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  • Christina Hubeli

Should I Do a First Look?

first look with bride and groom
Photo: Mandelette Photography

As your wedding day gets closer, you or your planner/coordinator will start putting together a timeline for the day that details the who, what, when, and where of your wedding. It’ll cover everything from the first hair and makeup service to the last dance of your reception.

There will of course be a lot of details and factors that will impact how the flow of your day works and that make your wedding yours. One of those elements is if you’ll have a first look or not. Some couples know immediately or feel strongly that they do or don’t want to do a first look. Some like the intimacy of a first look that allows you to get some jitters out on the day, while others want that special moment of seeing their partner for the first time on the wedding day at the altar.

But, if you’re not quite sure if you’re team first look or no first look, that’s totally fine! Chat with your planner or photographer to see how it would affect your day and what they recommend. It can also be helpful to compare two versions of your timeline – one with a first look and one without – to visually see how your day would play out with or without one.

Below we chat you through what exactly a first look is, and some wedding day factors to consider as you’re making your decision!

What is a first look?

A first look captures the first time the couple sees each other on their wedding day. Rather than not seeing each other until the ceremony, a first look occurs earlier in the day so that photos can be taken prior to the ceremony.

During a first look, one partner will typically face away from the other, as the other walks up and taps the other on the shoulder. As the first partner turns around, the moment when the couple sees each other for the first time is captured by the photographer, tears and all!

There are countless stunning locations to do a first look, whether it’s at your venue, hotel, or a location in the city. If you’ll be doing your first look at a location that requires you and your partner to both travel (i.e. you’re getting ready in separate rooms at a hotel, then meeting at North Ave. beach for the first look), this is going to take some extra logistical legwork in order to ensure you and your partner don’t accidentally see each other prior to the first look. If you’ll have a wedding planner or coordinator on-site, they’ll be able to coordinate getting ready and travel schedules so that this doesn’t occur. Otherwise, make sure to have some wedding party or family members from both sides of the group in contact with each other to avoid crossing paths.

Should I do a first look?

More and more couples are opting to do a first look, but is it the right choice for you? To give you a short and sweet answer, a first look will generally give you more time on the wedding day to take photos (which typically translates to more time to spend with your guests and your new spouse). If you’re not yet convinced, there are some factors that can help with your decision to do a first look or not!

The biggest factors are going to be your ceremony time and/or location. Not doing a first look is easiest when you have an earlier ceremony with a few hours separating the ceremony and reception. By “earlier,” I really mean an afternoon ceremony with an evening reception. This is most common for church ceremonies that usually fall between 1 and 4 PM but could be the case for any ceremony that isn’t taking place at the same location as the reception. With this timeline, you have a few hours of buffer time between the ceremony and reception for pictures even if you don’t do a first look.

On the other hand, if your reception will be taking place right after your ceremony and at the same location, you’re likely going to really benefit from doing a first look. If you weren’t to do a first look in this instance, you would only have the time of cocktail hour to accomplish family, wedding party, and couple photos which is a lot to knock out in just an hour. Also consider if you want to take photos at another location other than your venue, and you may also have to factor travel time into that hour. And while it may be an easy fix to say we’ll just make cocktail hour two hours, your guests will likely end up hungry and antsy to move things along.

Instead, doing a first look if your ceremony and reception are back-to-back, will free up a lot of time for you both during the day and during your cocktail hour. Here’s what a standard timeline could look like in that case:

12:45 pm – First look

1:15 pm – Travel to photo location

1:45 pm – Wedding party photos

2:30 pm – Couple photos

3:15 pm – Travel to venue

3:45 pm – Photos around venue

4:30 pm – Couple tucked away

5:00 pm – Ceremony

5:30 pm – Cocktail hour / Family photos

6:00 pm – Family photos end / Couple joins cocktail hour or have a private moment

6:30 pm – Transition to dinner

As you’ve probably picked up on by now, deciding if a first look is best for you (or if you’ll have enough time if you opt to go no first look) might come down to a lot of technicalities within your timeline. Consider factors like where you want to take pictures, your ceremony timing and location, if you and your partner want to join guests for cocktail hour, and the general flow of your day. Whether you do a first look or not, the photos always turn out stunning and it’s such a special moment captured by your photographer!

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