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Should You Do a First Look? A list of Pros and Cons

First look wedding photos outside the Seattle Asian Art museum

When planning your wedding, one of the most important decisions you’ll face is whether or not to do a First Look. It’s the decision to see each other before your ceremony.

Over the last two decades (we’ve been shooting weddings since 2007), the First Look has become sort of standard. Still, this is a very personal decision – and an important one.

To help you make an informed decision, let’s explore the pros and cons of a First Look.

Pros of Doing a First Look

Chris and David's wedding at Dunn Gardens
A Private Moment Together

One of the biggest advantages of a First Look is the opportunity for a private moment between you and your partner. Away from the eyes of guests, you can share your emotions freely. This intimate time can help calm nerves and allow you to connect before the whirlwind of the ceremony begins.

It’s also a sweet moment for an exchange of private vows. Some couples find reciting personally written vows in front of their guests a nerve-wracking exercise, and instead, opt to do them to just their partner alone. The First Look is a great opportunity to do that.

Better Photos

First Look photos are often emotional and sweet. Without the pressure of the ceremony schedule, you and your photographer have more flexibility to capture genuine reactions and emotions. This seques nicely into…

Better Time Management

Having a First Look can significantly improve the flow of your wedding day. By taking many of the formal photos before the ceremony, you free up time afterward to enjoy your cocktail hour and reception. This can lead to a more relaxed and enjoyable day for both you and your guests. For example, if you don’t do a First Look, make sure you allocate at least 1.5 hours for cocktails (depending on the number of group photos you need to get through). Discuss this at length with your photographer and planner.

Eases Anxiety

Seeing your partner before the ceremony can ease pre-wedding jitters. The anticipation of the day can be overwhelming, but having that moment together can ground you both and provide reassurance. This is probably what I think is the most important part of our list of First Look Pros and Cons, if you know you get anxious about time.

Wedding ceremony at Fremont Foundry, a wedding venue in Seattle

Cons of Doing a First Look

Breaks Tradition

One of the most cited cons is that a First Look breaks the traditional aspect of not seeing each other until the ceremony. Many couples cherish the idea of the first look happening as the bride walks down the aisle, surrounded by family and friends.

Less Excitement

Some worry that seeing each other beforehand might take away from the excitement and emotion of the ceremony. They believe that the magic of that initial moment might be lessened if it happens in private rather than in front of their loved ones. However, this has proven to not be a problem most of the time. It’s just a different feeling of anticipation altogether. Pro tip: Save your veil (if you’re wearing one) for your walk down the aisle. For some reason, it really adds to the drama of the moment!

More time needed from family and wedding party

If you opt for a First Look, your key people will have to show up early to your day, at least two hours and this doesn’t include beauty or getting ready time. This can be a lot to ask from your loved ones.

Whether or not to do a First Look is ultimately down to three questions:

  1. Are you easily anxious? If so, do a First Look.
  2. Are you wanting more wedding portraits (posed photos of you and your partner)? If so, do a First Look.
  3. Do you want to spend time with guests during cocktail hour vs taking photos? If so, do a First Look.

Consider the pros and cons carefully. If you value tradition and want to experience that classic moment of seeing each other for the first time at the aisle, you might opt to skip the First Look. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more relaxed day with beautiful photos and a private moment together, a First Look could be perfect for you.

Whatever you decide, ensure it reflects your unique personalities and wedding vision. After all, this day is about celebrating your love and commitment in a way that feels right to both of you.

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