First-look wedding photos may not be the newest trend in wedding photography, but they’re still a hot topic. As your big day approaches, you’re probably wondering whether you want first-look wedding photos—or whether you want to wait until you walk down the aisle for your big reveal.
What Is the First Look?
The first look is when a couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day. This intimate moment typically makes for an emotional photo opportunity.
Here, we asked the pros (i.e., fantastic wedding photographers) to share their expert thoughts on first-look photos and how they actually work, so you can know exactly what to expect.
The Pros of First Look Wedding Photos
“Couples should consider the first look for more than just the practicality of timing,” says Caroline Lima. “It’s a great decision for couples who want to spend some quiet time together before the ceremony."
- You can get many of the photos taken before the ceremony: “Personally, I loved having a first look at my own wedding,” remembers Ashley Sawtelle. “It gave us a moment before the day officially started to connect with one another and take a deep breath.”
- It gives you and your partner a few moments together: “A first look definitely does not spoil the ceremony,” says Carrie Patterson. “You’ll be overwhelmed with emotion no matter what, so if you want to see your partner, don’t skip it.”
- You can capture an emotional moment on camera: “A wedding is an intimate, emotional experience, and a first look means I can capture a couple together in that moment,” says Cat Mayer. “Yes, walking down the aisle is emotional, too, but you’re not together in those photographs.”
The Cons of First Look Wedding Photos
“Remember that you can always change your mind—even on the day of your wedding!—and opt for a first look if you decide you need to see your partner,” says Mayer. “A skilled photographer will be able to adapt and help you make that moment happen.”
- You'll have to get ready earlier: “If you’re having a ceremony earlier in the day, a first look will mean you have to be ready even earlier than you’d planned—which means you have to start getting ready earlier, too,” says Sawtelle.
- Lighting may not be ideal: “Yes, your photographer and videographer will try to be discrete and as far away as possible, but we will still be around,” says Lima. “Lighting during a first look isn’t ideal. They usually happen during the day, when lighting is harsh, so you’ll probably need to take more photos after the ceremony anyway.”
Fall Country Club
This couple recalls their first look as one of their favorite moments of the wedding day. “I loved having that moment together before the ceremony,” says the bride, Alex. “It was something I will never forget.”
"Our first look was insane," says the bride, Danielle. The freight elevator at this rooftop wedding carried the groom, Rodney, up for an unforgettable first look moment as the doors opened. "When he came up and turned around, we were both so emotional," Danielle recalls. "We did our first look before the ceremony knowing damn well that we would both cry—had to allow time for some makeup touch-ups!"
The historic cobblestone town of Antigua, Guatemala, created a stunningly romantic backdrop to Brogan and David's first look. As a wedding photographer, Brogan knew a thing or two about planning for the picturesque moment. “Do a first look early and spend the day with your soon-to-be," she advises. But if there's one thing that makes this photo swoon-worthy, it's the tearful groom seeing his bride for the first time on their wedding day.
This groom was all smiles waiting for his bride in the Palm Springs hotel's garden. But in first-look fashion, they were both brought to immediate tears when they saw each other. After taking a few beats of emotion (when the bride had successfully wiped away all the groom's tears), the pair used this time to take their wedding portraits in various locations around the venue.
This duo got the best of both worlds when it came to the first-look decision. On the first day of their celebration, they honored West Indian Hindu Wedding traditions and the couple did not see each other until the bride entered the ceremony. But the next day, they held a formal black-tie wedding that began with a private moment for the couple to reveal their second-day attire.
Matt and Chloe met up on the beach for their first look before their ceremony in Mexico. The reveal was an equally powerful moment for the pair as they showed off their wedding day attire: Chloe in a low-back Dan Jones gown and Matt clad in a tie-less navy suit.
Jacqueline and Dylan held their wedding in their hometown of Denver to celebrate the city that they fell in love. Before the ceremony, the couple set aside time to meet up at Denver Union Station for a magical first look and intimate portraits. The pair explored the LoDo District, snapping photos with their photographer along the way before tying the knot.
Nichole and George had just finished renovating their Pasadena home, so they decided it was the perfect place to host their wedding. And with a gorgeous, sun-strewn patio for the taking, the pair elected to have a first look and portraits taken right there outside their house. Following their joyful moment, George recalls Nichole's unease when taking photos and says he helped make her more comfortable by whispering "semi-inappropriate jokes in her ear to make her laugh."
Blogger Chloe Wen showed off a gorgeous organza Sarah Seven gown and matching veil during the first look with her husband, Jason, before their Tennessee wedding. We can't get enough of this adorable dress-reveal moment, and it seems, neither could Jason.
Highlight of the Day
Pra's initial nerves about having a first look before their Pasadena wedding appear to have completely washed away the moment he saw his bride, Kelsey. The groom thought that the moment would make him feel self-conscious, but looking back, "he says it was one of his very favorite parts of the whole day," Kelsey says. And we can totally tell.
A grand staircase led the way as this bride approached her awaiting soon-to-be. The pair basked in each other's wedding-day glory before saying their "I dos" at their destination ceremony in Portugal.
Things nearly went awry as Claudia descended the stone steps of the Atlanta Swan House toward Alex for their first look. “Halfway down, as Alex was looking at me lovingly, my veil got caught and jerked my head back," Claudia says. "We both broke into laughter, and the moment couldn’t have been more us."
Neither Jacki nor Patrick were short of tears once they saw each other during their first look. To invite even more emotion to the occasion, the couple read each other personal messages from their phones while they had the moment all to themselves.
Before their ceremony at the Denver Botanic Gardens solarium, Kyle headed downtown to the Ramble Hotel, where Claire was getting ready, to meet her outside for their first look (and a spin or two). Claire twirled in her custom gown made for her by her mother.
These two Broadway actors were equally as floored upon seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day in Brooklyn. Heartfelt reactions like this one are what first look dreams are made of.
On the second day of Tara and Brian's three-day wedding in Tuscany, Brian eagerly awaited Tara's tap on the shoulder during their first look before the ceremony. Tara showed off her bridal glam in a custom-made Monique Lhuillier gown while Brian sported a custom-tailored navy suit.
Jen and Zack tied the knot amid the olive trees and lavender fields at a private residence in California, which set the romantic backdrop for their epic first look. The heart-melting look on Zack's face when he sees his bride takes the scene to a level straight out of a romance movie.
Jasmarina and Ben gave the bridesmaids an adorable show during their first look, as they all got to watch the moment unveil through the nearby window. The bridal party was ecstatic, but no reaction tops the look on Ben's face when he caught the first glimpse of his bride on their wedding day.
Celia's heels did not agree with the grass in the backyard of her and Michael's France venue. Though the first look went in a different direction than originally planned, the couple counts the moment that played out as one of their favorites of the day.
Tears of Joy
Shanna and Nate met up outside of their Pennsylvania warehouse venue to grab a few photos before their ceremony. Seeing the love of her life in his black tux and bow tie waiting for her had Shanna wiping away happy tears.
Donna and Amine recall their first look in Tulum, Mexico, as a much-needed moment to calm their pre-wedding nerves. "When we finally saw each other, he gave me the deepest hug," Donna says. "I was so relieved in that moment, and I felt those nerves just fade away."
Casey and Rumond met up for a little alone time to be together before their Moroccan-inspired ceremony in Australia. “Rumond and I shared words from our hearts with each other, which was so special,” Casey says of their first look. “Having some time to focus on our love, on each other, and be still before the whole day began was, to me, the real wedding. Rumond’s words were so beautiful and heartfelt. That moment was magic.”
By the Olive Trees
Daniel and Alexis had a "Pinterest goals" wedding in Simi Valley, California. Before saying "I do" in front of all of their family and friends, the pair met for a first look where they exchanged their private vows. "We also decided to have our officiant recite and paraphrase a few words from our vows during the ceremony," Alexis recalls.
This couple's three-day wedding celebration in New York City kicked off with two days of traditional Pakistani wedding festivities to honor the bride's heritage. On the third day, Monis and Corey had a formal Jewish ceremony and reception. “I never even imagined having the opportunity to wear the traditional white dress as Pakistani brides don’t get to do this," Monis says of her third bridal look. This made the dress reveal during her and Corey's first look that much more special, "I was overwhelmed by how perfect it looked.”