Weddings are filled with poignant moments, and as a wedding photographer, I've had the privilege to capture the intimate and emotive scenes that define the day. One of the most magical and increasingly popular moments is the "first look." For those who might be unfamiliar, a first look is a private moment before the wedding ceremony where the couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day. Traditionally, the first time a couple would see each other would be at the altar, but the first look breaks with this tradition for a more private and intimate moment.

What is a First Look?

The first look is carefully planned and orchestrated by the photographer together with the couple. It usually involves the bride and groom meeting in a secluded spot away from family and friends. The setting might be a quiet garden, a picturesque pathway, or a beautifully lit indoor space that enhances the emotional gravity of the moment. The groom often stands facing away from where the bride will approach him. As she does, the tension builds, culminating in a turn or a tap on the shoulder. The reactions—often filled with tears, laughter, and pure joy—are priceless and make for some of the most heartfelt photos of the day.

bride and groom first look

How It Opens Up the Wedding Timeline

From a logistical perspective, opting for a first look can significantly alter the timeline of the wedding day, providing both practical and emotional benefits. Traditionally, couples who wait to see each other at the altar would spend part of their reception taking photos. This can often feel rushed and might limit the variety of shots due to time constraints.

With a first look, however, couples have the opportunity to take many of their photos before the ceremony. This includes not only their intimate couple's photos but often family and bridal party shots as well. Doing so can alleviate the rush to get to the reception and allows the couple to enjoy their cocktail hour and celebrate with guests right away.

bride and groom first look

Why Opt for a First Look

1. Emotional Privacy

A first look provides a moment of privacy that the hustle and bustle of the wedding day typically does not allow. It's a quiet moment where couples can truly be themselves, express their feelings, and soak in the reality of what their wedding day signifies. This can be especially important for couples who feel anxious or overwhelmed by the presence of a crowd. The emotional rawness of these moments often leads to some of the most cherished photographs of the day.

2. Extended Photo Opportunities

With the extra time provided by having a first look, I, as the photographer, can capture a wider range of emotions and backdrops. This extra time also allows for more creative photos without the pressure of keeping guests waiting. We can explore the venue, use different lighting techniques, and even visit multiple locations.

3. Calmness and Preparedness

Seeing each other before the ceremony can help soothe nerves and make the couple feel more relaxed and present during the ceremony. Knowing that they've already connected and shared that special moment can alleviate some of the overwhelming emotions and allow them to focus more on their vows and guests.

bride and groom first look

Reasons to Skip the First Look

Despite its benefits, a first look isn't for everyone, and some couples choose to adhere to tradition.

1. Tradition and Anticipation

Many couples cherish the tradition of seeing each other for the first time at the altar. The anticipation of this moment can be incredibly powerful and emotional, not just for the couple but also for their guests. For those who hold this tradition dear, waiting until the ceremony can make that moment even more impactful.

2. Guest Participation

Seeing each other at the altar allows the couple to share their first moment of the day with their loved ones. This collective experience can be very moving and can amplify the emotional intensity of the ceremony.

bride and groom first look

As a wedding photographer, I've witnessed the beauty of both choices. Whether a couple opts for a first look or decides to wait until the altar, each approach offers unique opportunities and challenges. My role is to capture the story of the day as it unfolds, ensuring that the emotions, settings, and details are preserved in timeless photographs. Ultimately, the choice of whether to have a first look should align with the couple's vision for their day and their personal preferences. No matter the decision, each wedding is a beautiful journey of moments and memories, each as unique as the couple themselves.