bride and groom portraits

Should you do a first look?

Bride approaches a groom from behind for a first look, The Palladium in Waco, Texas

When we formulate a wedding day timeline for our J&M Sweethearts, we’ll go over all the little details that will make their day flow smoothly. One of the big questions we always ask is, “Would you want to do a first look prior to the ceremony?” And honestly, the majority of our couples are unsure what they would like to do.

Since whether or not you should do a first look is a big question for both wedding photographers and their wedding couples, we thought we’d share our professional (and personal) opinions on a first look vs. keeping things traditional on your wedding day.

3 major pros of doing a first look

A bride and groom's first look on their wedding day, Horseshoe Bay Resort, Texas

1. Calming your nerves

Ha! I bet you thought we’d come at you with a bunch of reasons photographers think you should do a first look. But actually, 2 of our 3 pros for having a first look have nothing to do with wedding photography and everything to do with our brides and grooms. One of the most important things we've seen a first look do for couples is provide an opportunity to calm nerves.

We're not sure what sort of bride you are, but when I (Melaina) was getting ready to walk down the aisle to marry Jason, I was a nervous wreck! Full disclosure, we didn’t do a first look because Jason wanted the first time he saw me to be when I was walking down the aisle. Also, I’m not even sure we were aware of the first look option 9 years ago when we were planning our wedding ceremony. But looking back, I feel if we had done a first look prior to the ceremony, my nerves would have been much calmer for our actual ceremony.

If you think nerves or anxiety may be something you are battling on your wedding day, having a first look and chance to be with one another before the ceremony in front of everyone you know may be a great idea for you.

2. Have a chance to talk to one another

Having a first look can not only calm your nerves, but it can also give you two a chance to talk to one another in a more intimate setting on the most important day in your relationship. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation about how beautiful you look and how much you love one another and are so excited to be getting married when you’re standing in front of all your friends and family and the minister is asking “Who gives this woman away in marriage?” Having a moment prior to the ceremony for just the two of you is a great way to connect on this important day and an amazing memory to tuck away in your hearts.

A bride and groom talk together during their first look, Horseshoe Bay Resort, Texas

3. More time for bride and groom portraits

There’s also a pro for the first look as far as your wedding photography is concerned. If you chose to have a first look and have a really efficient wedding day timeline, this allows for a mini photo session of you two prior to the ceremony. Your photographer will be able to capture some awesome bride and groom portraits, as well as knock out all the bridal party portraits and maybe even some of the family portraits before the ceremony even starts. Then ensures all these heirloom images are done and allows everyone to get to the reception quickly immediately after the ceremony.

Now a great wedding photographer will be able to get all these portraits done in a timely manner after the ceremony and get everyone to the reception before cocktail hour is over. In fact, we’ve worked out a system to ensure our Sweethearts who don’t have a first look get these heirloom images in record time. But if having a lot portraits of you and your groom on your wedding day is a high priority to you, you may want to consider having a first look to allow for the most time to capture those important images.

3 major pros of keeping things traditional

A groom smiles at his bride as she walks down the aisle, Moon River Ranch, Satin, Texas

1. It’s tradition!

Having the bride not be revealed until she walks down the aisle to marry her husband is tradition, and there is something to be said for keeping with tradition. We actually chose to say the traditional marriage vows to one another at our wedding instead of writing our own because we loved the idea of repeating what countless couples before us had said. And that same sentiment can apply here. So if you find yourself really drawn to traditional aspects of wedding ceremonies, choosing to not see one another until you walk down the aisle is definitely the way to go.

2. Everyone will get to see your reactions to seeing one another for the first time

Some of our sweethearts really want to have an intimate moment when they see each other for the first time on their wedding day. And others want everyone they invited to share in their wedding day to be a part of the big reveal. Witnessing a groom respond in an emotional way to seeing his bride for the first time is a very sweet moment after all. We’ve had previous Sweethearts specifically choose not to do a first look because the bride knew the groom was going to cry when he saw her and they wanted to save that moment for when she walked down the aisle. So if you know your response to one another is going to be emotional and you want to share that with your family and friends, keeping things more traditional and not doing a first look is the perfect way to do that.

A groom cries when he sees his bride walking down the aisle, La Rio Mansion, Belton, Texas

3. Still time for intimate bride and groom portraits at sunset

Even if you don’t do a first look there is still great opportunities to be had for heirloom images of you two on your wedding day. All portraits that can happen with you two separately can be done prior to the ceremony, and the full bridal party, family formals and even couple portraits can happen between the ceremony and the reception. But depending on the timing of your ceremony, there’s also some great opportunity to sneak out of the reception with your photographers at sunset to get some amazing and intimate portraits of you two in your beautiful venue. In as little as 10-15 minutes you can have a mini portrait session to capture beautiful images your children and grandchildren will adore, while still keeping with tradition and not doing a first look.

A compromise - The First Touch

Maybe after reading this and considering the pros of both sides you still find yourself on the fence...or one of you prefers a first look and the other prefers the tradition of not having a first look. A great compromise to consider would be a first touch, a time where the bride and groom touch and connect in some way prior to the ceremony without seeing one another. A first touch allows you to speak with one another and have an intimate moment to calm your nerves while saving the big reveal of the bride in her gown for the walk down the aisle. 

A bride and groom hold hands during a first touch, Carleen Bright Arboretum, Woodway, Texas

You've probably seen portraits of couples' "first touch" moments on Pinterest or online. One common way to do this is to have the bride and groom hold hands around an open door or corner of a building. Other options include having the groom blindfolded while holding the bride, or having the groom stand around the corner of an open doorway from the bride while he reads her a letter or plays her a song on his guitar. There are many ways to do a first touch and your wedding photographer will have great ideas of how to do one that suites your personalities.

A first look, a traditional walk down the aisle, or a first touch? What do you plan on doing? Leave us a comment below to weigh in on the conversation!