What Is the First Look at a Wedding? 5 Things to Know

The timeline of a wedding is full of special, memorable, and sometimes traditional aspects. Learning more about the rituals and components of a wedding can help you construct your own timeline.

Many couples find themselves asking, “What is the first look at a wedding, and should we have one?” To put it simply, it is the moment on their wedding day wherein they see each other in their wedding attire for the first time. It can occur either during the processional or just before the ceremony starts.

Five things you need to know about wedding first looks are explained below, followed by the pros and cons of having a pre-ceremony first look. Lastly, help is provided for making the right decision regarding whether or not you should have a pre-ceremony first look.

Things to Know About the First Look

bridesmaids bride

1. The First Look Is Not Just for the Couple

Although it is more common for a couple’s first look to be documented, you can also include the wedding party in this tradition. The bridesmaids, groomsmen, and parents of the couple can each have their moment to see the bride and groom for the first time. While this may take more time to plan and execute, it makes for a splendid and touching portrait session.

2. It Is Not Bad Luck

Some people may warn you against having a first look because they think it will result in bad luck. There is a historical background to this belief; at a time when arranged marriages were common, first looks were prohibited to prevent the bride or groom from running away. However, in today’s society, in which couples tend to date for years before getting engaged, that is not a problem anymore.

3. It Does Not “Spoil” the Ceremony

holding flowers

Many couples feel hesitant to have a first look because they think it will spoil the ceremony. Particularly, they want this moment to take place during the processional.

Firstly, it is important to remember that not everyone deals with their emotions the same way. While some people are comfortable with crying in front of guests, others might find it dreadful and bottle those emotions up instead. By having a pre-ceremony first look, you can freely express what you feel.

Secondly, seeing each other before the ceremony will not take away the magic or fairytale-like feeling of a wedding. If anything, it allows the couple to have two special moments: one with just the two of them and another with their friends and families.

4. It Can Act as a Time Buffer

Even though you may have prepared a strict timeline for your wedding, things do not always go according to plan. Your guests or officiant might arrive late, and thus the ceremony itself cannot start yet. In the meantime, you and your partner can get your first look photos taken while everyone waits.

5. There Are Plenty of Ideas to Choose From

back to back couple

Besides choosing a location, you also have the freedom to choose a pose that can exemplify your relationship. Here are a few ideas to help you narrow down what is right for you:

  • Standing back-to-back
  • Holding hands
  • Blindfolded
  • Standing in different rooms
  • Separated by a door

Pros and Cons of Having a First Look at Your Wedding

bride groom shy

Both options are sentimental and special in their own right, and they make for exceptionally emotional pictures. To help you decide if a pre-ceremony first look is right for you and your partner, here is a list of its pros and cons.

Pros of Having a First Look

It is an opportunity for you and your partner to spend some time together before the ceremony. Weddings are major social events; odds are your special day will be busy with socializing with your guests. By having a first look before the ceremony, you and your spouse-to-be can have some moments together — to share words of affirmation, to read a letter you wrote, and so on — before the delightfully hectic day starts.

It can calm your nerves. Corollary to the pro mentioned above, you can help each other ease the nervousness for the day; reassure each other that no matter what happens, you did your best to plan. Sometimes, the presence and embrace of the person you love are all you need to feel ready for come what may.

It is a more private and intimate way to start the day. Emotions run high in a wedding. Understandably, you and your partner may prefer not to burst into tears during the ceremony itself. In a pre-ceremony first look, you are free to express your emotions without the pressure of tens, even hundreds, of eyes watching you.

You will be together in photos of the first look. In a traditional first look, the couple sees each other first time during the processional. The photographer will take photos as the bride makes her way down the aisle; as a result, the images of this moment will have the couple in separate frames. In a pre-ceremony first look, couples can hold each other’s hands, embrace one another, wipe away the other’s tears, and so on.

wedded couple

You are free to choose the location. You are not confined to your ceremony or reception venue. First look photos can be taken anywhere that is special to the couple; similarly, they can go somewhere they simply find pretty.

You do not have to miss a large part of your reception. In a typical wedding timeline, the formal portrait session takes place concurrent to the cocktail hour. This is done in the interest of saving time. If you have already taken plenty of photos in a pre-ceremony first look, you can significantly cut the time dedicated to formal portraits.

It is perfect for winter weddings and elopements. During winter, days are generally shorter; it gets dark outside quicker than in other seasons. Thus, pre-ceremony first looks are ideal for winter elopements and weddings, as you can have formal portraits taken while it is still bright.

It is a safety net for your photographers. There are many unpredictable things in a wedding: the weather and the timeline. No matter how meticulously you plan, some parts of the timeline may run over; similarly, the wedding forecast may predict a sunny afternoon, but the reality is very different. By taking portraits before the ceremony starts, you do not have to worry too much about not having enough photos.

Cons of Having a First Look

sweet couple

You need to start getting ready earlier. You have to be extra mindful of your wedding day timeline. If you plan on having a pre-ceremony first look, you must get ready earlier than you planned. Consequently, you may want to reconsider your pre-wedding plans, such as what you will serve during the rehearsal dinner and welcome party.

You may need to pay your photographer and videographer more. Some photographers and videographers include the first look as part of their offer. However, some do not; you may have to pay an additional fee for this particular service. Depending on the size of your wedding budget, this may not be ideal.

You may need to pay your stylists more. You will need additional services from your hair and makeup artist if you plan on having a first look photo shoot. Besides touch-ups during the photoshoot itself, they will also touch up your appearance for the ceremony itself. If you are doing your hair and makeup, disregard this consideration.

field couple

Your wedding attire can get messy. As stated above, you have the freedom to go anywhere and pose in any way you want for your first look photos. As a result, your dress and suit may get dirty or rumpled. Although you can be careful and take safety precautions, accidents may occur.

The lighting might not be at its best. Most weddings are scheduled to take place at certain times of day to take advantage of natural lighting. Having a pre-ceremony first look may result in lighting that is not the most flattering. However, depending on the skills of your photographer, this might not be too big of a problem.

Should You Have a First Look?

embrace couple

Understandably so, even after knowing what is the first look at a wedding, as well as all its pros and cons, you may still find it difficult to make a decision. After all, it involves making several adjustments to your budget and timeline.

If you want to stick to the age-old tradition of seeing each other for the first time during the processional, then you can opt not to have a first look. The moment will be just as special and unforgettable regardless of the way you go about it.

If you are being pressured by anyone, either subtly or overtly, thoroughly talk about it with your partner first. Discuss a first look’s pros and cons and the logistical considerations that come with it. If you find that this is not one of your priorities, then do not have a pre-ceremony first look.

If having a first look does not make sense for your timeline or budget, feel free to pass on it.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make; do not let any external factors influence your thinking. After all, this is your wedding; you must do what makes you happy. If having a pre-ceremony first look will bring you joy, then go for it! Otherwise, there are plenty of opportunities to take pictures and make memories during your wedding and for the rest of your life.

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