing together. But for many couples, they don’t realize until 5:00pm the evening of their wedding that they are only now getting to talk to each other for the first time all day.

Your wedding day is a blur anyway, but the more time you spend with each other, the more relaxed and enjoyable the whole day will feel.

2. Spend more time with your guests!

Couples who opt not to do a first look often have to skip their own cocktail hour so they can go take photos with each other and with the wedding party, meaning they miss out on one of the most enjoyable parts of the wedding day! The cocktail hour is kind of the perfect time of your wedding; the weather is usually the best, drinks are flowing, people are mixing around and chatting, and for the first time all day, you have a chance to actually talk to all of the people you’ve invited (“many of whom have flown a long way”, your parents don’t let you forget). Missing out on this time largely means you will instead have to spend all of dinner chatting with guests at their tables. Do your stomach a favor and allow dinner time to be spent eating.

3. 5:00pm is the end of the day, not the beginning!

It’s easy to get lost in the chaotic swirl of planning where nothing makes sense, so everything makes sense, and to lose track of what time of day things would normally be happening. When you plan a late afternoon/early evening ceremony, it can seem like that is just a normal time to do things. But I’m here to remind you that if your ceremony doesn’t end until 5:00pm, that is the end of most business days. Don’t just get ready all day for a nice dinner party that night, get ready in the morning and have a whole wedding day!

4. You’re going to be up early anyway!

One thing I hear a lot when chatting with couples about timeline is that they don’t want to have to wake up at 8:00am to start getting ready. Which makes sense on paper. But one of the first questions I ask brides when I show up to their rooms on the morning of the wedding is, “So, how much sleep did you get?” and the answer is almost never more than 6 hours. The same anxious nerves that would wake you up at sunrise on Christmas morning when you were a child are the same nerves that will wake you up at 6:00am the morning of your wedding. May as well take advantage of that and start getting ready early!

5. Your photos will be so much better!

The top three ingredients for better wedding photos are time, time, and more time. When you have more time, you can go more places, you can go to more interesting locations, and more than anything, you give your photographer time to work. I cannot stress enough how much this will help your photographer and videographer get you the gorgeous, romantic, authentic moments that you want. Trying to create perfect, timeless photographs in the alley behind the church in 15 minutes is not setting you or your creative vendors up for success. Give them time for your sake and theirs.

6. Seeing each other for the first time in private is actually more emotional!

A groom once told me, “Yeah, I actually don’t think I remember anything that happened during the ceremony.” I hear that sentiment quite frequently, but almost exclusively from couples who opt not to do first looks. And honestly, it makes sense; all of the time, energy, and stress you put into your wedding all culminates in this one moment when you first see each other in front of your 200 closest friends and family,  and you’re so overwhelmed with emotion that you’re not able to process the experience. But first looks allow you to see each other in a calm, quiet moment that you get to share together. You can hug and cry and laugh and talk to each other. You can decompress and finally breathe. Then when you get to the ceremony, you remember the moments and you experience the feelings because it’s now something you’re doing together.

7. Everything runs 45 minutes behind schedule!

My goal is always to help the couple relax and enjoy their wedding day as much as possible. The thing that ruins all of that is stressing about the timeline! Every wedding day, we end up running 45 minutes behind schedule (or 3 hours, depending on the day). Those 45 minutes can be very hectic and overwhelming when it means you’re doing to be late to the church. But if you’re running 45 minutes late to the first look, who cares! Your day can be much more chill when things are flexible, and first looks are a great first step towards that.

8. Secret reason #8: Well, you don’t actually have to do a first look!

So if by this point you’re thinking, “Well he makes good points, but I’m just more traditional, and I want that special moment when I walk down the aisle and my partner sees me for the first time,” I completely understand, and I do have good news for you, too. You don’t have to do a first look. Your wedding is yours! Don’t let anyone convince you to do anything with your wedding that you don’t want to do. The best advice I can give any couple planning their wedding is to not listen to all of the people who want to tell you what to do with your day (except me -- I’m making great points!). But, you should still take these notes to heart, and choose the earliest time slot available at the church. :-)