The Wedding First Look | Our 6 favorite things about the First Look

The Wedding First Look | Our 6 Favorite things about the First Look!

We’re breaking down the Wedding First Look & discussing it logistically AND emotionally

The wedding first look. This is something that will split most people into one camp or the other – you’ll either be blown away by the idea and be calling your wedding planner right now to make sure you include this in your wedding, or you’ll be wondering why you’d want to lose that moment when you first lock eyes coming down the aisle. You’ve probably heard the stories from both sides: the magic of seeing each other for the first time at your wedding ceremony when you walk down the aisle OR the perfect intimacy of getting to see one another in private before your ceremony.

Now let us put a disclaimer on here before we continue…our couples are not required to do a First Look by any means! We used to feel bad for sharing this option with couples who were against it, because we didn’t want to push anything on them. However, we have seen the power of a first look over and over again, and how it can ‘save the day’, so we only share this because we want our couples to have the BEST day possible!! It’s totally ok if couples choose not to share a first look!

Our goal of this post isn’t to convince you to do a First Look, but to help you make the best decision that will ensure the most intentional and impactful day for you both.

Bride peeking through barn doors during their wedding first look

A Little Wedding Day History

Before we jump into our favorite reasons, we thought we would share the history of why couples originally didn’t see each other before the ceremony. Truth be told, it’s not all that romantic. You see, in the days where arranged marriages were the norm, the parents of the bride and groom wanted to ensure the marriage would follow through. The concept of it ‘being bad luck’ to see the bride before the ceremony actually started from arranged marriages, where it was believed that if a bride and groom saw each other before the big day, they’d have enough time to call off the wedding. In case the groom wouldn’t find the bride attractive and thus back out of the wedding, the families didn’t allow the couple to see each other until it was “too late” (aka at the front of the aisle). Not so sweet, right?

History aside, this decision comes down to the both of you because no matter how that first look happens, it will take your breath away; you may forget to breathe, or burst into tears or simply be grinning from ear to ear. However you each react, this is one of the most intimate moments of your lives together so far and why deciding if this moment will be before the ceremony, or as you walk down the aisle, has to be the right call for both of you.

Brides – you are still walking down the aisle to marry the person of your dreams. Grooms – you are still watching the love of your life come towards you to say ‘I Do’. Absolutely nothing can replace the true significance of that moment – not even a First Look!

We approach the First Look at a wedding differently than some photographers – maybe it’s because we’ve experienced so many different wedding days, or maybe it’s just because we’re die-hard romantics. Either way, it’s one of our favorite moments of a wedding, and we believe it’s the best way to truly ‘experience’ your day. Our favorite part about our own wedding first look, was that it meant we got to spend more of the day together!

The most common approach that photographers take for the First Look is as a logistical benefit. Which totally makes sense, the day moves at lighting speed and before you know it we are dancing away at the reception! The logistical benefits are a obviously huge plus and by seeing one another before the ceremony, you will have a lot more time for amazing photos, you’ll get your must have’s done before the ceremony, and you’ll get to join your cocktail hour shortly after the ceremony without worrying about taking ALL of your photos.

While all of this is 100% true, we see the wedding First Look as having an enormous emotional advantage for our couples to truly experience their wedding day. Unlike seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony… at the first look, you get to hug one another, laugh, kiss, cry, jump up and down! That moment becomes all about you guys and you can soak in the realization that… you’re getting married today!

After experiencing our own wedding First Look and capturing countless others…we’ve come to this conclusion. Some couples love ‘traditions’…. but what a couple REALLY wants when it comes to seeing each other for the first time, is a REACTION. Sometimes those who are not interested in a First Look think that by seeing each other beforehand, they will lose part of that reaction. They also assume that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle. What we have found (this is starting to sound like a research paper!) is almost the opposite!

Keep reading for a list of our top 6 favorite reasons why we love a wedding first look…

Bride walks to groom during wedding first look

1. Bye, Bye Butterflies

Butterflies, nerves, jitters, whatever you call them, they’ll be gone! We would say, literally 1/2 of our couples who have decided to do a first look, the grooms were not fans of it at first. Stephen is included on this list! However, because they have never experienced their wedding day before, they didn’t know how nerve racking it can be. We have so many grooms who initially weren’t a fan of the first look…  afterwards admit to being SO much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony! They felt like they were able to truly express how they felt and that’s a sweet moment we love giving our couples!

The Wedding First Look allows you more opportunity to savor all that’s special about this day together because you are far more relaxed. In fact, many of our couples comment that the walk down the aisle is MORE special because they could look around at their guests and take it all in without any nervousness getting in the way.

It’s before the ceremony and the gravity of what is about to happen starts to sink in and the calm, collected groom who was playing golf just a few short hours ago is now starting to feel a little anxious. For most grooms, the nerves kick in before they see their bride because when they see her, everything becomes VERY real! So when the nerves start creeping up, instead of keeping the groom in a secluded space until his time to enter the ceremony, what if you took him to a private place… no people, no on-lookers, no distractions…. and you let his beautiful bride, the love of his life, quietly call his name and have him turn around to see her for the first time.

2. The Wedding First Look extends your time together

Wedding First Looks allow you to extend your wedding day and enjoy every second together! Typically the wedding day would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end, you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions and then it’s reception time. You’ve barely had time to stop and hug before being rushed off! With a first look, your time together is extended by almost 3 hours!

When we saw each other for the first time on our wedding day, not only was it intimate, it was our only time to be alone the whole day! We cried and laughed and cried some more… and then that put us in the PERFECT mood for our romantic portraits. Normally portraits are a little rushed after the family formals, and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode…. especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other, and we always capture some some of our favorite images during those moments!

3. Avoid the stress

Having only an hour of time after the ceremony for photos just isn’t fun with today’s family structure and the amount of photos couples want. We genuinely do feel badly holding everyone after the ceremony to take photos when the reality is we could have done most it before the ceremony. We have a lot more time, a lot more daylight… it’s a win-win.  A First Look creates a laid back, stress-free experience that flows and that’s what we want MOST for our couples, their bridal party, their family, and all of their guests.

4. Enjoy your cocktail hour

When there is no wedding first look, the majority of the pictures need to be taken after the ceremony. Without a first look, we typically suggest a 90 minute cocktail hour in order to make sure we can capture all of your images! In comparison, with a first look, we only schedule about 3o minutes of time to capture any extended family portraits as well as sneaking away for a few glowy sunset photos. 😉

A first look opens up time prior to the ceremony for full bridal party pictures and the majority of family formals beforehand! This allows the couple to get the most out of their cocktail hour, which makes the rest of the evening feel less rushed. There aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check. It’s pretty dang great!

5. A Wedding First Look creates an extra time buffer –

Wedding days are notorious for needing extra time so we try to buffer it in on every wedding day regardless of their first look experience. However, sometimes you just have a verbose officiant or the ceremony itself starts late for a number of reasons. When that happens, most venues and planners want to stick to the original reception start time in order to ensure the food is fresh. Because of this, your cocktail hour becomes shorter and you lose out on portrait time. You won’t have to sweat this if you’ve already completed your portraits!

Weather is also another consideration. We’ve said it many times, Arizona is notorious for having crazy weather, which can be unfortunate on a wedding day!  You just never know what mother nature has in store! When the forecast is saying clear skies but the weather shifts and a storm hits just after ceremony, you lose all of your portrait time outside. With a first look, this gives you a second time during the day for photos!

Wedding first look arizona wedding photographer

6. The First Look adds a extra layer of excitement –

Maybe you think your day is exciting enough already, but some couples love getting to experience the emotion and excitement of BOTH moments! Walking down the aisle on our wedding day was a moment that we will treasure for a lifetime, but sharing those moments together before our ceremony, just the two of us, was unforgettable. In true reality, we were able to have more of a genuine reaction in private, where we had a chance to share our true emotions and tell each other how incredible we each looked! It’s hard to share genuine feelings in front of EVERYONE! Some Grooms freeze up because they realize they have 150+ eyeballs looking for his reaction! Instead we were able to have the best of both worlds, because we decided to share an intimate First Look moment on our wedding day, AND he still LOST IT when I came down the aisle! (Stephen is a crier!!)

These are images from our own First Look!

Most couples don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeous-ness… he can’t even tell you how amazing you look. He can’t touch you, embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 30 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 30 minutes of the ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance. Especially with everyone congratulating you!

As a side note..First looks are especially important for an Elopement because they truly allow for that extra layer of excitement on your wedding day. Instead of simply showing up to the same location together to get married, we set up a sweet first look that allows you to experience and cherish that moment even more!

Sedona Arizona wedding photography stephen and melissa

Our biggest piece of advice from this blog post is to make sure that no matter what you decide for your day, it is YOUR decision.  If you read this whole post and still know that a First look isn’t for you, that is 100% OKAY!

Talk with your wedding photographer and they will help you design a killer wedding day timeline that allows for all your portraits and saves the first look for the aisle. This is why we customize every timeline for our couples based on their wedding day vision. Every timeline is different, because every wedding day is unique.

We will give it the credit it deserves in saying a Wedding First Look truly does impact the whole day, BUT we are here to tell you to not be afraid to be traditional as well! Whatever your desires for your day are, first look or not, you are making your dreams come true… all the while holding your partner’s hand and walking through it together.

-Stephen & Melissa

Check out some Wedding Days with a First Look here

Monet & Kyle | Ali & James | Katie & Steve

Places to buy vow books for gift cards to exchange during your Wedding First look | Etsy

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We are published Phoenix wedding photographers and wedding videographers, engagement photographers & elopement photographers specializing in joyful, genuine and romantic story-telling images and films. We service all of Arizona including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, & beyond! 


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