First look between bride and groom at Circle Oak Ranch in Temecula.

Emotional first look between Bride and Groom at Circle Oak Ranch in Temecula.

Wedding first look between bride and groom at Circle Oak Ranch in Temecula, CA.

Whether to do the first look on the wedding day or not has become such a conundrum for the majority of our couples. You may have come across the term “first look” in your wedding planning searches or maybe your wedding photographer asked if you would like to do a first look.

What is a first look?

First off, let’s clarify what it is we are talking about here because not everyone knows what the “first look” refers to on the wedding day. The first look is a moment when the two of you will get to see each other for the first time on your wedding day all dressed up in your wedding day duds a few hours before the wedding ceremony takes place.

This is usually an intimate moment reserved for only the couple and the wedding photographer to document. During this time we hang back and try to be as ninja status as possible to allow you two the privacy to share your thoughts. We have seen couples read vows or letters to one another during this time (and then not share personal vows during the ceremony). But you don’t have to do any of that either you can make it whatever you want it to be!

Even with all of the talk of the first look out there and it’s recent popularity we still have so many couples who are hesitant to move forward with the first look. Everyone looks forward to that  BIG moment when you are walking down the aisle and see each other for the first time signal angel choir, fireworks show, and carton hearts circling over head. 

On one hand you have the traditional “see me coming down the aisle for the first time” on the other hand you have “but wait we can have this sweet intimate nerve calming moment all to ourselves”. We totally see the appeal to both! We are just here to share the pros of the first look and allow you to make your own decision.

Many wedding photographers advocate for the first look, it gives a lot more time for photos and usually creates a more relaxed timeline which in turn allows a wedding photographer to have more time for photos. While we do know it provides for a better timeline we also know that your day isn’t about photos, it’s an important part to you yes, otherwise you wouldn’t have invested in us for your wedding photography. Whether your wedding is photographed or not it would happen, the tears, the laughter, the party would all be there. Your wedding day isn’t about photos it’s about celebration, it’s about you finding your person in a world of 7.6 billion people and that deserves the party of the friggn’ millennium. So stick to your guns on the things that are super important to you.

So let’s get into it so you can stop the anguish over this decision and get on easy street with your wedding planning, because forget what you’ve heard this wedding planning thing it should be fun. easy. calm. the time of your life.

The First Look 

First look between bride and groom at Twin Oaks Gardens in San Marcos, CA.

First look between bride and groom at Twin Oaks Gardens Wedding Venue.

First look between bride and groom at Twin Oaks Gardens in San Marcos, CA.

01. It’s a Welcome Slow Down From the Mornings Hustle & Bustle

You’ve just spent most of the morning at a 10 with your wedding party. Bumping to Lizzo and Queen B, popping champagne, getting through hair and makeup, and numerous well intentioned family members or friends needing things from you or asking you where things go etc. and honestly while the energy and excitement are fun sometimes want you’re really craving is to just slow things downnnn a bit. There is no better human on this planet to give me calm in the midst of chaos than Ryan and I am sure you feel the same about your boo. Having the first look can give you that little vacation that you need.

Bride grabbing grooms butt during first look at Grand Tradition Estate, CA.

Bride grabbing grooms butt during first look at Grand Tradition Estate.


02. It’s More Intimate

You’re not going to grab each others butts in front of all your guests and grandmas at the sight of each other during the ceremony (or maybe you might, all the more power to you!). The first look is a more intimate way to see one another for the first time on the wedding day. When you see each other there may be a million things you want to tell your partner, how beautiful or handsome they look, you may want to give them a spin to check out their full outfit, give a big bear hug, a kiss, you may want to let out tears but just in front of them a surge of thousands of emotions may be coursing through you but if this is happening down the aisle guess what? You are rolling straight into the ceremony program so none of that can happen. It’s a moment that you shared with all of your invited guests and is not between the two of you so it is inherently less intimate in nature.

The first look has your guard down because it’s just the two of you. The nerves aren’t causing you to hold in your emotion, you aren’t focusing on walking without tripping in your dress, walking at the proper pace, all of the eyes glued to your face. It’s about you not about tradition.

Grooms reaction to seeing bride during first look at Grand Tradition Estate.

03. It’s A Private Moment In The Day That You May Not Get Again

Get ready to step into what it feels like to be Jay-Z and Beyonce. You two are going to be celebrities on your wedding day, everyone will be chomping at the bit creating lines around you to get a chance to congratulate you (which is SO sweet) but also SO exhausting. Your wedding day which is about the two of you will end up with a very limited amount of time that it was just the two of you, (cue Alanis Morrisette, “Isn’t It Ironic). Also I think I just dated myself with that song reference *palm to face. I digress.

Usually the two of you get dinner at the sweetheart table to just enjoy one another but as wedding photographers who have photographed a whole lotta weddings this is rarely the case. Lines will form to congratulate you and snap a picture at your table with you and before you know it the timeline has you rolling into speciality dances or bouquet and garter toss and you didn’t even eat none the less spend some quality time with your honey.

Grooms reaction to seeing bride for first time at The Grand Tradition.

04. Take Family Photos, Bridal Party Photos and Maybe Some Wedding Portraits Pre-Ceremony

Usually your immediate families are there a few hours before the ceremony around the time of the first look. That allows us as wedding photographers to coordinate some of your family photos before the ceremony which leaves us in less of a time crunch after the ceremony when we are racing the clock on sunset. We also make sure your bridal party is on standby after the first look which allows us to get through the bridal party photos pre-ceremony. Your friends will thank you for this because post ceremony they are headed to cocktail hour instead of taking photos (hallelujah!). Given enough time before ceremony we can even get a lot of photos of the two of you.

There are two things you should know if you want to get through a lot of your wedding portraits pre ceremony so you can attend some of your cocktail hour. One is you have to plan your first look early enough because when you put a 5 pm ceremony start time on your wedding invitations there are always a few guests who inevitably will show up early and if you don’t want them to see you until the ceremony we can’t be walking around capturing your wedding portraits.

Two, mid-day light is some of the harshest light, we will always seek out shade but sometimes it isn’t available or it’s dappled (light spots coming through the tree branches creating spotted light in the midst of the shade). We can work with it but we don’t want light spots directly on your faces. The light post ceremony is almost always “the good light” golden and soft magic sauce light as we like to call it. We can always take some photos after the first look so that we don’t have to use the entire cocktail hour for your wedding portraits and you two can use that time as you wish either attending your cocktail hour or going to the bridal suite and just decompressing for a minute before grand entrances and bustling.

First look between bride and groom at Luce Loft in San Diego.

05. More Time With Family & Friends and Enjoy That Cocktail Hour You Paid For

Let us explain, cocktail hour takes place right after the ceremony and is usually one hour of mingling for your guests and leaves one hour for your wedding photographer to take your family photos, wedding party photos and the wedding portraits of the two of you. Believe it or not this is always a super time crunched portion of the day and it can leave your wedding photographer with only 15 minutes for your portraits after all of the family break downs.

Couples who do a first look only need to take photos of the extended family that weren’t there earlier in the day and a few golden hour/sunset portraits of the two of you and then instead of taking all of your pictures post ceremony eating up that hour of cocktails you could be living it up with all of the family and friends that traveled there to celebrate you. And you can actually make it to your cocktail hour and taste those amazing appetizers you barely remember from your menu tasting oh, and did we mention cocktails?

First look between bride and groom at Luce Loft in San Diego, CA.

06. Having a Fall or Winter Wedding? Well You May Have to do a First Look

When the sun sets at 5:30 and your ceremony is at 4:30 and you want to do a tradition look that leaves a half hour for your ceremony and a half hour for family photos, bridal party photos and photos of the two of you before it is dark outside. We are good but ain’t nobody that good. We are pros at wrangling family and bridal party to get through all of your traditional portraits with them fast and painless but as efficient as we are that still wouldn’t be good enough to get through all of those photos plus the two of you in 30 minutes. If you have a winter or fall wedding when sunset is early in the day make sure you connect with your venue and discuss your options for ceremony start time which should be at least two hours before sunset if you are having a 30 minute ceremony. The two hours gives a cushion in case the ceremony runs over a bit or family members are at the bar instead of waiting in line for family portraits and a bit of time to sign the marriage license and bustle before grand entrances.

Wedding ceremony at Circle Oak Ranch in Temecula.

Grooms reaction to bride walking down the aisle at Circle Oak Ranch in Temecula.

Grooms reaction to seeing bride down the aisle at Twin Oaks Gardens.

07. We Promise You Will Still Get That Down The Aisle Reaction

I actually did an instagram post all about this. Everyone of our grooms who cried during the first look still cries at the sight of you coming down the aisle. There is no replacement for that moment only additions to it and why not fill your day with all of the moments you can?

But Wait… It’s Bad Luck to See Each Other Before The Ceremony

You may hear this from friends or family or you may really just want to keep things traditional. That is more than okay. Like we said, this day is about you and that’s all that really matters. If you aren’t sold on the first look that’s fine. Tell your wedding photographer and they will be a-okay with that. You’ve invested in us and we invest ourselves in you and making your dream wedding a reality we will always get creative to make that happen even if it means setting up lights and doing some photos in the dark or during the reception because we ran out of light and time.

So there you have it all of the benefits to a first look. We would love to know if you found this helpful and if it helped you make a decision one way or the other. If you have any other questions about the first look vs. the traditional look vs. a first touch (just holding hands around a corner or on either side of the door but with out seeing one another) shoot us a message we would love to talk it out with you with your timeline in mind and see what might work best.





Ryan + Emily Burhop

of emry

We are wedding photographers for those who believe in love, because Emry originated out of love. Love for each other, for imagery and for creating things that were made to last. We serve southern California & beyond. Outside of photography, our life revolves around our son, Jude and our families.

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