If you're here, you might be wondering...

What is a first look on a wedding day? Should I have a first look at MY wedding? What are the pros and cons of having a first look at the wedding? Can I do a first look with my bridesmaids?

Don't worry. I'm gonna talk about the different kinds of first looks, pros and cons of having a bride and groom first look, how it can change your day, and how to decide if a first look is for you!

young couple has a first look on their wedding day at Woman's Club of Evanston in Chicago

A first look between bride and groom at The Woman's Club of Evanston in greater Chicago

What is a first look?

When people talk about a "first look" on their wedding day, they're usually talking about the first look between the bride and the groom. This is the first time that the couple sees each other all ready to go on the wedding day, but it happens before the ceremony, usually in private.

Are there different kinds of first looks?

Yes! While it usually means the first look between the wedding partners, a few other common first looks occur between the bride and her parents, or the bride and her bridesmaids or the groomsmen. Of course, there are really endless options here (and grooms, you're welcome to have a first look with your parents or groomsmen), but these tend to be the most common!

How do I know if I should have a first look?

You'll need to decide what's most important to you on the wedding day, and how you feel about seeing each other for the first time in front of the guests. Maybe you're traditional and want it down-the-aisle, or maybe you're gonna wanna cry in private haha. Having a first look (or not) can also dramatically affect the timeline. Let's dive in to more pros and cons of a first look below!

bride at Room 1520 wedding in Chicago sees her parents for the first look on wedding day

A first look between the bride and her parents at Room 1520 wedding in Chicago, second shot for Sarah Ann Photography

Pros of having a first look (both practical, and for the feelings):

  • Extra time and opportunities for wedding photos before the ceremony, which is ideal for winter weddings or low-light venues. This also means after the ceremony, all you have to do is party (maybe after a few family photos)! AND this means you can get another location for photos in your gallery to mix things up! ANNNDDD it means you get more time to spend with your guests who came out for your wedding, since you won't be busy taking photos during it.
  • You get some privacy when seeing each other for the first time, which means you can freely cry as much as you want. Plus, you can touch up your makeup or hair or whatever before you head to the ceremony so you stay looking perfect in all those pictures.
  • You get time and space to be alone together on your wedding day--something that usually doesn't happen as much as you would think. The actual "looking" at each other doesn't take too long, but you get to take that time to just hang out, have a drink or snack together, chat, and get excited together!
  • You can get all the nerves out, and it feels more like you're going into the wedding together. When you're seeing each other for the first time down the aisle, you might not have even talked much that day (besides through text or a written letter). When you have a first look, it feels a little bit more like "Let's do this day together!" rather than feeling nervous to see each other literally minutes before you get married.

Cons of having a first look:

  • Lighting during first-look photos is usually during the day-time, so it's a little bit more harsh. You'll definitely get some great photos of you two, but you might have to (or want to) take more after the ceremony anyways.
  • It could take away from that magical feeling you get at the altar.
  • It might not be as private as you want--you'll still have a photographer (or more) around, plus a video team if you have one.
  • You might end up rushing for time if you have another location in mind for the first look vs. the rest of the day.
bride and groom have their first look and smile at each other on roof of Room 1520 in downtown Chicago

Bride and groom having a first look on the roof of Room 1520 in Chicago, second shot for Sarah Ann Photography

Personally, I love first looks on a wedding day--but I'll never tell a couple to do one if they're not feeling excited about it.

I love first looks mostly because they're an extra, private moment for the couple to see each other, get excited, or cry, or whatever, but it's just with each other--not the guests, not their wedding party, just them! Then you can do a reveal of yourselves together to your bridal party, and let them tell you how good you both look together. Because isn't that what the wedding day is for, anyways? ;)

However, the photographer in me definitely thinks that the timing works a lot better with a first look, just because of how flexible it can be! I help all my couples plan their timeline to make sure we get great lighting and have enough time for everything without rushing, and a first look tends to make it a bit easier.

If you end up changing your mind last-minute and decide it is or isn't for you, that's still okay! It might make things a little trickier, but a great photographer will adapt and make everything go smoothly anyways.

Check out this post on how to plan your wedding day timeline to get great photos.

bride and groom stand in front of their smiling wedding party for first look inside Room 1520 wedding in Chicago

Bride and groom do a first look with their wedding party at Room 1520 wedding in Chicago, second shot for Sarah Ann Photography

At the end of the day, maybe you decide a first-look with your partner isn't for you, but you still want to get those reactions from someone! Consider doing a first look with your bridesmaids, groomsmen, or parents and siblings!

A bride having a first look with her bridesmaids in the AirBNB courtyard in Northern California

A bride having a first look with her bridesmaids in the AirBNB courtyard in Northern California

Bride does a first look with her bridesmaids at Room 1520 wedding in Chicago

Bride does a first look with her bridesmaids at Room 1520 wedding in Chicago, second shot for Sarah Ann Photography

Still curious about how it affects your wedding day timeline? Check out this post on wedding timeline planning for great photos.

Want advice on your own wedding timeline or curious about booking a wedding with me? Reach out here and let's get this party started!

See more of the weddings featured in this post:

Woman's Club of Evanston Chicago brunch wedding

Wesley + Beatriz's brunch wedding at Woman's Club of Evanston in Chicago

Northern California wedding at Pennyroyal Farm

Amanda + Ben's NorCal vineyard wedding at Pennyroyal Farm in Boonville, CA

Alana Lindenfeld is a Chicago wedding and portrait photographer for laid-back couples who want a stress-free experience and a photographer who is going to take care of the hard work for them.

She has photographed couples across the U.S., including couples in LA, San Francisco, NYC, Nashville, Cincinnati, and more.

Read more about Alana here.

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Alana Lindenfeld, Chicago-based wedding photographer