east coast Luxury
Wedding Photographers

October 21, 2019


Kelly McKinnis


Tips for Brides

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Should I Do a First Look? An Unbiased Explanation

Ahhh, the First Look.

So, I don’t know about you, but when Matlock and I first got engaged, I really had no idea if I wanted to do a First Look or not. I mean, I love seeing the beautiful images of First Looks! But did I really want him to see me before the ceremony? I just wasn’t sure.

And then I kept seeing articles and advice from other wedding vendors trying to persuade me into doing a First Look, but I didn’t feel like there was an article that was fully unbiased and really just let me figure out for myself if that’s what I wanted to do.

Because after all, it’s your wedding and your memories. It doesn’t matter if us photographers love doing First Looks because the timeline is easier… it doesn’t matter if friends and family want you to do it because of the reactions… what matters is if it’s what you envision for you and your fiancé. Because as wedding professionals, we will make the timeline work and we will capture beautiful images and precious memories – what’s most important is if it feels right to you.

So, with all that said, I wanted to give an unbiased explanation of the First Look and how a typical wedding day looks with and without one, so you can make the decision that’s right for you and feel good about it!

What is a First Look?

So, I’m sure you already know what a First Look is, but in case you’re reading this and thinking, “Kelly… I have no idea what this really means.” Then, here’s what a First Look is!

The First Look is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time on their wedding day before the ceremony.

That’s basically it!

Should I do a first look? Matlock and Kelly

How does a First Look change the timeline of the day?

Traditionally, the bride and groom hide from each other until the ceremony to see each other for the first time. Because of this, bridal party photos, immediate family portraits, and husband and wife portraits are done after the ceremony.

On the other hand, when you do a First Look, since you’ve already seen each other, you can do bridal party photos, immediate family portraits, and husband and wife portraits before the ceremony. In turn, you’re able to attend your cocktail hour and mingle with guests earlier on in the day.

For us, we’ve noticed our couples really value their time with family and guests at the wedding, so they ultimately choose the First Look so they can attend their cocktail hour.

But… just because you don’t choose to do a First Look doesn’t mean you won’t get to attend any of your cocktail hour! If you decide to not do a First Look, I highly recommend making your cocktail hour 90 minutes instead of an hour. This way, you’ll still have 30 minutes to mingle at cocktail hour after all your portraits are done!

So the short and sweet result is:
If you do a First Look you do all photos prior to the ceremony and you get to attend pretty much all of your cocktail hour.
If you don’t do a First Look you’ll do all photos after the ceremony and get to attend the last 30 minutes of a 90-minute cocktail hour.

Will my fiancé have less of a reaction during the aisle moment if I do a First Look?

A very common question about First Looks is about the reactions.

Us brides really want our fiances to have a reaction, right?! I mean, we spend so much time picking out the perfect dress, not only for ourselves, but because we want to totally WOW them.

But, if you do a First Look does that mean there will be less of a reaction at the ceremony? Not necessarily.

We’ve noticed that when couples do a First Look, the reactions are either the same or BETTER at the ceremony! Because when you do a First Look, you two are alone together and his reaction is based on how you look in your wedding dress – which is an amazing moment! But, the ceremony is completely different. The rush of emotion seeing you walk down the aisle, all your friends and family looking at you, and you seeing him at the end of the aisle… it’s almost not possible to have some sort of reaction to that!

In the many weddings we’ve been apart of, I can honestly say that we have never seen the reaction during the ceremony be less than the reaction during the First Look. So, no matter which way you decide to go – know that you will get a reaction from your groom and he’ll get one from you as well.

Should I do a first look? Matlock and Kelly

How does the First Look affect our time together?

When you decide to do a First Look, you’re able to spend a few minutes alone – just the two of you! It also gives you a chance to relieve some nerves and relax before the ceremony.

Now, this doesn’t mean that if you decide to not do a First Look that you won’t be able to spend time alone with just the two of you – but the chances are lower. Only because once the ceremony is over and all the photos are done, you’ll go straight to the last 30 minutes of your 90-minute cocktail hour and then to the reception. Family and friends will want to come talk to you and congratulate you (which is a good thing!) but that doesn’t leave much time to be alone together until the end of the night. And some people are totally fine with that!

If you think you’ll have a lot of nerves or anxiety during the ceremony, a First Look can help you relieve some of that built up emotion and allow you to calm each other and just be there for one another.

My ceremony is later in the day, can I still decide to not do a First Look?

If your ceremony is during or close to sunset, it will definitely be tougher to not do a First Look only because once the sun sets, we cannot capture those beautiful portraits we know you desire. If possible, we highly recommend having your ceremony a few hours before sunset if you decide to not do a First Look so you will have enough time to do all the photos after the ceremony.

So, do I do a First Look or not?

I hope that by the time you get to this part you have a better idea of what you’d like to do.

But in case you’re still on the fence… here’s what I’ll leave you with:

Don’t do a First Look if it’s because you feel pressured to do it or because it’s the trendy thing to do right now on social media. Don’t do it if in your gut you just don’t feel right about it.

If spending as much time as possible with your guests is important to you, and having some alone time just the two of you sounds like the best thing, then the First Look is a great option. Do the First Look if it feels right to you. Do it if your fiancé is on the same page as you.

In the end, it honestly doesn’t matter which one you choose because no matter which way you go, your day will be beautiful, fun and full of joy! Choose the option that you believe will make you feel the most joy, happiness and ultimately makes the most sense for you on your big day.

I truly hope this was helpful! If you ever have any questions about First Looks, comment below and I’ll respond! 😊

Matlock & Kelly


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