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Elyssa Explains

March 23, 2021

Top 3 Reasons you should do a First Look on Your Wedding Day

Top 3 Reasons you should do a First Look on Your Wedding Day

We’re big fans of the first look on your wedding day. And I could probably list a dozen reasons why, but today I wanted to focus on the top 3 reasons you should at least consider doing a first look.

Here they are, and I’ll elaborate more below!

  1. First looks are full of emotion! ALL THE EMOTION <3
  2. It might be the only one-on-one time you get with your partner all day long
  3. Once you’ve seen one another, the wedding stress level goes WAY DOWN

Couple shares a first look on their wedding day

What is a first look at a wedding?

But wait, you might be like, Elyssa, what even is a wedding first look? Well I’m glad you asked, hypothetical reader! A first look is when the couple getting married decides to see one another BEFORE the official ceremony.

If you’ve never heard of this, no worries, this is a relatively new thing, because traditionally, the groom doesn’t see the bride until she walks down the aisle and is given away to him….

But let’s talk about this tradition. 

First, not every wedding has a bride, and not every wedding has a groom. So if you felt left out from that sentence, I’m so sorry and I promise you there are a lot of wedding vendors doing what we can to make this arena more inclusive. Check out Equally Wed for some amazing inspiration and don’t hesitate to reach out to me to help you with anything like vendor screenings or the like.

Second, tradition is only as important as you want it to be. And you can definitely pick and choose which, if any, traditions you want to include in your wedding. More and more couples are choosing to throw tradition to the wind in this instance and I am all for it!! 

So let’s get into why I really love first looks at weddings. 

Groom's reaction during first look will have you smiling!

Reason #1 you should do a first look on your wedding day:

First looks are full of emotion!! ALL THE EMOTION. 

Even if you know exactly what your partner is wearing, it’s still really exciting to see them in that outfit on the ACTUAL wedding day. And if your outfits are surprises? Even more fun! You see one another and all the sudden, it’s happening. This is it. The day you marry your person. 

You might think well sure, but I’ll have just seen them a couple hours before, it’s not that exciting. In my experience though, it really is. John & I lived together before we got married and we didn’t do anything differently the night before/morning of our wedding. We had breakfast together before heading to the venue. Then we went to our separate rooms to get dressed. So we were only apart for like 2-3 hours. But there was still a buildup of anticipation before the actual wedding day first look. That was my personal experience, and I’ve heard from a number of couples since then. 

The first time you see one another in your wedding attire is a priceless moment. You say everything without words. 

That might prompt you to ask: how is that any different from seeing one another for the first time AT the ceremony though? Well, for one thing, there’s more time to let the emotion wash over you during a first look. If the first time you see one another is at the ceremony, you get that walk down the aisle looking at one another, but everyone in the room is also watching y’all, and then you’re face to face and everyone’s still watching you and then the officiant starts talking. You don’t get to talk to one another in that moment, you don’t get to gush about how excited you are and how awesome they look, there’s no real opportunity for the two of you to bask in the rush of emotion. 

Which brings me to…

Pullen Park wedding first look

Reason #2:

A first look might be the only one-on-one time you get with your partner all day long. 

Here’s a pretty vague but typical wedding day timeline without a first look: getting ready, ceremony, group photos, couple portraits, reception. You’re together for most of that (usually the only exception is getting ready, but some couples do choose to get ready together), but you’re not one-on-one; your friends and family are all around. The couple portraits time is just you two, but there’s often a time crunch because your reception is coming soon, so there’s more focus on getting amazing portraits than on having time to chat with one another.  

If you have a first look BEFORE the ceremony, that time can truly be one-on-one. Our approach to fist looks is to photograph your reactions from a medium distance and then to back off for a bit to give you time to soak in the emotions, chat a little if you want, and be in one another’s presence fully. 

So, if you want one-on-one time with your partner on your wedding day, the first look is definitely the best way to get that in.

And if you want a low-stress wedding day, then let’s chat about…

Mascot crashes wedding first look

Reason #3:

Once you’ve seen one another, the wedding stress level goes WAY DOWN.

This is for a couple of reasons: emotional & practical. Emotionally, if you’re anything like me, the person you’re marrying is the first person you talk to every day, your favorite person, etc. etc. They are your safe space. If you’ve got any sort of anxious energy on the wedding day, the best way to even that out and calm down is to find your safe space, your person. The second you see your person, you can ground yourself and know that things are perfect. The sooner that happens, the better, because once you’ve had the chance to talk with your person and take it all in, the adrenaline slows down a little and you can relax and truly enjoy the day. 

Practically speaking, first looks result in smoother, less crunched wedding day timelines and more time for gorgeous portraits. On a “traditional” wedding day, the only time for portraits including both partners is after the ceremony. And there’s usually only an hour budgeted between the ceremony ending and the reception starting. That means you’ve only got 60 minutes* to do all of the family photos, the wedding party photos, AND portraits of the couple. (and it’s usually more like 45 minutes because the photos don’t start immediately after the ceremony ends, and you’ll need to be lined up and ready to enter 5 minutes or so before the actual entrance.) 

Folks, that is not a lot of time. It feels rushed, there’s a lot of stress if some VIP has wandered off early, everyone is just ready to get to the party, and on top of that if group photos end up taking too long, you wind up with only 5 minutes for portraits of the two of you as a couple. 

Think about that! Just 5 minutes for portraits of you and your partner ON YOUR WEDDING DAY. We can get portraits in 5 minutes, but not many – and we’d end up focusing on getting the most straightforward, safe photos possible. Since they’d be the only photos you’d have, we’d prioritize basic posing and smiling at the camera, you know the photos your grandma wants (and you may not realize it yet but I promise you want those photos too). 

You won’t believe how often this happens when there’s no first look: couples portraits reduced to just 5 minutes or so. 

You can definitely avoid this problem by having a longer gap between the ceremony and the reception entrance (and this happens a lot with Catholic weddings) but most couples don’t want to keep their guests waiting that long. 

BUT if you have a first look, you can eliminate this problem by doing the majority of your group photos before the ceremony. Your closest family & wedding party are already there, getting ready with you. So if you and your partner see one another a couple hours before the ceremony, you can then start wedding party & immediate family photos and be done with those before other guests have even arrived. That means the only thing left for cocktail hour is maybe 1 or 2 extended family group photos that are a priority for you before you’ve got 20-30 glorious minutes of couple portraits. And guess what, even if you spend half an hour on couple portraits after the ceremony, you’ll still have time to go enjoy the cocktail hour you’ve planned. 

First look at a Raleigh wedding

The bottom line!

It’s really amazing how much seeing one another before the ceremony transforms the whole day. 

Having a first look on your wedding day, seeing one another a couple hours before the ceremony, results in a wonderful one-on-one moment with your partner full of love and emotion, it takes any existing stress and turns it way down, AND it opens up your timeline for whatever you want to prioritize after the ceremony. I honestly can’t recommend a first look enough.

All that said, if a first look still isn’t for you, I understand!! Throwing tradition to the wind isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if you have your heart set on an aisle moment, you deserve that aisle moment.

I will say one more thing though: at every first look we’ve had, there was still just as much of an emotional reaction during the aisle moment. I’ve never seen a first look diminish that aisle moment. So don’t let that be the reason you dismiss a first look. 

That’s all y’all!!


We believe that love is fun and colorful, and your wedding photographs should be fun and colorful too.

Kivus & Camera are Raleigh Wedding photographers who create bold, colorful, magical memories of your wedding day with beautiful, artistic portraits AND enthusiastic, genuine moments. Your unique love story deserves to be told through unforgettable, breath-taking photographs that stand out from the crowd. Kivus & Camera love creating that magic. After all, as past bride Courtney says, we’re photography sorcerers.

And though we call ourselves Raleigh wedding photographers, we definitely photograph Durham weddings, Chapel Hill weddings, Cary weddings, etc. We’re all over the Triangle area, and we’re happy to head to the beach or mountains and even to places outside of North Carolina! Just let us know where your love story is headed.

Want to know more? Check out more of our images or learn more about our nerdy selves or just send us a note! Can’t wait to hear from you.

  1. […] During the First Look and the ceremony “Aisle Moment”, two photographers means two angles. One of us is focused on each of you. So there’s no need to prioritize one partner’s reaction over the other’s, and there’s no distracting/stressful rush to get around to the other side. And for the rest of the ceremony, you’ve got multiple angles on all the important moments. (For more about why we love first looks check out this post.) […]

  2. […] written about this before, and I definitely encourage you to read about why I love First Looks. But you should decide which route you’re going before you get too in depth with timeline […]