By now you’ve probably already heard of what a first look is. First looks have become pretty popular at weddings these days! Whether you have heard of it or not, I am going to give you a run down of what it is and why you might want to have one at your wedding or your elopement! And if you’re a photographer this can be a great resource to educate your clients on when discussing their own timeline!

Whether or not to have a first look is something that a lot of people ask as they dream about their day. Is having one going to ruin the moment? Is it going to be less special than if you went the traditional route? So it’s important to understand the pros and cons of both, which is what we will get into with this post.

If you’re struggling with this, then keep on reading! By the end, you’ll have a clearer direction for your decision.

What is a first look?

First look at elopement in the winter

A first look is a time set aside for the couple before the ceremony to see each other! The first time they see each other on their wedding day, it’s pretty special. The emotions are running high, and sometimes anxiety can set in. With a first look, couples get the space to center themselves and really soak in the significance of this moment. It’s always fun to see each couple’s reactions as they look at their significant other all dressed up ready to say I do without all the eyes watching.

However, a lot of couples run into the dilemma of whether or not they want to take away from the first look at the ceremony moment. Most think it won’t be as special, or that’s an image they’ve been imagining for years. I can assure you that if you are in between the two, neither one will ever be less special.

If you're having a traditional wedding...

The benefits of having a first look if you’re planning a traditional wedding

If you’re planning on having a traditional wedding, a first look is usually a key topic of conversation. To have one, or go with the tradition of seeing each other at the ceremony. Let’s get into the benefits of having a first look.

  1. Less stress on the timeline. First Looks are super beneficial when it comes down to the Timeline. Depending on the time of year, ceremonies are often planned in the evening closer to sundown - which can lead to a mad rush for photos afterwards. With a First Look, your photographer will most often have more time to document the things that happen at a big wedding. Things like family portraits and bridal party shots can take up a large chunk of your timeline, and without a first look those are all squeezed in directly after the ceremony. 
  1. More time with guests. If you have a first look and all the family portraits are done before the ceremony, that means you have more time to enjoy cocktail hour. The only photos you’ll have to focus on at all is 20 minutes for your sunset portraits, then that’s it! This frees up additional time for you to either take a break and refresh before heading into the reception, or extra time to party!
  2. Less attention/anxiety. Planning a bigger wedding comes with a lot of people, and with that comes a lot of attention. While some people thrive on that, others may find it overwhelming. Having a couple hundred eyes watching you as you walk down the aisle can take away from the moment of seeing your fiance on your wedding day. It can be distracting, as you are also seeing most of your guests for the first time that day as well!
  3. “Get it over with.” A lot of my couples get SO anxious before they see one another. They really don’t want to wait any longer. The best part is you get to get those feelings done with. Then just be able to spend the rest of the day with one another with no stress. And as you walk down the aisle to meet each other there’s no pressure on having any sort of reaction - you get to just enjoy the moment.
Reasons you may not want to have a first look at your traditional wedding:
  1. The excitement. There’s something about the walking down the aisle moment that is so exciting. The music, everyone standing up, doors opening as you head towards your fiance. It’s a big moment, and a grand beginning to the celebration. It’s a beautiful part of the wedding ceremony, and a lot of couples dream of this moment!
  2. Rushing to get ready. Having a first look means making space in the timeline. While it can be as quick as 5 min, choosing a first look will mean you need to be ready earlier. If you’re choosing to also include photos with the bridal party, or portraits before the ceremony and after the first look, this is something to consider!
  3. Time for touch-ups. Speaking of getting ready: you may have to allot more time for extra touch ups before the ceremony. There’s a good chance you may shed a year or two from a first look, and possibly get the dress a little dirty. This might discourage some couples from having a first look so they don’t feel less than pristine for the ceremony.
  4. Location or lighting. It can sometimes be tricky on finding the right spot for a first look. It depends on where you're getting ready versus the ceremony location. Not only that, since ceremonies typically start in afternoon, the lighting can be difficult around mid-day if your location options are limited.

If you're having an elopement...

The benefits of having a first look if you’re planning an elopement: 

Having a first look during an elopement is more about the moment. Since there's more time to focus on just the two of you, a first look isn’t necessarily about the schedule. It’s about cultivating an experience. At an elopement you may already have seen your significant other that day, or are even hiking up together! But having a set moment to get ready separately, then come together for a grand reveal is something special. 

Also, a first look on an elopement day could look really different than if you were having a big wedding. Here are a few examples and things to note about first looks at elopements:

  • You've already seen eachother: As I mentioned, you might hike up the mountain together, THEN get changed. You can do this by getting dressed back to back, then turn around. Or you each find a different spot in the woods to get ready, then have a first look.
  • The emotions are still there: The first look at a wedding and at an elopement are the exact same when it comes to emotions. You are still going to be blown away by seeing eachother for the first time. And generally, these moments are leading up to the exciting part of actually getting married.
  • You have family at your day. Some couples choose to say their intimate vows in private. A first look is a perfect place to do that. You can spend some time just the two of you with your vows. Then afterwards head to the ceremony with your families.
Reasons you may not want to have a first look at your elopement:

1. Some couples choose to get ready together, which could make a first look irrelevant. This can also be a fun and intimate way to get your elopement day started, especially if it’s just the two of you - and me!

2. If you are having guests, you may love the idea of seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony. I think that is still so special too!

Check out how Kristin and Bobby had their sweet first look on the mountain. Or even Courtney and Matt before their ceremony where they said their intimate vows with one another.

A first look from a photographers perspective:

As your photographer, my hope is that you are having the absolute best day of your life. Good photos aren’t all about a shot list, or the timeline. The best photos are the ones where you are truly comfortable and happy. Don’t let someone try and convince you to do something you don’t want to do at your wedding!  If you’re not set on your decision, we can totally discuss in the planning process! 

From a photographers perspective, we love first looks. It's not just a way to ease your nerves and spend even more time together, but depending on the situation, it can allow the day to run even smoother.

The big thing to know is that it is your day. Whatever you want, your vendors need to make work. We will give you our insight or guidance, but it is whether or not you want to move forward. Either way, it will be perfect!

Fun alternatives to get best of both worlds:

First touch wedding ideas

If you’ve come to the conclusion that a first look isn’t for you, that’s okay! Always remember it is your day and you get to choose how you want to design it! Below are a few other fun and sentimental ways you could connect before your ceremony.

  • A first prayer, or a first touch
  • Exchanging of gifts/letters
  • Couples may choose to hide themselves yet come close by. You could do against a door or corner and still not see each other. From there you can hold hands, get the nerves out, say a prayer together, sing a song, or read letters to one another, etc. This space gives the couple privacy to center in on one another and calm those butterflies. 
Adventure elopement photographer team

A New Hampshire + Vermont based adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer team for the adventurous souls. We specialize in New England and destinations worldwide, empowering you to create the most beautiful, adventurous day and give you the memories you'll be able to look back on for all the years to come.


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