Where you can find my recent work and wedding tips/advice

welcome to the blog

The Pros and Cons of the First Look at Your Wedding

Tips and Advice

If you’re planning a wedding, the first question you may have for your photographer is to explain the pros and cons of the “First Look”. It’s always the first question I’m asked: “Should we do a first look?”

I probably go over this topic with every couple that books with me, and every time I’m all, “I should write a blog about this, because I have lots of thoughts”


Awesome reaction photo captured by my second photographer and friend, Jodi.


I know there are millions of blogs on the internet suggesting couples do a first look, but I’m hoping this blog post gives you a little more insight – so let’s break down the pros and cons:

First, what even is a first look?
A “first look” is when the couple sees each other for the first time in a (sometimes staged) moment before the ceremony. Many couples use the time immediately following the first look for their portraits, and sometimes their wedding party photos and family formals as well.

“BUT WAIT SONJ. My mom says it’s tradition for the couple not to see each other until that walk down the aisle!”
I get it! It was also tradition to offer 3 goats and spices for her hand in marriage. Some traditions are meant to be broken!

Did you know it’s also believed that the tradition of the bridal bouquet was to cover the bride’s odor? See – traditions are weird.

Let’s break down the PROS and CONS of first looks:


Fresh makeup! If you’re a crier, and your eyes get puffy and red afterwards, you might want to consider a first look so your makeup is fresh for portraits.

More time for portraits and a few moments with your love in private, letting you soak it all in before the nerves of the ceremony set in.

You get to join your family and friends in cocktail hour. Or, you can spend a little time in private with your own plate of snacks before the reception without a camera in your face.

Reaction photos are easier to photograph because I’m not fighting a hundred standing guests with their cell phones and iPads.

This reaction from the groom is GOLD, and such a special moment for just the two of them.


First looks can be a sweet, private moment between the couple, however, they can also feel incredibly staged, inauthentic, and kinda awkward. For example, I’ve photographed some sweet first looks only to have the videography team ask them to slow down or even REPEAT the moment for video. Buzzkill! (For the record, I’ve also worked with lots of lovely video teams that keep the moment authentic)

The LIGHT – if your ceremony is earlier in the afternoon, that may put your first look and portraits on the schedule when the sun is high-in-the-sky NOON. I’m not saying I won’t photograph you at noon, I am saying the light may look different than you imagined, and you might want to consider setting some time for those sweet backlit golden-hour photos you’ve been daydreaming about.

My groom’s nervous smile at me right before his bride taps him on the shoulder KILLS ME – how cute is this?!

We usually photograph the first look, portraits, wedding party, then family formals if there’s time all before the ceremony. This may mean making sure hair and makeup starts earlier, or that family is coordinated to arrive a little earlier than the “invite time” to allow for formals. Sometimes that can be hard to schedule.

Sometimes the bouquets, boutonnières, etc might be delivered to the ceremony location, while the first look happens at another location. While I can absolutely photograph portraits and wedding party without florals, it can be a little awkward. And then you’ll just want portraits again once you have your personals…. which totally negates the benefits of a first look 😉

And of course, the unsolicited advice from family about “tradition”. Sigh.


It’s your wedding day – you do you! If you are planning on a first look, make sure the makeup and hair artists know that you should be done first, and they can touch up the wedding party (and moms!) while you’re doing portraits.

Don’t listen to people who tell you that doing a first look “ruins” the emotion of the ceremony. I’ve photographed plenty of ceremonies where my clients cried their eyes out during the processional after a first look. The music, your friends and family looking at you, the first time you see your ceremony set-up… the moment is still VERY special and VERY emotional.

Pro Tip: If you don’t want to do a first look, see if you can extend your cocktail hour another 30 minutes, OR have a second photographer added to your coverage so the lead photographer (das me!) can photograph all the important family groupings, portraits, wedding party photos AND your reception room before guests are invited inside. Especially if there’s travel involved with multiple locations.


Consider a “first touch” if you want to calm the nerves a little before the ceremony, but don’t want to see each other. A first touch is a nice alternative that can take maybe 10 minutes for a quick hand squeeze and prayer. I’ve also seen couples exchange love letters right before the ceremony.

Hope that clears up some of the questions you may have had about first looks. If after reading this you’re STILL debating the topic, feel free to reach out! I’m happy to walk you through your timeline and give my professional advice. Just remember – it’s YOUR day.

Looking for more helpful tips and advice for your wedding day? Click through for more! Help Me, Sonj.