10 Reasons You Should Have a First Look | Chesapeake Wedding Photographer

What is a first look?

During wedding consults with potential Sarah Lin Photography couples, one of the questions I always ask as we talk about their vision for their wedding day is “Are you going to have a first look?”

I’ve received enough blanks stares from that question to know it’s time for a blog post on the subject!

A “first look” is when a couple sees each other on their wedding day before their wedding ceremony.  First looks provide space for a private moment for the couple to pray, give gifts, read their vows, and take in the day together away from the eyes of family and friends.

At face value, people always wonder why?  Why bother?  It’s not the “traditional way” and my parents didn’t do one, so why should I?

So today I’m taking the time to share my experience as a bride and why having a first look on our wedding day was one of our best wedding planning decisions, and sweetest memories as we look back. 

Plus- you know me- I’m always looking for another reason to show you more photos from my favorite day!

So here you go: 

10 reasons from a real bride (me!) on why first looks are awesome!


1. I got to read Alvin my unabridged personal vows

I had a lot to say to Alvin on our wedding day.  I mean, I’d been waiting my whole life for this man!  No quick 2 minute vow could sum up all he meant to me and all I wanted to promise to him.  So I shortened my personal vows for the altar and read the full, intimate, unabridged version to him during our first look.  It was such a sweet moment.

2. We had time with our guests! 

My guests did not wait hours for us to show up to the reception because we were off taking bride and groom photos.  We did family photos, and a few quick couples photos after the ceremony (we’d already knocked out the bridal party photos before the ceremony) and then made our way to the reception! We didn’t force them to awkwardly mingle for hours before starting the party, we kept the cocktail hour to an actual hour and our guests were grateful for it!  We had the best dance party ever, our guests ate dinner at a normal time, and we had plenty of time to go around to tables and greet our 300+ guests.  I got to actually enjoy the people that traveled so far to spend the day with us!

3. The whole day felt more relaxed. 

After our first look, I had about an hour of down-time before the ceremony.  I was melting in my dress so I changed out of it (giving my bridesmaids time to steam it) and got to sit and eat Chickfila with the groomsmen literally minutes before going down the aisle.  Then I changed back into my dress and we had time to pray with our parents / bridal party before walking down the aisle. 

4. We were free to react! 

The first time we saw each other on our wedding day, only 3 other people were present (instead of 300+!).  It was just us, my sister, our photographer, and videographer.  Instead of just a nod at each other at the end of the aisle, I got to hug him, talk to him and kiss him.  The nerves of the day melted away and there was space for us to just BE.

5. We remember our wedding day! 

You know how people say stuff like “It goes by in a blur, you won’t remember anything by the end of it”?  Well, because our day was paced out, with actual TIME in between the different events, there was space for us to take it all in and enjoy the whole day!  At the end of the day, we were surprised by how present we felt in each moment (instead of being overwhelmed and scattered).


6. Alvin and I got to exchange gifts

We wanted to exchange gifts, but we also wanted to see each other’s reactions!  So we brought our gifts along and he got to see first hand my shock at two brand-new camera lens, and I got to explain to him the thought and prayers that went into the journal of letters I’d been writing him over the past year.

7. It didn’t take away from that end-0f-aisle moment!

I wore my veil to add to the wow-factor, the music played, and it was just as sweet as I imagined.  And now I have double the memories of Alvin’s reactions 🙂

8. Our family photos were not rushed. 

Let’s be real, the idea of rallying your Uncle Bob and Aunt Jane from different sides of the church right after the ceremony is chaotic and a little stressful.  But even moreso if you have had zero time with your husband/wife that day and know that in the next 2 hours you have fit in all the family, bridal party, and couples photos with zero wiggle room.  BUT if your bridal party photos are already done, and you just have a few couples photos left, you can be patient with the family member that can’t be found, and take your time to gather everyone for these special photos.

9. We got double the couples photos

Actually triple: first look photos, after ceremony photos, and we snuck out of the reception for 10 mins to get some sunset photos!  More than any dance floor, ceremony, or family photo these are the images you hang on your walls, show your grandkids, and share year after year.  They really matter.  Make time for them!

10. The day I’d been dreaming of for years was an actual day- not just a rushed couple of hours. 

Let me show you what I mean…below are two example timelines, one with a first look, one without:

Example first look timeline:

  • 1PM- First Look and couples portraits
  • 2PM- Bridal party portraits
  • 2:15- Inside church to wait
  • 2:30- Prayer before going down the aisle
  • 3PM- Ceremony starts
  • 4PM- Family portraits / cocktail hour for guests begins
  • 4:30- Couples portraits
  • 5PM- Arrive at Reception
  • 5:30- Dinner
  • 6PM- Mingling with guests
  • 6:15- Dances
  • 6:30- Dancing
  • 7:15- Toasts / Cake
  • 7:45- Dancing
  • 8:30- Garter / Bouquet
  • 9PM- Exit

8 hours total with your husband/wife, more time to add fun reception traditions, 1 extra hour with your guests!

Example non-first look timeline:

  • 3PM- Ceremony
  • 3:45- Family Photos / cocktail hour for guests begins
  • 4:15- Bridal Party Photos
  • 5PM- Couples Photos
  • 6:15- Arrive at Reception where your guests have been waiting 2+ hours!
  • 6:30- Dinner
  • 7PM- Dances
  • 7:15- Dancing
  • 8 PM- Toasts / Cake
  • 8:30- Dancing
  • 9PM- Exit

6 hours total, little wiggle room for wedding mishaps, time with guests cut short, smaller windows for dancing

So, what do you think?  Have I convinced you?

In the words of a fellow photographer, “Yes, do a first look.  You’ve been planning this gathering for a year, you should enjoy it for more than 5 hours!”





All images by Ken Kienow of Ken Kienow Photography


1 thought on “10 Reasons You Should Have a First Look | Chesapeake Wedding Photographer”

  • This is such great advice I went back and forth forever and got told by a few people that “doing a first look ruins the moment you come down the isle.” But it’s not true at all! Absolutely loved having a first look!

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