Having a first look on your wedding day: it’s a hotly debated topic. It’s also worth mentioning that having a first look on your wedding day is still a relatively new concept. Growing up and seeing tv shows and movies, it was unheard of to see each other before the ceremony. Seeing your spouse in their wedding day getup was considered bad luck. More and more, though, couples are ditching that outdated superstition — but why? What are the benefits of having a first look? Glad you asked. Let’s get to it.
A first look during your wedding day is when both spouses-to-be see each other in their full wedding attire for the first time. It’s also an opportunity to get some hella cute “surprise, look how cute I am” photos.
The usual protocol is:
One spouse is waiting for the other in a pre-planned location; preferably one with lots of open space like a park/garden/secluded area of your venue. If there is a second photographer present, there will be one photographer with each spouse, getting both reactions.
Spouse A gives Spouse B a little tap, or they just walk toward each other, absolutely flabbergasted at how beautiful their partner is.
First looks can be anything you want them to be. Cheesy or not.
It is a wonderful way to have some alone time with your partner before the real craziness of the wedding day begins. It usually lasts about 45 minutes to an hour, and your photographer can be as involved as you want them to be.
What do I mean by that?
First looks can get emotional, and you don’t always want a “stranger” there during a very intimate moment with your person. That’s totally understandable. We’re happy to be on standby behind a tree/bush/etc so that when you’re ready for some portraits, we can get them started.
Basically, you can spend that entire 45 minutes taking photos, or you can spend 5 minutes taking photos. Hang out, make out, cuddle, talk, whatever you want. We’ll be there when you need us.
Other than the fact you get to have some time dedicated to just you and your partner, there’s a serious logistical benefit.
While planning your wedding day timeline, if you don’t have a first look, there is only one real opportunity for portraits: during your cocktail hour (that’s also most likely when your photographer is going to eat for the first time while working). Unless you have your ceremony super early, but then that’s just a ton of time your guests have to kill elsewhere. It can become a nuisance to keep track of everyone that way, especially for family photos.
When you account for a first look, you streamline your wedding day timeline and make things easier for your guests AND vendors.
Here’s an example of a wedding day timeline with a first look:
12pm: Getting ready photos
1pm: Travel to first look location
1:30pm: First look portraits
2:30pm: Family portraits with both spouses family
-buffer time to relax/travel/eat/etc-
6pm: Cocktail hour + optional extra time for golden hour portraits before sunset
Without a first look — especially also without two photographers — it could be very tricky to have enough time for travel, both spouse’s portraits + family photos, and finding time to eat at all during cocktail hour. To see what I mean, here’s an example of a wedding day timeline without a first look.
12pm: Getting ready photos
1:30pm: Spouse A photos + wedding party + family photos
2pm: Travel to other spouse location
2:30pm: Spouse B photos + wedding party + family photos
3pm: Travel to ceremony location
6pm: Cocktail hour + newlywed portraits + both spouse’s family photos
There *is* a way to construct a wedding day timeline without a first look, but it’ll take some finesse. I would highly recommend having two photographers if you are not having a first look. Trust me.
Ultimately, it’s (obviously) up to you, the couple. But who wouldn’t want some extra face time with their partner?
The reactions are always so pure, sweet, and everyone has a different “omg, look at my fiancé” face. It’s great every single time, and it’s worth capturing. I promise you won’t regret it!
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We're Sava, a small studio of photographers who bonded over our similar educational background, love of art, & general affinity for timeless wedding photos. Based in NYC, will travel, will pick up your coffee order on the way.
When we work together, I'll do everything I can to get to know you and your partner, ensuring your photos feel authentic to your personalities. Our relationship will be collaborative, not one-sided. We'll share ideas, inspiration, and I'll answer all your burning wedding related (or not) questions.