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  • Writer's pictureTamara Merri

What is a first look?

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

What is a first look?

A first look is an orchestrated photographic moment when you see your fiancé for the first time prior to the ceremony. Its purpose is to "reveal" the wedding dress/bride privately, away from guests. It is generally an intimate moment and oftentimes emotional with only your photographer there to capture the reaction of seeing each other for the first time all day.

How does a first look work?

Partner A will be turned away as Partner B approaches them from behind. Partner B can choose to tap their fiancé on the shoulder to let them know they can turn around, cover their eyes, or squeeze their booty! After they turn around most couples check each other out, hug, kiss, cry, dance, or walk away for a private moment. Some first looks last half an hour, some only last 30 seconds. It’s all about how you feel in the moment. After capturing the candid moments of the first look, once you're ready I then begin formal couples photos.

What happens after a first look?

After your first look and formal couples photos we will then move on to photographing your wedding party and family photos. This way, all formal photos are finished before the ceremony. This frees up your cocktail hour for mingling with guests rather than being devoted to photos.

bride and groom first look at stonehouse villa
Anna & Justin's first look

Do you recommend a first look?

Most often, yes. While I recommend a first look, it is definitely something that needs to be thought about and discussed in depth between you and your partner. In my opinion, having a first look reduces stress, nervousness, or anxiety. It also allows you enjoy both each other and your guests for much more time than you ordinarily would. I especially recommend a first look in the winter because the sun sets so early. We may run out of daylight by the time your ceremony is finished.

Related blog : Winter Wedding Timeline

What are the benefits of a first look?

1. More time together

A first look allows you to see your partner earlier and for much more time on your wedding day. This day is all about your relationship- so it’s an amazing perk to see each other for several more hours than you would otherwise!

2. Spend more time with your guests

You get the majority of formal photos finished before the wedding so that during your cocktail hour, instead of taking family photos, you get to go to your cocktail hour and spend more time with your guests.

3. Calm wedding nerves

A first look allows you to be fully present in seeing your partner without hundreds of other eyes on you. In this moment you get to see and be with each other before the frenzy of a wedding day. Getting those pre-wedding jitters out helps you to look and feel more relaxed during your couple's photos.

4. You're able to interact

If you see each other for the first time during the ceremony, chances are you don’t actually talk to each other for the next half hour. A big benefit to doing a first look is it allows you to hug, check each other out, compliment each other, ask questions, and be free to interact without everyone watching.

5. More photos!

By doing a first look, you'll receive a lot more couple photos. Real, authentic, look-how-much-I-love-you reaction shot photos. For many people, they feel awkward posing for the camera. Well, a first look gets you all of these amazing photos without you even noticing the camera. They are the perfect photos to showcase your relationship because they’re REAL- not posed. It also provides you with more photos because there is more time to take them; we can do couples photos both before and after the ceremony.

6. Twice the moment

Seeing each other at the ceremony is STILL special! Because you’re getting married! And everyone else will still have that special moment seeing you for the first time during the ceremony.

7. Daylight couples photos for winter weddings

I cannot recommend a first look highly enough during the winter time when there is less daylight. The sun sets early in the winter (4pm some places!), so you'll need to do a first look if you want your wedding photos to be in that dreamy golden hour light.

8. Privacy

A first look is beneficial because you can read your vows to each other without everyone else hearing. Vows can be very intimate. If you're a private person, a first look is the perfect moment to share your heart with your partner.

fist look at Chocksett inn
Taylor & Nick's first look

Why should I NOT do a first look?

- If you want to keep your wedding as traditional as possible.

- If you WANT your guests to see you and your partner see each other for the first time.

- If time does not allow, or if the timeline is running late and you risk having guests see you.

- If you’re too nervous and welcome the comfort of the ceremony being a buffer to gaze at each other for a while

Other types of first looks:

- Father/brother +daughter: Many brides choose to do a first look with their fathers. These moments are always so special and usually involve lots of tears. This first look is set up just like I described earlier with your partner. If you also do a first look with your partner, I’ll have you do a first look with your dad first. If you only do a first look with your dad, we’ll usually do this shortly before you walk down the aisle.

Bethany did a first look with her father and brother :

Anna did a private first look with her father:

- Bridesmaids: I’ll usually position your bridesmaids in a semi-circle, facing the doorway through which you’ll enter. When you walk out I’ll get everyone’s reactions. This is a good option if you don't want to get dressed with all your bridesmaids and would rather privacy. You can have just your mom help you into your dress or just your MOH.

Kasey revealed herself from the upstairs balcony:

- No look first look: When you and your partner talk/touch/exchange notes before the ceremony without actually seeing each other. This is a great option if you want to calm some nerves before the ceremony without actually seeing each other beforehand.

Lauren & Baldemar read their letters from each other while holding hands:

If you think you'll do a first look, be sure to let your photographer know ahead of time so we can build it into your wedding day timeline.



Tamara Merri Photography


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I'm a Massachusetts wedding & elopement photographer. I'm the voice behind this blog and the girl behind the camera. 

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