FAQ: The First Look ~ Wedding Day Timeline Tips

Over the years I’ve had quite a few clients ask me my thoughts on whether or not they should do a First Look, and I’ve drafted similar emails over and over again… so I figured I should finally just write a blog post about it! (As some of you may remember, I have a First Look included in our timeline FAQ post, which you can read HERE.)





First I want to start by saying that while I love First Looks, they aren’t necessarily ideal for all wedding days. (We’ve shot plenty of weddings where a First Look just didn’t make sense with the layout of the day!) Therefore, I only suggest doing them when it makes the most sense with the wedding events and make sure to educate clients on what I think their best option is based on their schedule. For us it is always about educating our clients so they can make informed decisions about their wedding day, and in turn end up with photos they love! (I don’t want them ever to end up feeling like we did after our wedding day – wishing we had known about First Looks, and wishing we had done one to maximize our time with our photographers, and get to spend more time with our loved ones!)




I think First Looks are the best route to go in the following wedding situations:

1. The sunset is early on your wedding day. If you’re getting married in late fall or winter the sunset is pretty darn early (sometimes even 4 or 5pm)! That means that there usually won’t be any natural light to take photos by the time the ceremony is done. In these cases I always suggest doing a First Look so we can do all the couple portraits, bridal party, and family portraits before the ceremony in beautiful natural light.

2. If you are rolling right from the ceremony into cocktail hour & the reception. If you don’t have a gap of time between the ceremony and reception, then I always suggest doing a First Look and all portraits prior to the ceremony so that you can relax and enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests without having to stress about getting photos done quickly! Doing photos before the ceremony allows you to relax and enjoy the photo time instead of worrying about running off to cocktail hour, or feeling like everybody is waiting on you to hurry up and join the party. Overall, I think it makes for a much more relaxed day and more enjoyable photo time too (which makes for more relaxed and natural portraits)!

3. If you are anxious about having so many eyes on you as you come down the aisle. If you’re nervous about being the center of attention at the ceremony I often suggest doing a First Look to calm your nerves. This way you and your love are able to have some quiet time together to ease your nerves and relax you before seeing all of your guests as well. A First Look can be a great time to center yourself and enjoy some moments with your love before the day officially begins.




The only time when I would suggest not doing a First Look is when clients have a church wedding in the summer (when the sunset is later, so they have plenty of daylight for photos) with a large gap of time between the ceremony and reception. In this case it is usually best to do all portraits (couple, bridal party, and family photos) between the ceremony and reception to best maximize your photography coverage.




I understand that not everybody is keen on the idea of doing a First Look because they don’t see it as traditional. And while I understand people’s concerns when all they’ve ever heard growing up was that you can’t see each other before coming down the aisle… times really are changing and I can promise you – there is no bad luck if you see your love before the ceremony. 🙂





Here are my thoughts on why First Looks can be so amazing!!

1. You are fresh and ready. You are rested, relaxed, and your makeup is fresh – so you both look your best for the photos!

2. It helps to calm nerves. Being with your partner and seeing them before the ceremony can help ease your tensions and nerves regarding the day (especially the ceremony when a million people will be watching both of you during that first moment)!

3. It gives you time away from everything with your partner. The wedding day can be crazy. You will both be all over the place talking to all your loved ones that came from near and far to spend the day with you. At times you’ll not even be sure where your partner is (trust me, I know from experience! haha). This First Look time gives you some of the only truly quiet time together you’ll have all day. Cherish it.




4. Lighting. Obviously for weddings in the late fall and winter where the sun sets early (as mentioned above) the light will be gone by the time the ceremony is over and we’ll be forced to do all of the bridal party and bride/groom portraits in the dark. While we obviously know how to handle flash and lighting – using artificial light can take longer to set up and organize, and can limit our options when shooting large groups (like the bridal party). We have had couples insist on not doing a First Look though, and of course we made it work – but all portraits were done utilizing flash, which is a different look than a majority of the images our clients fell in love with on our website and blog. We are fine with having to light these photos, but want to make sure couples are educated on the different look that photos with artificial light have in comparison to natural light before making their decision – so they aren’t surprised when they get their final images from the wedding day.

5. The special moment. I know people think it will somehow ruin the moment you come down the aisle if you see your love beforehand, but honestly – we’ve had more couples cry when their love came down the aisle AFTER doing a First Look and already seeing each other than the other way around! I think because the moments are so different: One you’re just so excited to see them, how they look, kiss & hug them, and enjoy some quiet time together after an exciting morning apart getting ready. The other moment of you coming down the aisle is a totally separate and different moment from the First Look because this time — you’re walking to your love to MARRY THEM. Ah! 🙂 The feeling is totally different and the beauty of doing a First Look is it allows you to feel the separate emotions for each, and really seems to emphasize the “oh my gosh – we’re getting married!!” excitement at the ceremony because you’ve already worked out your nerves by spending time together after the First Look.




6. Photos. We’re really able to get a better capture of the moment you see each other in the First Look than when you come down the aisle – because there are no limitations for where we can go to get the photo – like there often are in a church or at a ceremony space – obviously. 🙂 And since there are two of us – James captures one side of the reaction while I capture the other without worrying about where we need to be so as not to break any church rules, or get in the way of your guests’ experiences.

7. A more relaxed wedding day timeline. Doing the First Look and subsequently all the portraits before the ceremony allows you to really relax and enjoy your wedding day. When the ceremony is over you can focus on celebrating with those you love instead of scrambling to squeeze in all the portraits you wanted to do!

8. You can talk (and hug! and kiss! and cry! and then freshen up)! Obviously if the first time you see each other is at the ceremony in front of all your guests – you aren’t able to tell each other how amazing you both look, you aren’t able to hug or kiss (or freshen up your makeup after a good cry). 🙂 By doing a First Look you’re able to do all of these things and truly enjoy a moment together to chat about how your separate mornings were, tell each other how wonderful the other looks, and just enjoy a private moment together.




Obviously the decision is ultimately up to our clients, but I love to make sure they are fully informed and educated before making their final decisions, since they won’t ever get to re-do this day! I hope this helped any of you who had questions about whether or not to do a First Look! 🙂 xoxo


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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!