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Should You Do A First Look?

Should You Do A First Look?

If you are planning a wedding, then I am sure that this has come up — either in a conversation with your future spouse, or your coordinator, or your professional wedding photographer. A First Look is a time for the soon-to-be-married-couple to see one another before the wedding ceremony. Whoa, what? Yup, it’s a break from the traditional. But, is the First Look for you? Should you do a First Look? The long and short answer to it is: do whatever the hell you want to do. Yeah, I know. That wasn’t really that helpful of an answer now was it? So, let’s dive in a little deeper and explore a few questions as to why or why not you should do a First Look.

Full disclaimer here: my husband and I did a First Look, and it was something that we definitely needed on our wedding day. We needed the time together for our own personal reasons. And honestly, the logistics of our day really required us to do a First Look. I am not pushing you one way or another. In fact, we find that 50% of our couples do a First Look and the other half don’t. So, don’t feel obligated to go one route over another.

Should You Do A First Look
Industrial Winter Wedding at The Standard Knoxville

What About Your Logistics?

We are gonna start it right out of the gate here with one of the biggest reasons for doing a First Look or not. The logistics of your wedding day are probably going to require you to do First Look or not depending on the following questions: Is it going to rain on my wedding day? Do you have a ceremony with a different reception location? Are you planning a cocktail hour? When will your guests eat? What time is the ceremony? Do I need to flip the room from the ceremony to the reception? What time is sunset? Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Just grab a margarita and let’s explore these questions further.

Rain on the Wedding Day

Nearly all couples look at the radar before their wedding day. I do too. One of the things that can really alter a wedding day is the weather. If the weather looks like it is going to be a problem on your wedding day, then a First Look may be the best option. Especially if the weather is going to get really bad at the time of the scheduled couple photos after the ceremony.

Multiple Locations

My wedding ceremony was in a church on the south side of Nashville. My wedding reception was nearly 45 minutes away in the downtown area. I knew from the get-go that my husband and I were going to do a First Look for this specific reason. The logistics of our day required it. We had an amazing opportunity to capture all of our photos pre-ceremony, and we certainly did. The idea of getting into a car and traveling nearly an hour away and then re-grouping for the remaining photos completely stressed me out. I knew drinks were going to be had in the shuttle, and I didn’t feel like herding cats.

Cocktail Hour

Are you planning a cocktail hour? And more importantly, do you want to attend it? If you have decided to not do a First Look, then your only option is to take photos after the ceremony. Those couples who plan on having a cocktail hour before their wedding reception are more inclined to do the traditional Aisle Look. Why? Because their guests are entertained for the hour during which the couple is getting their family photos, bridal party, and couple photos completed.

But the downfall to getting all those photos after the ceremony is that the couple doesn’t get to enjoy all of their cocktail hour. Or worse, any of it at all. If you have planned it and you are paying for it, do you want to be a part of it?  The preference on that, of course, is completely up to the couple. But if you desire to drink fancy signature cocktails while casually mingling with your guests, then a First Look may be the way to go.

Your Guests

The number one stressor that I see from couples is this: guests’ comfort. They HATE to have their guests wait for their arrival at the reception. It doesn’t matter if there is a cocktail hour or not. It doesn’t matter if the food has been served or not. The pressure to attend to guests is real. Rushing through family photos, bridal party photos, and your couple photos to get into a reception is a stressor. Can you handle that stress? Or, is a First Look an option for you in order to avoid that stress?

Ceremony and Sunset Time

A lot of couples don’t realize how much the ceremony time coupled with the sunset time impacts their wedding day. How so? Let’s say that your wedding day is October 1. The sunset for that time (here in Knoxville, Tennessee) is 7:19pm. If the couple has scheduled their ceremony at 6:30pm and they are NOT doing a First Look, then they have about 30 minutes of daylight left for their remaining photos. Talk about a rush job! That means that family photos, bridal party photos, and couple photos will all have to happen in that short amount of daylight. From a professional photographer’s standpoint, the day that you and your spouse are talking about your ceremony time, do one simple thing: talk to me!

Should You Do A First Look
Low-Lit Intimate Wedding at The Southern Railway

What Do Your Nerves Say?

I have ugly-cry-squishy-face for reals. When the tears start flowing, they just don’t stop. I knew that I would be a hot ball of tears walking down the aisle on my wedding day. I needed to see my husband before the ceremony in order to calm my nerves. That way, when I walked down the aisle I could actually remember my ceremony.

And let’s face the other reality that many of us face: we don’t like to be the center of attention. And on an already particularly stressful day, adding any amount of stress can have us put our face into a paper bag. Let’s just imagine the groom walking out to the ceremony. For the past half-hour, he has been squirreled away in a small room. He finally enters the ceremony and all eyes are on him. What will he do when he sees his spouse walking down the aisle? Will he cry? Not cry? Laugh, even? The main point here: you know yourself better than anyone. So, choose an option that works best for your emotional well-being.

Should You Do A First Look?
First Look at The Quarry Venue

Time Spent Together?

Did the above paragraph make you a little panicky inside? Instead of having the groom wait in a small room before the ceremony, what if there was another option? That option involves no spectators and no distractions. Just the two of you in a quiet moment together. And, it just happens to occur hours earlier on your wedding day. Which allows you to be together for longer on a very important day.

And how nice would it be to have just a tad of alone time? If you think about it, after a First Look you are going to be documented, surrounded, and consumed with guests, wedding party members, and vendor-related questions. This very slim moment of time can really make a large impact on your wedding day. Such as co-equal sharing of wedding day responsibilities. Ladies, am I right, or am I right?

So, let’s hit up the flip side of this coin. Maybe you don’t want to be together more on your wedding day? Honestly! Let’s think about this! Maybe one of you is a social butterfly, and the other is a bit introverted? Maybe stressful situations create hostility between you two? Maybe it’s just best for the groom to hang with his side of the family for a bit, and the bride hers. There are plenty of honest reasons why you might not want to be together. And guess what? That’s totally OK. I give you mad props for realizing this, and that’s probably why your marriage will last;-)

Should You Do A First Look
Whimsical Forest Wedding at RT Lodge

How Many Photos?

The very real fact is that if you are together more on your wedding day, then you will get more photos together. Duh, right? A First Look adds a bit of a cushion to your timeline, allowing for flexible and candid interactions between the couple. Your wedding day photography is an investment, and we want you to use it! I mean, you hired your photographer for a reason. A First Look allows for more portrait locations on the wedding day. You chose your wedding venue for a reason. The additional time for photos means that you can travel to all the gorgeous spots. A First Look usually allows us 20-30 minutes of picture-taking time. And can allow us to go out at Golden Hour for more photos as well.

Now, this is paragraph is for the ones who say, “but what if I don’t like getting my photo taken?” Then, I say “tough s**t!” JUST KIDDING. We get it. There are people who just don’t want to be in front of the camera. I realize that there are days that I am fortunate to get a groom out for pictures for more than 10 minutes. And once that 10 minutes is over, then it’s over. As we stated above, your photography is an investment. Your investment. Use it where you see fit. Bride, if you want more time allotted for the “getting ready photos” than you do with couple photos, then so be it! I mean, it is your wedding day after all.

Should You Do A First Look
View this DIY Backyard Wedding

What Does Your Gut Say?

I have had the First Look v. Aisle Look talk well over a hundred times. There are some weddings where I push the couple to do a First Look (looking at you Winter weddings). And there are other conversations where the only option on their plate is a First Look. As long as you, the couple, understand the pros and cons of each option, then we will photograph your day however you want it.

If you are absolutely against having a First Look, and the logistics of your wedding day scream otherwise, please consider a Hidden First Look. What is this? It’s couple photos where the groom keeps his eyes closed or is looking away from the bride during a series of photos before the ceremony. Yes, we have done it. Yes, it is worth it.

Hidden First Look at The Press Room
Hidden First Look at The Press Room Knoxville

Knoxville Wedding Photographer

As I type these words, I have photographed over 180 weddings in my years as a professional wedding photographer, and every single one of those weddings was delightfully unique. As we state on the Just a Tip Page, we want couples to do things their way. But, with purpose. If you are interested in a chat about your wedding photography, please contact me at any time. I would love to help walk you through this crazy wedding photography world. First Looks, Aisle Looks, and all!

Should You Do A First Look


Natural light + honest photographer for all humans.


Knoxville, Tennessee



Office Hours: M-F 8am-5pm | S-S 12pm-5pm

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