To Have a First Look or Not… That is the Question!


As someone who specializes in wedding photography, I find myself having quite a few conversations with couples planning a wedding if they plan to do a first look. For those just starting out in the process, you might be wondering, what is a first look?

Quite simply, it is when the couple chooses to see each other for the first time before the actual wedding ceremony. For those engaging in “traditional” wedding rituals, an early first look has always been a superstition thought to bring bad luck, but the history of this belief dates back to when marriages were more commonly arranged and the bride and groom were kept apart to lower the risk that they wouldn’t like how the other looked and call off the wedding. Can you imagine that "first look” moment?! Modern couples however, are keeping up with the tradition for more of an emotional experience at the altar while others are increasingly choosing to have their first look before the ceremony begins.

While couples find themselves debating where they stand on the tradition, it’s important to consider the advantages on both sides of the conversation. Let’s dig deeper into three reasons to have a first look, and three reasons not to.

Pro’s of a Pre-Ceremony First Look:

#1 The Private Wedding Photos

How many times have you seen wedding photos where the couple is alone in a gorgeous setting, looking into each others eyes, and everything about the photo is just perfect? Allowing a first look 1-1.5 hours before the ceremony allows for a private moment where the bride and groom (and their photographer) have their couple’s portraits done while their hair, makeup, and clothing are fresh and perfectly in place. It’s a special private moment for the couple to share and document their special day before they’re surrounded by guests and whisked into the events that follow.

#2 Shake It Off

Your wedding day will be stressful, full of nerves, and at times overwhelming as the day unfolds. Some couples feel like they weren’t able to take in the entire setting of the ceremony because they felt emotional when seeing their significant other at the altar. A first look before the ceremony allows couples to shake off any jitters, feel those initial emotions, but also ease their nerves enough to enjoy the actual ceremony.

#3 The Wedding is a Whirlwind

Ask any newlywed couple and they’ll tell you their wedding flew by in the blink of an eye. From the moment the couple heads to the altar to the last song on the dance floor at the reception, there are so many moving pieces at the wedding and guests to greet that sometimes the quiet moments for photos and to just be together are hard to come by. Following the ceremony, your photographer will be taking photos of you with your guests, family, and wedding party but there many not be the time, privacy or prime lighting to get the photos you would be able to get during the pre-ceremony first look. A first look would allow the photographer to truly capture the emotion and beauty of your entire special day.

Reasons Against a First Look

#1 You Lose the Special Moment at the Altar

The moment of seeing your significant other in their wedding attire at the altar right before your ceremony can be incredibly special. If you’d like to experience that beautiful moment and have it be witnessed by all your friends and family, you’ll want that ceremony to be your first look.

#2 You Believe in Superstition/Tradition

Every couple views wedding superstition and tradition in their own way. If you believe an early first look may bring bad luck or you’d like to experience more traditional wedding customs and rituals, a pre-ceremony first look may not be right for you. Oftentimes couples don’t personally feel strongly about the tradition but family members do and can play a role in the final decision.

#3 Earlier timeline

Scheduling an earlier first look photo shoot means the timeline for your day is pushed up a little. You’ll need to be ready with everything in place early enough to have a first look photo shoot with your photographer 1-1.5 hours before the ceremony so if you are having a morning ceremony, you would need to start getting ready in the early morning hours to stay on that timeline.

I love when couples go with a first look because as a photographer, it allows me to capture some beautiful portraits. However, I also respect that this is a choice that can be sensitive to couples and they need to decide on their own. Whatever the decision, I love capturing the love, emotions and smiles of new couples, whether it is during the pre-ceremony first look or at the wedding ceremony altar.

At MS Photo & Video, we are the premier wedding photographer in San Jose. We know what you are looking for when selecting a photographer to capture all those important moments from your special day. Check out our gallery today and see the care and attention we give to every detail, to ensure that your special day is forever frozen in time!