Pros & Cons of Wedding First Looks

Pros & Cons of First Look | Wedding Planning

As a wedding photographer based in Raleigh, one of the things I get asked about most often are pros & cons of doing a first look. And my response is always the same – it is based what fits you as a couple. All couples are unique, and have different visions for their wedding, and I support timelines with and without first looks. If you are on the fence about having a first look, I have outlined advantages & disadvantages, and give my honest opinion about both options.

Pros & Cons of Wedding First Looks
Pros & Cons of First Looks

Pros & Cons of First Look Photos | Pros:

  1. Heartfelt Moments: For me, one of the biggest benefits of a first look is intimacy. Almost all of your wedding day is spent being busy – busy doing something. It gives you the ability to slow down, and share a moment that is about just you and your soon-to-be spouse in a private setting. It is more than seeing the dress for the first time, but about having a moment to yourselves before you step into the next phase of your life. A good wedding photographer will give you the space for your time together, while still capturing the moment. This can make for some truly beautiful moments between you both, which will translate into some fantastic photos you will look back on and treasure for years to come.
  2. Easing Nerves: Wedding days have a lot of nerves and anticipation built up around them. A first look really helps to melt any nerves before walking down the aisle.
  3. More Time for Photos: By doing a first look, you don’t have to worry about having a very limited amount of time to take photos of the two of you. I see it time and time again, couples wait until the very end of the evening to pack ALL of their photos in for themselves, family, bridal portraits, bridal party, and friends, and it creates stress trying to ensure nothing is missed. First looks help reduce stress by giving yourself more time for quality images before the evening gets too late (and Aunt Karen insists on doing 37 selfies with her baby niece). It also allows your photographer the ability to set up unique photography opportunities that are likely not possible as the evening progresses.
  4. Better Lighting: Depending on the time of year and location of your wedding, doing a first look can allow you to take advantage of the best lighting for photos. For example, if you’re getting married in the late fall or winter when the sun sets around 5pm in Eastern North Carolina, doing a first look can ensure you have plenty of time for photos in natural light. If you are getting married during the summer in Eastern North Carolina where the sun sets around 9pm, many couples believe that since the sun will set later, they should wait to do their images until after the ceremony, which then runs the risk of waiting too late in the day to squeeze it all in. Interested in knowing when the sun will set for your wedding? Use this handy online tool to find out.
  5. Family Photos: You can knock out the family and other group photos in a relaxed manner ahead of the ceremony as well. How sweet would it be for grandma to be a part of your first look?! I do however recommend for large extended family photos to be after the ceremony to avoid making your first look too crowded feeling.
  6. You Get to Go to Cocktail Hour: As you have taken care of all the portraits before the ceremony, go enjoy your time! I hear it all the time from couples – they were so busy that they were not able to actually enjoy the night. Why not create an environment where you do!
Pros & Cons of Wedding First Looks

Pros & Cons of First Look Photos | Cons:

  1. Tradition: Not all couples are interested in following tradition that might seem dated. I personally fell into this category when I got married. We lived together for two years prior to marriage, and hiding the dress just didn’t fit us. Not only did go to with me to every dress appointment, we shared a “try our outfits on together” moment at my final fitting. So having a first look for us, felt fake and not who we were. Instead, we spent the time together on a small hike (yes in my dress) over tradition.
  2. Earlier Timeline: Doing a first look means starting your day earlier to ensure you have enough time for photos before the ceremony. This may mean an early start for hair and makeup and could affect the rest of your wedding day timeline. However, work with your planner, HMUA, & photographer in order to set you up for the best timeline to avoid extremely early start times.
  3. Cost: If you decide to do a first look, you may need to book your HMUA earlier in the day. You may need to also book your photographer and/or videographer for additional hours to cover both the first look and the ceremony depending on timing. I would add that any expenditure is totally worth it given the positive impact doing a first look can have on your wedding day timeline and, consequently, your stress levels and ability to enjoy your wedding day.
Pros & Cons of Wedding First Looks


8:00AMStart Getting Ready
12:00Getting Ready – Finishing Touch Photos
12:30Get Dressed
1:00First Look
1:15Couple’s Portraits
2:15Wedding Party Portraits (could do family here too!)
3:00Down Time/Candid Photos
4:30Ceremony Ends, Family Formal Photos
5:00Enjoy Cocktail Hour!
5:30Reception Entrances & Dinner
Pros & Cons of Wedding First Looks


9:00AMStart Getting Ready
1:00Getting Ready – Finishing Touch Photos
1:30Get Dressed
2:00Partner 1 & Party Photos
2:30Partner 2 & Party Photos
3:00Down Time/Candid Photos
4:30Ceremony Ends, Family Formal Photos
5:00Full Wedding Party Portraits
5:15Couple’s Portraits
5:30Reception Entrances & Dinner

Looking for more help on wedding timelines? Click here.

While a first look can provide some benefits such as an intimate moment, more time for photos, and the opportunity for better lighting, it’s important to also consider how it impacts tradition, costs, and personal desires. There are pros & cons of first look photos, and if you are on the fence about doing a first look, I would love to chat about a wedding timeline that fits you as a couple.

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