Pros and Cons to a Wedding Day First Look
The wedding day first look has become very popular over the past decade! It’s one of the first timeline priorities I discuss with wedding clients, as it has a huge impact on your wedding day planning.
First of all, I stress to couples this is a personal choice! If you’ve dreamed of seeing your groom as you walk down the aisle your entire life, then maybe the first look isn’t for you and your fiance. The point of this article is to outline some pros and cons for couples looking to make this part of their day.
First, let’s talk about the portraits you need on your wedding day, and the two timeline scenarios you’ll encounter with and without a first look!
Types of Portraits on Your Wedding Day
There are three types of portraits that will be captured on your wedding day:
Family Portraits - these are the nice, everyone-smiling-at-the-camera formals that are a requirement on your wedding day.
Wedding Party Portraits - you’ll be taking both sides of the wedding party separately, and then all together.
Couple Portraits - last but certainly not least, portraits of the happy couple!
Wedding Day Timeline Without a First Look
Without a first look, all portraits take place during cocktail hour. This will be about 45 minutes to an hour of photography time to cover family, wedding party, and couple portraits before your grand entrance into the reception.
Wedding Day Timeline With a First Look
Couples that opt for a first look often take couple and family portraits before the ceremony. Post-ceremony, it depends on the couples’ priorities! I’ve had couples that want to spend the entire time on more wedding party and couple photos; other couples want to head off to cocktail hour and spend more time with family and friends before the reception starts.
Pros to the First Look
More Time for Wedding Day Portraits
This is the biggie! If you want lots and lots of photos of you and your fiance, you should definitely opt for a first look.
Buffer for Wedding Days That Run Behind
Things run behind on a wedding day! I’ve photographed weddings where the couple was an hour late for the first look (tip: plan on more time for hair and makeup than you need!). However, we still had cocktail hour, so we were able to get all the images they wanted during that time.
Helps With Wedding Day Nerves
I’ve photographed a number of first looks where the couples said afterwards they felt so much better and more relaxed. It was nice for them to get those nervous emotions out before the ceremony.
You Get to Fully Admire Each Other's Wedding Finery
Is this a pro? Sure it is! It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the first look, seeing the couple react to how awesome their spouse-to-be looks. I’ve seen tears, laughter, some spins and posing!
Cons to the First Look
You Have to Be Ready Earlier
A typical first look wedding timeline requires you being ready a couple of hours earlier than a timeline without a first look.
Your Wedding Party and Family Has to Be Ready Earlier
This is the single biggest con to a first look, in my opinion. I advise couples utilizing a first look to tell their families they need to be ready and on-site half an hour before they are required. For couples with large family formals list, I recommend moving those to post-ceremony because unless there’s transportation organized for everyone, chances are not everyone will make it on time before the ceremony.
You Won't See Each Other First Walking Down the Aisle
If this is a moment you’ve been dreaming of your entire life, then this is probably the negative that sticks out most to you.
When a First Look Is Most Important
When couples book their wedding day photography with me, the first thing I notify them of is sunset time on their wedding day. This is an incredibly important factor to your wedding day and it impacts when you’ll be having your ceremony and portraits.
Late Fall and Winter Weddings
There’s one scenario where I will recommend a first look to couples, and that’s late fall and winter weddings. If you’re getting married in December in Temecula, the sun will be setting about 4:30. Let’s say you have a 3:00 ceremony. If it’s finished at 3:30, portraits start at 3:45, that means you have about 45 minutes to capture ALL required portraits before the sun is gone. For intimate weddings with small families and small bridal parties, I can absolutely get it done! For large weddings with lots of family photos and a large bridal party - this means that the couple gets the short end of the stick for portraits. I’ve encountered scenarios where I had only 7 minutes with the couple before the grand entrance (fortunately this couple had a first look so they had plenty of portraits!).
If you don’t want a first look but you do want lots of portraits - choose a summer wedding date! This is the best buffer for anything that might run behind on your wedding day. On summer wedding days, the sun sets as late as 8:00 PM. This means I can grab the couple (typically during dinner) and go out with just the two of them around their venue for sunset portraits. I love this because it’s just the two of them and at that point, the pressure of the day is off and they also don’t have a gaggle of guests following them around! It’s a fun and relaxing time, and I can get a lot of portraits done in about twenty minutes!
If you’re looking to get more info on wedding timelines, check out my helpful article Wedding Timelines for Every Season. It shows examples of wedding timelines for winter, spring, summer and fall weddings, for days both with and without a first look.
Temecula Wedding Resources
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Hi, I'm Courtney, Temecula Valley-based wedding photographer! If you're looking for timeless, authentic, and fun wedding photos, I would love to chat with you about your wedding day plans! Check out my Wedding Portfolio and Wedding Pricing, and connect with me on my Contact page!