Spotlight: The First Look Dilemma

Evaluating the pros and cons of this trendy wedding tradition
Written by
Laura Cross

The "first look" in the context of a wedding refers to a pre-arranged, private moment between the couple before the actual ceremony begins. During the "first look," the bride and groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day, often in their wedding attire, away from the eyes of the guests. The intimate encounter is typically orchestrated by the wedding photographer to capture the genuine emotions and reactions of the couple. Couples opting for a "first look" often weigh the desire for a special, personal moment against the traditional custom of seeing each other for the first time at the altar during the ceremony.

Navigating the intricate decisions of a wedding day involves careful consideration of traditions, emotions and logistical choices. Among these considerations, the "first look" has emerged as a pivotal moment for couples about to be married. This pre-ceremony encounter brings forth a myriad of perspectives. While some couples swear by the magic of this intimate encounter, others remain committed to the tradition of seeing each other for the first time at the altar. In this Spotlight feature, two wedding experts weigh in on the pros and cons of opting for a first look on your wedding day – shedding light on the nuanced factors that contribute to creating a memorable and meaningful wedding experience.

Jennie Streitberger, Events By Jennie
As a wedding planner I have brides who always ask me the pros and cons of having a "first look" There are so many "pros" to having a first look. 

It can help to calm your wedding nerves. This quiet moment will allow for you to get out any nerves, so you feel and look relaxed and comfortable for the ceremony. 

You look incredible! Of course, you will both look amazing all day, but a first look is done before the ceremony and reception when your hair is in place, and you have not cried off any makeup. 

More time to spend with your guests. This is usually the main deciding factor. Many venues limit the number of hours you have and you only book a set number of hours with your photographer. A first look will free up time for you to spend with your guests in order to be able to get those pictures done before the ceremony.

If you did not do a first look It can also be challenging for the photographer to get all the pictures you want after the ceremony when many of the guests are trying to find you and congratulate you. I have had photographers who have had to take couples off property just so they could escape guests and get the photos finished. 

There really are no "cons" of having a first look unless there is a cultural or religious reason that is going to upset family if you elect to do one, or if you have always envisioned seeing your fiancé' at the end of the aisle and seeing their reaction for the first time in front of all your family and friends. If that is the case, then by all means do not see each other before the ceremony. 

I have done weddings both ways and I will always advocate for what my couple wants and not let a vendor pressure them into something just based on convenience. It is your day, and you should have it be exactly the way you want it to be. First look or not. 

Bryan Aulick Wedding Photography
Bryan Aulick Wedding Photography

Alisha Reicks-Sturgill, The Indigo Bride
One advantage of opting for a first look is the opportunity to set eyes on each other much earlier in the day. It's your wedding day, why not spend as much time together as possible? Embrace the chance to share a tender moment before the ceremony, share private vows or sweet moments together. This can help ease pre-ceremony nerves. Being together right before the ceremony when emotions are at their peak adds an extra layer of sentimentality to your wedding day. 

One drawback to opting for a first look is the necessity to kick off the day a bit earlier, ensuring ample time for hair and makeup preparations in the morning.

Julia Duke Photo
Julia Duke Photo

Megan Galasso, Meg Cole Photos
First looks are great because it gives the couple an opportunity to spend some time together before all the wedding festivities begin and it also helps ease pre-ceremony nerves. Not everyone enjoys being the center of attention, and having an opportunity to connect with your partner helps bring a sense of calmness. Some people say the downside to couples choosing a first look is that it takes the emotion away from the ceremony. I do not believe that! I have seen plenty of beautiful wedding ceremonies full of happy tears that choose to have a first look. I leave the decision completely up to my couples.

Meg Cole Photos
Meg Cole Photos