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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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Should You Have A First Look On Your Wedding Day?

October 11, 2019

I know this topic is a little controversial in the wedding world…especially to my southern girls who love tradition.

As a person who also loves tradition and still cries every SINGLE time the bride walks down the aisle and the groom cries when he sees her, I absolutely LOVE the new tradition of the first look.

What Is A First Look?

It’s a private moment before the ceremony where the bride and groom see each other for the first time before all of the craziness of the day begins.

Yes, I know many people (especially my grooms!) have said that they have envisioned the moment of the aisle being the big reveal, but I do want to share a few reasons you should consider having a first look. 

Ultimately it’s up to you –– it’s your day! But there may be some things that you haven’t thought about and it may actually give you more of the day you had in mind!

1. Allow For A Private Moment During The Day

You may or may not be expecting this but there are really no parts of the wedding day for you to have a private moment with each other, other than portraits (which is kind of wild!).

I love a first look because I take my couples to a private area and let everyone know that it needs to just be the two of them.

Even though I’m there photographing the moment, I tell my brides to walk up to the groom, ask him to turn around, and let him take in all of her beauty –– and to stay in that moment by themselves until they’re ready for more photos. 

It’s like we’re not even there…and I LOVE that part!

2. You Get To Actually Talk To Each Other!

Like I said, I love the moment of watching the groom seeing his bride walk down the aisle. 

But the reality of the moment is that there are usually 75-200 people watching, her dad is with her, and the ceremony starts immediately when she gets up to the front. 

There isn’t really a moment to actually take in her beauty, for her to get a good look at him, and for them to tell each other what they’re thinking. There really isn’t time for a “wow, you look so beautiful” because of the nerves, the audience, and the ceremony. 

I love to hear the conversations my couples have during their first looks. They are some of the sweetest words and reactions I’ve ever seen (even if she does leave him speechless!).

3. Look Your Absolute Best For The Photos

It’s the South. There are some very rare moments where we have absolute perfect weather with a cool 70 degree weather, no wind, no rain…perfection. 

But most of the time it. Is. HOT.

Even if it’s not hot outside, a wedding day lasts multiple hours. Since the last photos that we will do if you don’t do a first look, you will have finished getting ready hours before, been through photos outside, the ceremony, family photos, and the bridal party photos before we get to the most important photos of the whole day.

With a first look, we start with this before many of the photos start which means you’ll have your freshest face and hair for your favorite photos. 

4. You Get Rid Of The Nerves

This is a huge consideration!!! Wedding day jitters are REAL. 

All of my couples give a sigh of relief once this moment is done. There is so much pressure put on the moment of seeing each other for the first time and on the marriage ceremony in general –– as there should be, it’s a big deal!!! 

But if you’re an anxious person or just really not used to being in the spotlight, it may be a little much for you.

Having a first look lets you get to have that moment privately and take a deep breath with the person who makes you feel the most calm. 

Then it’s all party from here! 

5. Reduce The Stress For Your Groom

If you ask a bride what she’s most excited for on her wedding day, there’s a 8/10 chance the answer is “him seeing me walk down the aisle.”

That’s totally okay! I’m excited for that moment too!!!

BUT…imagine the pressure that puts on the groom. This is his moment too! And expecting him to have this huge reaction in front of all of these people is a lot.

Because the reality is sometimes your groom doesn’t have a break-down-and-cry reaction, and that’s okay.

During a private first look, you have way less pressure, no audience, and just you two. There’s time for him to take it all in and share with you how he’s feeling. Even if he’s not a crier, he’ll be able to take it all in and won’t have to feel like he needs to hold anything back.

6. You Get Double The Amount Of Portraits

This is a big one!!! After your first look, we will move into your first set of bride and groom portraits. We’ll spend 30-40 minutes getting beautiful photos of the two of you.

After the ceremony, since we’ll have plenty of time, we’ll do a few more portraits and maybe another set during sunset. That’s up to THREE different portrait sessions!!!

My couples who choose to do first looks usually receive up to 40-50% more portraits of the two of them together.

7. Take All Of The Photos Before The Ceremony

After we finish with the first look and bride and groom portraits, we will take photos of the entire bridal party and maybe even some family too (if they’re there!).

That means ALL of the formal photos –– which tend to be the most stressful parts! ––  from the day are done! 

I love doing this because once the ceremony is done, the bridal party is usually ready to party. If we’ve already finished our photos, they can be released to get the party started. 

8. Spend More Time With Your Guests

Because we’ll be taking all of the photos prior to the ceremony, this also cuts down on the amount of photos we have to take after the ceremony. 

With your extra time, you can have a shorter cocktail hour OR even be able to join your guests for drinks before the reception!!!

For my couples that have chosen to do this, it is so fun watching them walk around, make sure everyone is trying their signature drinks, and take candid photos with their guests before the rest of the events of the evening starts.

There are a lot of people you need to speak to and hug, and the cocktail hour is actually the perfect time to do that because there isn’t somewhere else to run off to!

9. You Actually Get More Special Moments

I know how important it is to have that special moment with your groom. That you’ve dreamed of it since you were little.

With a first look, you actually get that moment…TWICE.

Once when he sees you for the first time and you get to embrace and take the moment in with just the two of you, and again when you are walking down the aisle and it’s REALLY happening. 

Between the guests, your dad, the music…having a first look doesn’t take that moment away. It actually just gives you the opportunity to have it more than once!

Ultimately It’s Up To You…

Your wedding day and your timeline is all about your priorities.

It’s your day. Whatever is most important to you goes. 

But I love to talk to my couples about first looks because of the huge impact it has on the timeline and the ability for you to enjoy the rest of the day AND the photos you will receive a few weeks later. 

If there is a way to maximize your experience then I’m definitely going to bring that to the table as an option! If you’re still on the fence about it, I’m happy to talk through all of the things you definitely want to happen on your wedding day and we can see what makes the most sense. 


I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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