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Bride and groom laughing during first look

Do you need a first look? Cape Cod wedding photographer | Christine Hazel Photography

I’m opening this week’s journal with a bang, and I’m about to ruffle some feathers: all weddings need a first look. There, I said it! It could be divisive! But my goal is to convince you 1,000% why you really do need a first look by the end of this entry.

But before we get ahead of ourselves…

Bride and groom kissing and groom picking up bride

What is a first look?

A first look is when the almost married couple takes a private moment to see each other for the first time on their wedding day. This happens before the walk down the aisle. 

A lot can happen during the first look, but the specifics of course depend on the couple. Many simply choose to see each other for the first time with their media team capturing their reactions. 

Some also use this time to exchange private vows, gifts, or letters.

Some couples even add in variations to the first look, like doing the first look with parents, siblings, and the bridal/wedding party. Really, there are no rules here. 

Bride laughing while reading letters with groom

Are first looks worth it?

Yes, yes, and again, yes.

But I will be sure to tell you all of my reasons why. I’m not asking you to let go of an old tradition without very, very good reasons:

Bride and groom hugging during first look

The first look allows you to spend more time with your spouse on your wedding day

To me, this is the biggest, most important reason. If your in the midst of planning a wedding, you don’t need me to tell you about how much thought; effort; and frankly, money goes into planning your big day. 

When weddings are a significant investment and the celebration of the forever commitment you’re making to each other, why would you purposefully plan to spend the majority of your day apart?

Some people might claim it’s for the big aisle reaction, so let’s just tackle that one next:

Groom wiping away tear when he sees bride coming down the aisle

Does a first look take away from walking down the aisle? 

After five years in the wedding industry, I can confidently say a resounding “No!” here. In fact, the aisle moments with the biggest reactions tend to be from the first look camp.

If you think about it, when you wait for that aisle moment, there is a lot of pressure riding on those few seconds. Not only are you anxiously awaiting the sight of your love, but you have hundreds of eyeballs scanning your faces with the precision of FBI agents hunting for America’s most wanted. Everyone’s thinking “Did he cry?” “Did she cry?” Who’s about to cry?”

It’s enough to give anyone stage fright. 

The first look allows you to see each other and react genuinely without an adoring, albeit intimidating audience. When couples remove some of the pressure, emotions actually flow much more freely.

Bride and groom holding hands and kissing during first look

The first look allows you to enjoy your cocktail hour with your friends and family

When there isn’t a first look, many important pictures have to occur after the ceremony. It can be a bit of a mad dash to work through family portraits, wedding party portraits, and bride and groom portraits. 

While you’re working through all of these images, which you will undoubtedly cherish forever, your lovely guests are munching on all of the delicious hors d’oeuvres. Their blissfully sipping your signature cocktails. And you’re…not.

The portraits you’re taking are absolutely precious, important, and irreplaceable. That’s a hill I will die on. But you don’t need to take them when you could be mingling and celebrating with your guests. If you’ve already seen each other, you can do all of these prior to the ceremony. 

Then, you’re enjoying everything alongside of your guests. Your parents, siblings, grandparents, and wedding party all have a fantastic time, too, since stacking the portraits earlier in the day also allows them to mingle and enjoy.

Bride and groom dancing and kissing during first look

The first look allows you more peace

How so? Because you’re automatically building in cushion time in case of emergencies. 

I think we’re all familiar with weather changing on a dime. Sometimes a rainstorm can annoyingly pop up for 20 minutes, even when there’s no hint of it coming on a weather report. If you’re trying to take every single important picture within a one hour time frame and that one hour needs to be rearranged instantly, things get hectic.

But when you have a first look, you have a plan b. You hoped for gorgeous pictures at your favorite outdoor spot but the weather will not cooperate during portrait time? Or hair and makeup ran late? Or a groomsman split his pants? You do still have cocktail hour if absolutely necessary. 

While I always do my best to get couples to fully enjoy their cocktail hour, it’s a useful span of time in case we need to tackle mini hiccups throughout the day. 

When you know you have time for a plan b, it’s so much easier to relax if something isn’t perfect. 

Bride and groom holding hands while exchanging private vows

The first look allows you to actually talk to your spouse when you see them!

This was briefly touched on during the what is a first look section, so I won’t stay here too long. 

But if you see each other for the first time at the aisle, you really don’t have time for a conversation since your officiant will be literally marrying you. The first look lets this be a genuine moment when you can say all the things that flood into your mind. 

Bride crying while exchanging private vows during first look

The first look allows you to look your best.

Practically speaking, you’ve just had your hair and makeup done. There hasn’t been any time for any wardrobe malfunctions or makeup mishaps. If you shed a few tears, you can touch things up before the portraits happen. Win win win!

Bride and groom kissing in a vineyard during first look

The first look allows all the formal portrait participants to be in prime form.

Nobody is sweaty yet from being outside too long. Nobody should be hangry since they’re waiting for dinner. And, in most circumstances, everyone is still sober!

So the wedding party and family portrait times can be a bit easier for everyone when the circumstances are still ideal.

Bride and groom kissing

What are the cons of the first look?

In my opinion, there aren’t any cons that weigh heavily enough to outdo all of the pros for a first look. 

One con would be you are giving up the tradition of seeing each other for the first time at the aisle. But like I’ve said before, all of the couples that gave up that traditional moment never regretted it.

I’ve had some clients who were on the fence about the decision, but made the decision to trust my advice. Not a single one came back to me and said they wished they waited for the aisle. They were too busy laughing, hugging, crying, and soaking up the joy of the first look with the one they love.

And they still had an amazing moment walking down the aisle since they didn’t face any pressure and because you know, they’re getting married! It’s about to be official! And that’s always exciting. 

The other con would be that some say seeing each other before the ceremony is bad luck. I don’t believe that myself. It’s up to you how much credit to give that one.

What do you think? Did I convince you? I hope so! Did I miss any of the benefits? I’d love to know!

Until next time,


Looking for some more wedding advice? Check out some of my other journal entries:

Have you shot at our venue before?

Hiring your wedding photographer

Interested in my latest work? Take a peek!

Sarah and Dan’s central MA elopement

Courtney and Schuyler’s Boston Seaport engagement

Ashley and JJ’s The Coonamessett wedding

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