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What is a First Look? | Planning Tips

First Looks Explained | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Bride and groom first looks explained

For anyone thinking about their wedding timeline, I’d love to share some information (and benefits!) of having a First Look! If you aren’t familiar with this tradition, I hope I can shed some light on them. They are such a romantic addition to your wedding day, that adds to your experience and reduces stress!

I profess my love for First Looks, and there’s a reason! They’re AWESOME! However, you and your future spouse should always decide on whatever experience you think fits you the best. 

What is a First Look?

When it comes to planning a timeline, it can be crazy trying to coordinate everyone, and fit everything in! “Traditionally,” the two of you remain separated throughout the day, and see each other for the first time at the ceremony. This can be SUCH a powerful and wonderful moment! However, in a lot of ways it can also add a lot of stress to the day. The day is spent focused on how you two need to look your best, if the flowers are arriving on time, or where the rings are. Little by little, the tension can start to grow, as the waiting game begins before walking down the aisle. 

You finally enter the ceremony, full of nerves, to see your beloved future spouse. And all of your guests staring right at you! After taking your place, there are no kind words shared or heartfelt exclamations. The officiant speaks, vows are exchanged, and next thing you know you are MARRIED!! Cocktail hour begins and it’s straight to family formals and wedding party portraits. Finally, you get about 15 minutes with your new spouse for some “just married” portraits. In my experience, a lot of couples are TIRED by this point! Their day has been such a whirlwind, and sometimes they really just want to take a breather with each other. 

I want to stress this part so much! You spend so much time and money working with your photography and stylist teams, only to be a bit overwhelmed for what should be one of the most fun experiences on your wedding day! 

Bride and Groom First Look at Mount Fair Farm Wedding

So what’s a First Look? This is when the two of you share a private moment to take each other in, before the ceremony begins. When having a first look, a lot of the stress is taken away!

About 90 minutes before your ceremony, your photographer takes you two somewhere private, with no on-lookers, and no distractions. There isn’t the pressure of all your guests and family expecting a reaction, or not being able to say anything during the ceremony proceedings. You tap your partner on the shoulder for them to turn around, and true emotions are expressed! You can embrace each other, cry, kiss, and ENJOY that moment together while your photographer quietly works on the sidelines. 

Bride and Groom First Look at Fall Wedding

Once you are both ready, you casually move into romantic portraits. No one is around, the coordinator isn’t announcing “15 minutes left”, and there is no pressure. It’s just the two of you and your photographer, capturing the excitement and the joy of your wedding day.

After romantic portraits are done, you can meet up with your best friends for some fun wedding party portraits. They’re FUN, because there is time to make them FUN! You’re able to enjoy the time with your wedding party without added stress, and get plenty of hilarious candids. Finally, it’s time for the ceremony, and the nerves are gone as you walk down the aisle to the love of your life! 

First Look at Historic Tuckahoe Summer Wedding

When the ceremony ends and cocktail hour begins, family formals are more relaxed since there’s not much of a time crunch! Instead of needing another 20 minutes for wedding party portraits (which you took before the ceremony!) this time can be used to chat with family, take a breather with your spouse, or for extra portraits. You’ll receive 40% more portraits, and those are the images you will decorate your first home with! With first looks, you truly make the most out of your large investment and time spent planning for your day.

Virginia House Wedding
First Look at Virginia House Wedding
Bride and Groom at Virginia House Wedding

Still a little on the fence?

I completely understand yearning for the moment where your partner sees you for the first time at the ceremony. It is such a touching moment wrapped in tradition! As a photographer, I just want to share how you can take this into consideration when planning out your day. It might be helpful to add 10-15 minutes in between cocktail hour and reception introductions, to share privately together. This can help add some private time after the ceremony, and before the reception begins, to re-charge together without sacrificing your wedding portraits!

If you are wearing a veil, you can also opt to surprise your groom with it at the ceremony! This can be a way to keep a bit of the surprise factor for the ceremony 🙂 

As a photographer, I can’t help but share how wonderful I think first looks are! Whatever your photography goals are, I hope this helped to shed some light on planning for your big day. Ultimately, whichever feels like the best fit for you and your future spouse will be the right choice!