Should I Have a First Look

June 1, 2018

SHOULD I HAVE A FIRST LOOK? I’ve received this question several times since becoming a wedding photographer. It’s 2018 and things are different in the wedding world than they used to be. Brides are ditching their veils, ditching the garter toss, having donuts instead of cake, and having first looks. So what exactly is a first look? A first look is when the bride and groom see each other before their wedding. Wait what?! First looks normally take place right before the ceremony to give the couple a chance to have a few private moments together. The bride is dressed in her wedding dress and the groom is ready in his suit. About 30 minutes after the first look, the ceremony begins.

Before you decide whether to try or nix the first look, consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of embracing this new tradition.

There are definitely pro’s to having a first look; however, if you’re more traditional and don’t feel 100% comfortable having a first look then do not let society or your photographer tell you that you have to have a first look. You must remember throughout your wedding planning that this is your wedding and you can do whatever you want!

One of the biggest pros of having a first look is you have a few private moments together before your wedding day progresses. This will help calm nerves and any anxiety you may be feeling. Plus it’s your wedding day! Why would you want to spend most of the day separated? First looks also allow for more portrait time! Not only more portrait time with the bride and the groom but the entire bridal party can be photographed before the ceremony! After your ceremony you can jump right into family photos, take a few husband and wife portraits then head into cocktail hour or the reception.

When brides and grooms book with me, one of the first things I do is create a suggested timeline. This suggested timeline is based off of their ceremony start time. It helps ensure that I make the most out of the coverage time and helps me see what I need to photograph and when. The only time I would HIGHLY suggest a first look is if your ceremony is starting around an hour before sunset.

SCENARIO #1 Lets say sunset on your wedding day is 6 pm. Your wedding begins at 5 pm and you expect your ceremony to last 45 minutes. You didn’t want to have a first look and now there is 15 minutes left for portraits. The ceremony ends, your family wants to come up and congratulate you, now there is 5-10 minutes left for all of your family portraits, bridal party portraits, and bride/ groom portraits. That’s super stressful for everyone and not a way to begin life as husband and wife.

I add in my suggested timeline, 1 hour for family portraits, bridal party portraits, and bride/ groom portraits. More time would be even be better just to add some cushion in case a family member is MIA and family photos take longer than expected. Cushion time added into your timeline is always best. Having enough time or more than enough time is much more pleasant than not having enough time.

SCENARIO #2 Your wedding ceremony begins at 5 pm. You expect the ceremony to last 45 minutes. We plan one hour for all portraits (family, bridal party, bride and groom) and the sun set is at 7pm. That is ideal timing for two reasons. 1. There is some cushion on time. After your ceremony we won’t immediately begin taking family portraits because your guests will take some time heading to the reception, your family will want to congratulate you, and you and your new husband will probably need to take a few moments together to take in what just happened. It’s now 6 pm and we begin taking pictures. We have a full hour until the sunsets and you enter into your reception. It’s also golden hour so we can capture some gorgeous bride and groom portraits with perfect light!

Personal thoughts on having a first look When I got married 5 years ago, first looks weren’t as popular as they are now. Even if they were, I would not have opted to have a first look simply because I dreamed of seeing my fiancé down the aisle and I didn’t want to change that vision. My wedding timeline allowed for plenty of photos. We took portraits after the ceremony and again at golden hour before sunset. If my ceremony began right around sunset, we would have had to do a first look or change the ceremony start time.

I gave you a lot to think about but just keep in mind, if you aren’t 100% comfortable with having a first look then make sure to tell your photographer and be open to possibly changing your ceremony start time if it’s right around sunset. You want to have plenty of time for images so you can remember the most wonderful, fastest day of your life!

Here are some more tips for brides that you may find helpful!

7 Commonly Asked Wedding Questions
The Importance of Engagement Sessions
What to Wear for your Engagement Session
Sample Wedding Timeline
What Time Should Your Wedding Begin?

Sarah Botta is a Northern Virginia based wedding photographer whose work can be described as organic, natural, and timeless. Sarah specializes in capturing people’s stories and building connections with each client to help tell their story.

Sarah has photographed over 30 weddings across Virginia and Maryland from rustic barn ceremonies to elaborate golf course receptions. Her natural timeless style shines brightest with outdoor locations. Sarah is available for travel worldwide and is passport ready.

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Sarah Botta Photography

hi, there!

Welcome to my blog, where I share recent weddings + engagements, newborns, families, and pieces of my life! When I’m not photographing, you can find me traveling, enjoying the great outdoors, or hanging out with my husband, Danny and pomchi, Bayah. I adore working with adventurous, head-over-heels in love couples and can’t wait to tell your story.

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