Photographers are lucky enough to have the privilege of following their brides and grooms around all day on wedding days, so we see A LOT and have a wealth of experience and advice to offer. This means that, no matter what question you have, a wedding photographer probably has an answer for it!

One of the questions we get from time to time is: should I plan to have a First Look? A lot of couples want to understand what the benefits of a First Look are, and how common it is, so they can make an informed decision about how to structure their day. And we absolutely have some thoughts to share on the subject!

What is a First Look?

A First Look is a moment in your wedding day where you and your fiancé see each other in your full dress/suit before the ceremony. First Looks usually involve a surprise element where one of you (traditionally the groom) is turned around and cannot see the other (traditionally the bride) walking towards them until they turn around and see their fiancé in all their glory. It essentially throws the old adage that it’s bad luck to see each other before the wedding right out the window! 

In our experience, we normally see First Looks happen about an hour and a half or two before the ceremony to make sure there’s ample time to hide the couple away again before guests start arriving. We’ve also seen First Looks with not just the couple, but the wedding party and parents. First Looks may also involve some additional time for portraits with you two and with your wedding party or family (if present).

Venue: Rodes Barn, Swedesboro NJ (@rodesbarn) / Wedding Planning: Just In Time Events (@justintimeevents) / Florals: Unique Floral Designs (@pam.unique) / Dress: The Bridal Manor (@thebridalmanor)

What are the benefits of a First Look?

There’s a lot more to First Looks than just the usual traditional vs modern debate. There are very practical reason why First Looks are so popular nowadays. Here are a few of our favorite parts of First Looks.

Get a private moment together

Wedding days are all about you two, but they rarely feel that way! They are a whirlwind of running in a thousand different directions. But a First Look gives you the opportunity to have a few moments to yourselves before the ceremony to just enjoy each other and your love and take in everything that’s about to happen. As photographers, after we grab the candid shots of your reactions, we love to give you two a few minutes of peace and quiet together. First Looks also allow you to work through a lot of the emotions of the day and the tears that usually come with them. For those of you who don’t love the idea of crying at the altar in front of your 200 closest friends and family, this could be great for you!

More portrait variety

Okay, this one might seem selfish from a wedding photographer’s perspective, but hear us out! Generally part of the First Look process is to have a small portrait session immediately following the big reveal (once you’ve had a quiet moment alone to compose yourselves). So, in addition to the beautiful candid images of the First Look itself, we can usually get a lot of portraits done as well. This gives you additional variety in your photo gallery, since the First Look will normally be in a different location of your venue than where we’ll host your post-ceremony portraits. At the end of the day, we think a First Look and the portraits that come with it can help make your gallery feel more full and gives you more variety in your images.

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Better flow of the day

Part of the advantage of seeing each other and having some portraits done before the ceremony is that your timeline is able to break free from the squeeze of trying to fit all the photos into cocktail hour. Between portraits of you two as a just-married couple, all your wedding party formals and family portraits - that’s a lot of photos to fit into an hour! And we find that no one really wants to keep their guests waiting much longer than that. So, being able to move some of the portraits to before the ceremony really helps with time management as we get later in the day. Oftentimes, we’re also able to fit in some wedding party shots after the First Look portraits of the two of you, so even those get taken care of early!

Do I have to have a First Look?

Your wedding day is yours to own and plan; it should always be exactly the way you want it. First Looks may be considered a “modern” approach, but we work with a ton of couples who chose not to do them! Actually, we’d say that our couples are split close to 50/50. So if you feel like you’re being pressured to have one because “everyone else is doing it”, don’t!

Do you like the idea of having some First Look drama but don’t want it to involve you and your fiancé? Try a First Look with your wedding party or a First Look with your parents. Both are guaranteed to give you some amazing, emotional moments without feeling like you’re breaking tradition. 

Katie decided to do a First Look with her ladies - and it was amazing!

There's no wrong answer!

The important thing to remember, whether or not you plan to have a First Look, is that your day is going to be magical. It’s going to be fun and exhilarating and romantic because it’s a reflection of your love and the love that your friends and family have for you. So no matter what, you’re going to get beautiful, emotional images. No matter what, you’ll be able to build a wedding day timeline that works. No matter what, it’s going to be a great day. So don’t stress too much over this one piece!

If you still have questions about planning for your wedding photography needs, we’d love you to check out our post “How Many Hours of Wedding Photography Coverage Do You Need?”. In that post, we’ll walk you through our process to help our couples select how much wedding photography coverage they need, which can help them more easily compare our services. 

If you’re in or around New Jersey and are still searching for the right wedding photographers for you, we’d love to chat! In addition to being able to offer all this advice to you in person, we also offer our couples lots of perks like sample timelines that maximize photography opportunities and lots of other info to help make your wedding planning process easier. We love serving our couples and are happy to work with you (and your wedding planner) to make your big day everything you’ve dreamed of. You can get more information about all the great stuff we offer here.

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We wish you the best of luck with your wedding planning, and, as always…