First Look: What is it and do I need one?

First Look DC Wedding Photographer Josephine Butler Parks Center

During my initial consult with potential clients, I always ask if they are planning to do a first look. I get blank stares. I’ve noticed a pattern here… most people who aren’t in the wedding industry, have no idea what a first look is… so that is the inspiration behind this blog post!

A first look is when the couple sees each other before the ceremony.

The reactions I get when I tell people that:

Gasp. Omg. Shock. He sees her in her wedding dress before she walks down the aisle?! But doesn’t that take away from the excitement of seeing her walk down the aisle in front of all of our friends and family?!


Oh cool, that’s a thing? I didn’t know we were allowed to do that.

First looks are breaking the very old tradition of a groom not seeing his bride until the aisle. Now for you, this might be an automatic no, and that is totally fine. Traditions hold strong. However, this tradition is fading away to give way for more photo time, more family/friends/celebration time, less anxiety, and a quiet moment.

A first look can bring so much to the table for those who want to feel it out as an option.First Look DC Wedding Photographer Josephine Butler Parks Center

A first look provides you with more photography done BEFORE the ceremony. A traditional wedding timeline has the couple miss their cocktail hour in order to have their bride and groom portraits taken. With a first look, all the wedding party images, the bridesmaid images, the groomsmen images, the bride and groom portraits, can be taken before the ceremony. This allows for more celebration time after the wedding! Family portraits will be the only real posed images that need to happen afterwards, and if everyone knows where they need to be, family portraits can be done in 15 minutes. Then everyone can be sent off to enjoy cocktail hour or whatever other activities are scheduled.

A first look provides you with a quiet moment alone (with the photographer, of course). Typically, a first look is the only time the bride and groom have to themselves on their wedding day.

Many people who are all about tradition are like “I want him to react!” And here’s the thing, some grooms are more likely to react to seeing their bride for the first time while they have a moment alone, rather than in front of all their friends and family. You know that guy – the one who is super macho and quite bro in front of his friends, but is a total softie with you? That’s the guy who is a lot more likely to be stoked to see you in private, but standing up there in front of everyone he might mask his emotion a bit more.

Not only is that a factor, but it really is a peaceful moment. The rest of the day will be filled with everyone watching the couple, so doing a first look gives you time together before all the activity starts.

Finally, a first look can calm your anxiety and nervousness! I’ve never been a bride or a groom, so I don’t know the anxiety of being a bride or a groom personally, however, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen anxious brides, I’ve seen nervous jittery grooms. And okay, I totally get it. The day is changing your life! These are the times when you would normally talk to your soon-to-be-spouse about how you’re feeling. So why not do it! Go see him, go talk with her, give each other a hug and a kiss and remind yourself that all these anxious feelings, all the planning, all the insane attention to detail… was totally worth it because you get to be married at the end of the day!

Anyyyyways, while I totally respect and can appreciate tradition, a first look is really quite the amazing alternative. If you’re on the fence about your decision, I would recommend doing the first look; brides and grooms who do choose that timeline, don’t ever regret it.First Look DC Wedding Photographer Josephine Butler Parks Center


All images from this first look taken while second shooting for Mary Neumann Photography!

5 thoughts on “First Look: What is it and do I need one?”

  1. Great insight! I got married in March and my husband and I had a first look (and also got ready together) while its totally a personal choice and preference, thats what worked for us 🙂

  2. I had a first look, we blind folded my husband and I walked up and gave him a kiss then he took his blind fold off… Beautifully written article and your pictures are too die for!

  3. I love this post! My husband and I did a first look. While I respect the tradition as well, I think first looks have SO many benefits and totally recommend doing them. Like you said, the biggest pro is having alone time before the ceremony to see each others genuine reactions and to calm each others nerves. It truly a special moment, and you have the opportunity to get stunning photos. Thanks for sharing!

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