Should you do a first look // Pros and cons

First off, what is a first look?

A first look is where the Bride and Groom see each other for the first time before the ceremony. I typically encourage couples to only have the photographer, videographer and themselves at the first look. This keeps the experience intimate and personal which can encourage authentic emotions between the Bride & Groom.

Why are they a good idea?

So often I’m asked by potential clients to explain the benefits of doing a first look on a wedding day. The short answer is it helps the day run smoother by combining most of the portraits into fewer sections, such as: Bride & Groom portraits, posed family portraits, & wedding party portraits. And it makes the most of your hourly coverage. It also helps us get more candid shots & posed portraits of you and your fiancé throughout the day (since you end up spending more of the day together). So, more time together equals more opportunities for photos and memorable moments.

The other big reason is doing a first look prevents guests from waiting so long at your reception (since you’ve done all of your portraits before the ceremony). Usually, the only thing left after the ceremony (posed portrait-wise) is a photo with the officiant and the optional sunset pictures of the Bride & Groom (which usually last about 10 mins).

After doing so many weddings, I also started to notice that when we do a first look, we tend to capture more of an authentic reaction from both the Bride & Groom. This happens since, during a first look, you’re sharing a private moment together; whereas during a ceremony, you have 100+ guests watching your reaction. This also tends to help the couple’s stress level (and emotional level) throughout the day.


First look vs no first look

For weddings that do a first look, I typically recommend allowing 30-45 minutes for the first look with Bride & Groom posed pictures following, 30 minutes for wedding party pictures, & 30 minutes for family posed pictures. For weddings not planning to do a first look, I recommend doing an hour for the Bride’s side before the ceremony (including any family pictures with the Bride and pictures with the bridesmaids), as well as an hour for the Groom’s side before the ceremony (all family shots with the Groom and with the groomsmen), and lastly, at least one hour after the ceremony  (it would include 20 minutes for all family shots that include both the Bride & Groom, 10 minutes for whole wedding party shots, and then 30 minutes for just Bride & Groom portraits)… at minimum.

Your ceremony time will play a big role in how this last hour of portraits will turn out. (If possible, it’s best for your ceremony to end at least an hour before sunset.) So, if you aren’t doing a first look and the sunsets at 7:00pm, that would put your ceremony time at 5:30 pm for a 30-minute ceremony. Of course, these are only suggestions, but in my experience this is what works best for pictures.​

Ceremony time isn’t quite as important for weddings doing a first look. However, I do encourage the Bride and Groom to allow at least a few minutes before sunset for extra pictures of the two of them.

There’s more helpful information here for planning a wedding! Let us know if you have any questions! Here are a few timeline examples:

Timeline Example (w/ a first look) if sunset is at 7:00pm-

2:00pm-Getting Ready and bridal details (hair & makeup is already finished at this point)

3:30pm-First look with Bride & Groom (then a few posed portraits)

4:00pm-Pictures with whole wedding party with Bride & Groom

4:30pm-Pictures with both immediate families with Bride & Groom

5:00pm-Done with all portraits (wedding party goes back into hiding)/photographers work on ceremony & reception details & guests arriving


6:30pm- 6:40pm- Extra pictures of Bride & Groom during golden hour then head to reception

(7:00pm- Sunset)

*Next would be reception coverage (this tends to vary a lot from wedding to wedding)

Timeline Example (w/o a first look) if sunset is at 7:00pm-

1:00pm-Getting Ready and bridal details (hair & makeup is already finished at this point)

2:00pm-Groom’s Side (Groom w/ groomsmen and Groom’s immediate family)

3:00pm-Bride’s Side (Bride w/ bridesmaids and Bride’s immediate family)

4:00pm-Done with all portraits/ photographer(s) works on ceremony & reception details and guest arriving.


5:30-6:00pm- Bride & Groom w/ both immediate families and then whole wedding party.

6:00-6:45pm-Bride and Groom portraits (remember, until this point we have no pictures of you & the groom so we will need a decent chunk of time)

(7:00pm- Sunset)

*Next would be reception coverage (this tends to vary a lot from wedding to wedding)

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *


Our most recent blog posts:
Read all of our wedding reviews on our April Stanley Photography Storefront at Wwlogo 83x19