Wedding photography hacks – should we do a first look?

Wedding Photography Hack: Should we do a first look?

Hey – If you already know you want to see each other before the wedding (or if you know you definitely don’t), then you can totally stop reading this article.

But if you, like so many couples planning a wedding, are just not sure, I’ve got some ideas. Most couples I work with choose to have a “first look” or a formal time that they see each other before the ceremony and I often document this as the start of formal photos. But many couples choose to see each other for the first time during the ceremony. And you know what? We’ll get all the photos finished either way – you’ll be just as married.

But since you are planning, here are some tips for answering the question – should we do a first look?

minneapolis wedding photographer fun photos“Do we need to see each other to get photos done?”
You don’t NEED to do anything other than say yes and celebrate. Everything else is flexible. A major consideration for your timeline will be when you want to take photos with your family, with your wedding party, and with your spouse. Yes, it often gives you more time with your guests if the photos are finished before the wedding ceremony. That might be a big consideration if your ceremony and reception are in the same place, or if you have a huge photo list or a large family.

“We’ll just take photos – I don’t think we want to do a first look “
Its totally cool with me to not document a first look. A “first look” is less about photos and more about taking a few minutes to check in with your fiance. You might not be a crier, but seeing each other for the first time, if its on the aisle or at a first look, is pretty emotional. You should plan for that.


bride and groom see each other for first time at semple mansion“We’ll just do some family photos before and some after so that we don’t have to see each other before the ceremony – that will save time, right?”

Um, kind of. A lot of the time of taking formal photos is getting the set up right – the lights, the location, the people all in one place. You want a photo of you and your parents. Adding in your fiance will take 30 seconds. Getting all those people together again after the ceremony will take a few minutes.

“We’ll just do everything after the receiving line” 
I don’t generally tell people that things are a bad idea, but this is an exception. A receiving line followed by formal family photos is like herding a room full of cats – people mill around (do they stay? do they go? is there an “exit”?) people forget they should stay and they head to the reception. Its a crazy circus. Instead, plan on a receiving line at the reception to greet people, or dismiss guests from pews if you must (keep it quick!) and assign several family members to keep important folks from leaving.

guthrie theater wedding first look minneapolis
“But I want the first time we see each other to feel special”

You know what? That will happen over and over again on your wedding day. If you see each other for a first look before the ceremony, when you see each other at the aisle, when you catch a glimpse of your spouse laughing at the reception. Seeing your partner at your wedding ceremony will feel emotional and special and a little wild no matter if you spent the whole morning together or haven’t seen each other in 12 hours. Its just going to be great.

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1 notes + Add comment
  • Jessica Schilling

    on February 10, 2017  1:03 am

    Excellent points! Both options work. But I love how couples that do first looks usually feel less nervous the instant they see each other and that can be a really nice bonus!