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The Definitive Answer to “Should I do a First Look?”

Filed in: Planning Tips

Should I do a first look? It’s one of the most frequent questions I get asked as a wedding photographer.

There’s no right or wrong answer. Like so many decisions when it comes to your wedding, the answer is, “it depends”. There are lots of factors going into making this decision, so I’ll break it down.

Black and white photo of a couple sharing a first look on the balcony on the Kortright Centre

What is a First Look?

A “first look or “first reveal” is when the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom) see each other prior to the ceremony, instead of the more traditional “aisle reveal”. It’s a private, lovely and often emotional moment where they first lay eyes on each other on the wedding day. It’s usually set up by your photographer. You can choose to make it just the two of you, or have your bridal party/family look on.

When and Why Should I Do a First Look?

1. For logistical reasons

If your ceremony is scheduled later in the day, with little time in between it and the start of the reception, you’ll need to get all of your couple’s, bridal party and family photos (aka formal photos) out of the way ahead of time. Other wise you’ll be super rushed which isn’t fun for anyone, and can diminish your images.

2. You want to enjoy your cocktail hour

Even if your cocktail hour allows enough time (about 60-120 minutes, depending) to do formal photos before the start of the reception, you may not want to skip it. This is one of the few times you’ll get to interact with your guests on a one to one basis and enjoy some relaxing drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Many couples opt to enjoy the party.

Should I do a First Look?

3. You like the intimacy

There’s a lot to be said for sharing this important, emotional moment with just the person you love. You can embrace, tell each other how beautiful and handsome you both look, and take a few precious moments together. Many couples prefer this to 200 of their closest family and friends looking on.

4. You’re having a winter wedding.

Winter wedding are gorgeous. Full stop. However, it gets dark verrrrrry early, and your photographer won’t have any natural light to work with after a certain time in the day. Doing a first look and getting your formal photos out of the way before the sun goes down may be necessary.

When and Why Should I have a Traditional Aisle Reveal Instead?

1. Your ceremony is early

If your ceremony is taking place earlier, you can easily wait to do your formal photos in between the ceremony and reception. Not only are you able to do your photos at this time, but it’s by far the best use of those “limbo” hours after you get hitched.

Opting to do a first look with an early ceremony doesn’t really make any sense, because you’ll have to start getting ready extra early, and you’ll have nothing to do for hours in between the ceremony and reception.

2. Family

As I’m sure you’re finding out as wedding planning is getting on, your family has lots of desires and opinions about what you should do. First looks weren’t really a thing back when our parents were getting married, so they may not totally “get it”. You’ll have to weigh that against your own desires, and make a personal call.

Bride walking down the aisle at colourful wedding at Airship 37

3. You’ve been dreaming of it

Hey, it’s that big walking down the aisle moment. I totally get it. And that’s totally great! You don’t need to throw away tradition if you don’t want to. As long as your schedule allows for enough time after the ceremony for photos, you can have that traditional moment, and enjoy the F out of it.


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