I’m less than a month away from my 2015 wedding season so photography timelines for the wedding days are on my list of to-dos. One to two months before the wedding date, I email my couples a list of questions about their wedding day. From where and when the bride and maids are getting ready to whether or not they’re having a grand exit, these are all details I need to know to make sure I capture everything needed.

One question that’s especially important is whether or not the couple is doing a first look. It determines what time the photography starts, when everyone needs to be ready for pictures and how much time will be spent on pictures. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the concept of the first look…

A First Look on a wedding day is when the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. One person is usually placed in a private, secluded area (at least that’s how I do it) and the other is escorted to them. The bride usually then reveals her bridal look and the two have some alone time together talking, praying, exchanging gifts or just sharing their wedding day emotions. During this time, the photographer, or at least myself, is “hiding” nearby with a zoom lens capturing it all! It make for some really cool pictures. 🙂

See more from Lorena and Tim’s first look and wedding here.

It’s a “break in tradition” and it goes against the norm, but more and more couples are doing it and there are some great benefits:

Alone time. On your wedding day, the only alone time you get with your new spouse may be at the very end of the night when the reception is over. You get up at 8am to get ready and feel all sorts of crazy excitement to marry your love. But you don’t actually get to spend quality alone time together until 11pm! Why not spend as much time as possible with your love on your most special day!?! The First Look gives you more time together…more alone time.

See more from Jocelyn and Justin’s first look and wedding here.

Two moments! A lot of couples don’t want to see each other because they want that special moment when they see each other for the first time at opposite ends of the aisle. And I totally get that because it can be so wonderful! But I’ve heard from couples that do first looks that they actually get two of those moments! They have the moment when they see each other at the first look and then another at the start of the ceremony. The ceremony isn’t the first time they see each other, but it’s the start of the actual “I do’s”…the time that means the most on the wedding day! The time where they become one, and they do it with all their family and friends. I’ve been told it’s just as emotional and just as special even with a first look.

More pictures! You’re not limited to the time between the ceremony and reception for pictures, so you can better dictate how much time is spent taking pictures. If you want a BUNCH of bride-groom and wedding party portraits, which are all usually done right after the ceremony, you could have your first look hours before your ceremony and have hours to take pictures! My couples who do a first look usually have 100-200 more pictures in their finished collection. You also have some intimate, emotional, unique pictures of you and your soon-to-be spouse gushing over each other. 🙂


See more from MaryAnn and Matt’s first look and wedding here.

More pictures in the daylight! If you’re having a ceremony within an hour of sunset (I usually find this common with fall weddings), you’re probably going to run out of daylight when taking your pictures. But if you do a first look before the ceremony, you can concentrate on warm, glowy sunset pictures before the reception knowing you got everything else beforehand. Or if you walk out of your ceremony and it’s dark out, no worries. You got everything beforehand!

More time to hang out! You don’t need hours for pictures, but the wiggle room to either take pictures or hang out casually with your wedding party is a neat concept. Last year I had one couple do a first look three hours before their ceremony. They took time to talk and be alone, we spent plenty of time on bride-groom and wedding party portraits, and because there was time left over, they got to hang out as a group with their wedding party before the ceremony. They also attended part of their cocktail hour because we didn’t need as much time for pictures after the ceremony! How many couples get to do that!?! Your wedding day is a time for celebration and visiting with your friends and family. Why not try to do that as much as you can?


See more from Rachel and Shawn’s first look and wedding here.

Less rush! One of the things I dislike the most as a photographer is rushing. Trying to capture beautiful portraits, working with varying backgrounds and weather conditions, including all family members, and making sure we’re not late to the reception…it’s a lot to think about! And when I’m limited to the time between the ceremony and reception for family, wedding party and bride-groom portraits, I usually need to rush. Because I’m an experienced wedding photographer, I’ve learned to adapt and move as quickly as I need to, but less pictures will be taken and there will be less time for creativity. If pictures were taken before the ceremony because of a first look, there’s much less reason to rush through pictures before the reception.


I realize that first looks aren’t for everyone, so I never push my couples to do them. I do encourage, especially if they’re considering or worried about time for pictures. In my experience, couples that do first looks really enjoy them. It helps shake the nerves, it allows for more time for pictures, it gives them some alone time and it really seems to help the day run more smoothly, and less rushed.

The pictures included in the post are all first look moments from weddings I’ve photographed. I don’t have as many couples doing first looks now as I used to, but I completely understand wanting to stick to tradition and having that moment of seeing each other for the first time at the ends of the aisle. If you’re on the fence about a first look and want some more insight, let me know and I’d be happy to share some stories.

And here’s the wedding that’s coming to the blog tomorrow! Katie and Ross were married in Virginia on a beautiful October day and they shared a first look together…



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