Should I do First Look Pictures at my Wedding?!

Should I do First Look Pictures at my Wedding? Short and sweet? Yes. Yes, you should do first look pictures at your wedding. But let’s talk about it because your wedding is in fact your day. I want you to feel the best with how your day plays out. As wedding day gets closer I like to discuss the wedding timeline with each of my clients. One of the biggest items that will shape your wedding day is whether you do first look pictures or not.

What are First Look Pictures?

A first look is a scheduled time before the ceremony where the bride and groom get to see each other all fancy like for the first time! This is an intimate, genuine moment shared between the two of you.

Strangely enough, the first look can be a touchy subject between some family members and even couples. The decision generally resolves itself by the priorities of the wedding couple and how they want to see their wedding day played out.

There are really only two options regarding first looks. Those options come down to when the couple will first see each other during their wedding.


Traditional Wedding: No “First Look”

Traditional weddings do not have a first look. Instead, the bride is hidden from view of the groom and any early wedding guests. The wedding party and maybe parents are the only ones who may see the bride before she walks down the aisle. The first time the bride and groom see each other in this scenario is when the bride is walking down the aisle.

‘Formal’ photos are taken immediately after the ceremony . These photos include the wedding party, groom/ groomsmen/ bride/ bridesmaids/ flower girl/ ring bearers, etc. Next are the immediate family and any other special requests. Heads up, formal photos are what many moms and grandmas mean when they say they want a photo with you.

After all the formal pictures the couple will finally get their first photos solely as a new married couple. To capture the heightened excitement of these few moments, I take the couple on a private photo session for around 30 minutes. With the traditional no first look, this is likely the only time the couple will be alone together all day.

During formal photos, most wedding guests will be enjoying a “cocktail hour”. The length of the cocktail hour is totally up to you but it is also related to the time needed for your desired photos. Couples will often have appetizers, drinks, games, or other happenings set up to entertain guests while they ‘wait’.

If you have a small wedding party like 2 plus you and immediate family members only getting photos, the formals can move fairly quickly. If you want photos with extended families and have a similarly large wedding party, expect 3-5 minutes per pose. Multiple pose/ groups can quickly get us to one or two hours. Larger group photos with fewer smaller groups are a great way to save time. Another strategy is to only include immediate family for formals, and snag other family and friends later on during the reception.

Most of the weddings I photograph are between May and October but one thing to consider is the sunset time of your wedding day. The sun sets quite early after September 1st. So any outdoor photos will require an earlier ceremony. Sure, we can take photos inside but there may be a challenge to fit larger groups in while making them look their best.

When should you NOT do a traditional wedding timeline?

Do not forget, this is YOUR wedding and you can plan it out to suit your needs!

Here are some times when you should not do a traditional wedding timeline. 1. If your ceremony ends around sunset but you want naturally lit outdoor photos then schedule them before the ceremony. 2. If you have a large family and want lots of formals, move the family formals to before the ceremony. Having your formal portraits done before the ceremony also makes it difficult for guests to hijack your formals session.


Your Wedding With First Look Pictures

Lower stress, more time for the bride and groom to be together, plenty of available light for photos, more time celebrating with family and friends; pick your favorite attribute of a wedding timeline with a first look! Doing first looks before the ceremony gives you a host of freedom when it comes to planning your day. First looks give you the option of taking wedding party and family photos before the ceremony has even started!

Sure, first looks can be useful in a wedding with an early sunset, but one of the biggest pros for first looks is maximizing time spent with those at your wedding rather than away from your guests.  This allows you to meet, hug, and laugh with guests right after the ceremony with your new spouse.

A nice bonus to the extra time provided by a first look is the ease of keeping the wedding party and timeline on track without feeling rushed into the next order of events.

When should you have your first look?

It is best to have the first look two hours before the ceremony. This is easy to do after getting ready when the ceremony and reception are all at one venue. The first look and couples photos typically last 10-30 minutes and leaves plenty of time for wedding party and family photos at most weddings. My goal is for you to be back in hiding 30 minutes before the ceremony starts. This gives you time to rest and touch up. Do check with your venue on what hours you are able to be on site per your contract.

First look reaction

First look reactions cannot be planned. However, they can be super emotional moments that are a treasure to see in your wedding album. As such, this intimate time is special for two people in love to simply stand in awe of each other. Everyone reacts differently. The one thing true of all first looks I have done is that a ton of wedding day stress and anxiety is lifted. I did first look pictures on my wedding day and it was the 2nd best decision I made that entire day. This is the essential breather you need before the two of you get back to the schedule on your big day!

Even with a first look, all of the traditional wedding elements can still happen. For example, the bride can still be escorted by her father down the aisle. You don’t have to throw out all of the traditional aspects of a wedding for a first look.

If you want the most out of your photos while maximizing time with guests, do first look pictures! I hope I have offered some insight on your wedding day planning, goals and priorities! Interested in first look pictures at your wedding? Check out my wedding page!

The happy moment after first look pictures

First look pictures taken at Spokane’s Trezzi Farm winery and wedding venue.


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