Wedding Planning 101

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Wedding Planning 101: First Looks

There is so so so much to be said about first looks, you guys. I mean, honestly. In the magazine I send out to my couples after they book with me, there are at least a dozen pages just devoted to discussing a first look.

Nonetheless, one of the questions I get most is, “Should we do a first look??”

I want to kick this answer off with the fact that every couple is different, and for some, not doing a first look will always be the right choice. There are undeniably a lot of benefits to doing a first look, and throughout this post, you will think I’m trying to convince you to do one. It’s not for everyone, however, and I need you to know that. Stay true to who you are as a couple. If that means not doing a first look, that is 100% perfect, and I support it whole-heartedly.

Now, let’s dive in. Some major pros to doing a first look:

  1. My personal favorite: You get triple the amount of bride and groom photos as you would if you didn’t do a first look! These photos will always be your favorites. They are the ones that will decorate your walls for years to come. The ones that will sit on your children’s tables at their wedding showing their parents wedding photo. They will decorate the walls of your parents house and be showered all in your album.
  2. You get to communicate. I love the fact that you can talk to each other. You can hug, kiss, and tell each other how gorgeous you look. You can take a second to pray. to laugh. to make out. All of which would not be acceptable if you waited until the ceremony to see each other.
  3. A little extra alone time. Okay… not all the way alone because I’m there and your videographer is there, but time where you guys just get to be together doing cuddly, romantic, sweet things. You get to hold hands, twirl, dip, kiss, cuddle, look into one another’s eyes… the whole thing.
  4. It’s WAY more intimate. You can limit who is there to witness your first look. You don’t want moms watching? That’s fine. No bridesmaids peaking over? Totally fine. It can be intimately the two of you if you want it to be. No matter who is there, it will definitely be more intimate than your ceremony!
  5. The logistics. If you want to talk logistically, the first look is the best! We can get all your photos or at least majority of your photos done before the ceremony and let you really enjoy some just married time after the ceremony and maybe even hit up your cocktail hour for a minute before you’re introduced into the reception. This way after the ceremony there is no rushing around trying to fit everything in in an hour, but instead it’s slow and relaxing and you get to actually enjoy it!
  6. A private dinner becomes an option! If you do a first look, we don’t have to spend your entire cocktail hour taking photos. You know what that means? It frees you guys up with an extra 15-20 minutes to sit down in a quiet area and have a private dinner. Your catering is usually ALL ABOUT THIS. I mean… this would allow you to actually sit down and have an uninterrupted meal on your wedding day and actually eat ALL the things that your caterer made for you! And you have even MORE alone time! It’s really peaceful and quiet and precious. All of my couples who have a private dinner are so glad they did so!
  7. You don’t have to wear your veil the whole day! I think we can all agree that veils are really gorgeous. But the reality of MOST veils is that they are heavy and can sometimes cause a headache. Especially the cathedral length veils. With a first look, you can wait to put your veil in until right before the ceremony. We’ll take your first look photos with no veil and then we can do the “just married” portraits right after the ceremony with your veil in before you take it back out at the reception. It’s kind of nice to not have to be fighting with it the WHOLE time!
  8. Nerves. Need I say more? Think about it from your boo’s perspective. There is a lot of pressure on this moment. Every guy knows that every girl wants him to cry when he sees her. But not very many guys flow freely with their tears. This is what they are thinking: So what if I don’t cry??? Is she going to be disappointed??? I really want this to be everything she’s ever dreamed of! With a first look, he gets TWO chances to react! Kind of a trial run if you will. The nerves that he feels going into the first look immediately diminish once he sees you and he just lets his natural emotion take over and then during the ceremony there is no more “pressure” to make it perfect. There’s not this dramatic climax that he’s going to have to sink or swim. He can just be present and feel any feels that come.
  9. This flows us nicely into the fact that you get two different reactions usually. I can tell you based on experience that normally when the guy reacts with a jaw dropping, massive grin during his first look, he’s probably going to cry during the ceremony. Like I mentioned above, the pressure is relieved and he’s free to just feel all the things during the ceremony. Which normally, and usually as a surprise to him, leads to some teary eyes and maybe even a drop down his cheek. There’s just something to be said about that ceremony moment. It’s irreplaceable, even if you do a frist look!
  10. You get to practice your first kiss and first dance. Some couples remember to do this before the wedding day, but it’s much different doing this actually in the wedding attire. Stepping around a big dress or navigating a twirl with a train or wanting to dip during the first kiss are all things you can practice during your pre wedding portrait time. That way if you are dying for a dip shot at the altar, he can do it confidentally in front of hundreds of people instead of nervously!

Shew. I told you there were a lot of pros. Now for some cons:

  1. The tradition. Of course one major drawback is the tradition of not seeing her before the ceremony. Some couples hold tradition close to their heart and that is a-okay. However, I would love to tell you where this tradition came from really fast before you decide if it’s for you or not. It actually dates back to when there were arranged marriages. You weren’t allowed to see each other before the ceremony in case you didn’t like the way the other person looked. This is also why the bride had to wear a blusher veil. Now, my instincts are telling me that you are likely not in an arranged marriage and you are, in fact, physically attracted to one another. So just take that into consideration if this is what is holding you back!
  2. You will likely have to pay for more time with your photographer and videographer and possibly your venue. With a first look, we start photos earlier because we fit more in before the ceremony. Because we start earlier, you’ll likely need more time in your contract with your photographer, videographer, and if you’re venue has a limited amount of hours, you’ll need to add more time there too! This is a definite downfall but also means that you get more photos and more footage!
  3. It’s a marathon. Because we start photos earlier and fit in as many as we can before the ceremony, the photo time feels more like a marathon than a spring. When you don’t do a first look, the only photos we can do before the ceremony is the bride + bridesmaids and the groom + groomsmen. Every other grouping is done after the ceremony, which includes entire bridal party, family, and bride & groom portraits. This way it feels more broken up and less like a marathon.

If you choose to hire me (or if you already have), there’s a section in the magazine I referenced above about first looks, and it contains even more info than I have here. I want to encourage you to go read it. If I’m not your photographer and you are planning a wedding, the reasons listed above are definitely things to consider as you decide whether you want to do a first look or not!

Hope it was helpful! Now, scroll down to see some really epic first look reactions followed by their ceremony reaction so you can see proof that a first look definitely doesn’t mess with his reaction during the ceremony!

Amy & Adam’s First Look

Amy & Adam’s Ceremony

Brooke & Ian’s First Look

Brooke & Ian’s Ceremony

Kendall & Jordan’s First Look

Kendall & Jordan’s Ceremony

Laura Kate & Allister’s First Look

Laura Kate & Allister’s Ceremony


I’m a Knoxville Wedding Photographer that loves to travel…I shoot anywhere! Click here to contact me with any questions you have about pricing or booking! If you liked what you saw above, go ahead and follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my daily updates of the latest sessions!


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