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The First Look Photoshoot Debate

A Throwback Thursday from 2016!

I often have brides ask me what I think about doing, what is now called, a "first look" photo shoot. I thought I'd take some time to write my thoughts about it based on my own experience on my wedding day, as well as other people's input and experiences.


"What is a first look?"

The "first look" is a phrase used by modern photographers to describe a photo shoot that takes place before the wedding ceremony. Traditionally, it is considered "bad luck" for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day. Many brides dream of the look on her groom's face the first time he sees her at the height of her beauty, in her dress, on their wedding day. That look that they will remember and cherish forever all throughout their lives. But does the bride ever actually see the groom's face? Does it get captured on film? Maybe. Tradition also says that the guests must stand up when the bride begins to walk down the aisle. This action can block the bride from seeing her husband-to-be's face as she enters. The photographer will most likely snap a photo for her to view later, but what if that annoying guest sticks his iPhone right in from of the camera lens and that moment is lost forever? Plus, that first look is shared by 100's of your friends and family, instead of being an intimate, personal moment between the two of you.

That was my creative segue into the reasons behind why couples decide upon a first look photoshoot before the ceremony...

Traditions are good. I like traditions. However, this particular custom isn't necessarily practical, nor do I believe that the couple is doomed for a marriage full of "bad luck" because the husband saw his wife on their wedding day before the ceremony. My cousin and his wife broke tradition almost 10 years before I got married, and they saw each other privately,before the ceremony,in a room. They were able to talk and hug for a few minutes by themselves before starting group pictures. They are still married after 25 years. It certainly didn't cause "bad luck" to befall their relationship! I've been married for 18 1/2 years now, and seen the good, the bad and the ugly in relationships, life and my own marriage. I'm here to tell you that if things go sour in a marriage, it's NOT because the husband saw his wife before the ceremony on their wedding day, so let's debunk that false narrative now.

But, what are the benefits of participating in a "first look" photoshoot as opposed to the customary way? The most obvious is the time you save in between your ceremony and reception. You may still want to take some family photos afterward, but pictures will be finished much sooner.

I actually waited for hours at a reception one time because the couple wanted to take pictures at a unique location after the ceremony and they wouldn't allow their guests to eat until they arrived. My only memory of that wedding is how hungry I was and how long it took for them to arrive. At least half of the guest had already left when they arrived.

I will add that with the increased use of digital photography, pictures after ward do not take nearly as long as they used to, with film photography ONLY being used.

Another benefit is that it actually can take some pressure off of the couple that day. When the photo shoot happens before the wedding, it is usually a fun time with each other and their closest friends and family. Your hair and make up is still fresh and it provides a moment of enjoyment and memories before all of the guests arrive and the festivities begin. Here are some examples of pictures taken with the bridal party before the ceremony begins in some of our weddings:

Photo cred: Sarah Best Photography

Photo cred: Sarah Best Photography

Photo cred: Lori Blythe Photography

Another benefit to deciding to participate in a "First Look" photo shoot before your ceremony is the amazing pictures you will have of that moment. The best way to describe these photos is to have you view some examples from weddings we've coordinated of couples who opted for a "First Look" photo shoot. Enjoy our favorites!

Pictures from Sean and Delanie's Wedding. Photo credit to Southern Charm Photography


And these from Dusty and Katie's wedding


When my husband and I got married, I opted the traditional route and we took all of our pictures beforehand. I was not concerned about "bad luck", but I did want that feeling of seeing each other for the first time. Did I see his face at that moment? Nope. Guests were standing, and in my way. Did it get captured on film? Nope. I have no memory of it. Plus, we arrived at our reception about an hour and half after the ceremony, and some guests had already left. It's the only part of my wedding that I would change if I could go back and do it all over again.

Even after relaying these reasons to my clients, many still opt for the traditional route, which I think is great as well. Photographers are usually in tuned with a bride's desire to catch her groom's look when he first sees her, and those create amazing pictures as well, like these delighted grooms:

photo cred: Sarah Best Photography

photo cred: Thomas and Penelope Photography

If capturing this look is important to you, make sure you communicate clearly with your photographer so that he or she knows this is a priority to you.

In the end, whether or not you decide to have a "First Look" photo shoot is truly a personal preference. You just need to explore for yourself the pros, cons and reasons behind the traditional route and the modern one and don't merely rely on what other people tell you is best.

See other parts of our website and blog for more tips and ideas, or schedule a free, first time consultation to see how we can make your most special day fun and stress free!

Erin Joyner WonderfullyWed Wedding Planning, Coordinating, Consulting Bryan/College Station, TX

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