WHAT is a First Look?

As a wedding photographer I almost forget that a First Look isn’t a common and immediately understood household term. When you are working in the industry it’s so easy to get caught up in that assumption and just expect everyone else to sleep, breathe and ummm eat weddings! First looks are most definitely still not common in this country and in fact even as a wedding photographer I am personally yet to photograph one as seeing your partner for the first time whilst walking down the aisle is still the traditional thing to do.

first look Now this post is most definitely not a declaration that every bride and groom in the UK should do a First Look! But I do want to give you the facts so you can make up your own mind… every couple is different and who knows, the first look might just be the perfect solution for you!

So the First Look originated in the USA and is a fairly new idea for your wedding, it has been championed by USA photographers like Jasmine Star and has risen in popularity over the last few years. The idea of a first look is for the bride and groom to see each other before the wedding in a private spot organised normally by their wedding photographer. The first look can take place anywhere but it needs to be somewhere which is secluded (you don’t want to run in to any of your guests in your wedding gear!) and preferably somewhere in a gorgeous location so that the photographs will be doubly as beautiful!

Now being primarily a documentary wedding photographer myself it may have risen a few eyebrows that Matt and I decided on a first look. Most people would probably have expected us to go with the pure documentary approach and it certainly was a pretty out-there decision… especially as it was the day before! But we chose to go for it as we knew we had only one day of beautiful sunshine and we really wanted to take advantage of it! But there were other reasons to choose to have a First Look and, with the benefit of hindsight…

I would still have had the first look even if it had been gloriously sunny all week.

In a normal traditional wedding ceremony, when the groom sees his bride for the first time it’s a wonderfully magical moment there is no denying it. But magical as it may be it does, sadly, last just seconds. Before you have a chance to even properly look at each other you are asked to start the ceremony and then honestly the day is such a whirlwind before you know it it’s 10pm and, if you’re not careful, you’ve not had any time alone with your new husband at all.

The First Look enables you to have as long as you want alone with the man you’re about to marry (well… alone aside from a stealthy, ninja photographer!) I was honestly so lost in the moment that our photographer Ed managed to creep right up to Matt’s shoulder before I had even registered he was there! The photographs he took of that moment are so incredibly precious; you can see the expression on Matt’s face when he first sets his eyes upon me and it gets me every time! I really will treasure it forever. It is documentary in it’s own way, it may start off as a posed concept but when you tap your husband-to-be on the shoulder and he turns around and see his face…


It most definitely felt real to me.

The other point in considering a first look is the extra time you get to have your photograph taken. Now if you’re not into photographic portraiture then the First Look might not be for you, and that’s absolutely fine. If you don’t want the big set pieces of your wedding day and want to purely avoid the cameras and pretend they don’t exist until you get those pictures back then that’s exactly what you should do, and you’re more likely to really get the best out of seeing your partner at the head of the aisle.

If, however, posed photographs of you and your husband are something that’s very important to you and you long for the big epic canvases of you both hanging proudly over the fireplace then you should definitely consider the First Look.

The First Look gives you more time to take photographs in places that it would normally be impossible to reach after the ceremony, gives your photographer full rein to really exercise their creative potential and allows them to explore ideas that just aren’t possible to squeeze in between the ceremony, groups, confetti, guests and dinner! The First Look is also really quite relaxing and a lot of fun; you’re not worrying about keeping your guests waiting, you are both just in the moment excited about the prospect of things to come and buzzing from all the adrenaline! We got so many wonderful photographs from our first look and the portraiture afterwards that we simply wouldn’t swap for the world. Don’t get me wrong, we also did get some fantastic posed images on the day of the wedding too (the storm didn’t hit until we were safely inside for the reception!) but we didn’t have to spend our wedding day running around trying to get variety in the shots, and we weren’t kept away from our guests and the wedding itself for long periods which was a lovely position to be in.

The shots taken in the mountains and in the mist would have been impossible to get on the wedding day itself and they have proved to be some of our favourite pictures from the entire wedding gallery. Every time I look at them they make me smile and fill my heart with glee knowing that we definitely made the right choice and I couldn’t be happier about it.

There is no doubting that by having a First Look you do give up something: walking down the aisle to see your groom for the first time moments before you become husband and wife is special. But as a bride who walked down the aisle twice (having completed the legalities in a UK civil ceremony as well as our Destination Wedding), I know that for me the most special part was tapping my man and husband-to-be on the shoulder on that incredible cliff-top over looking the sea and seeing his look for the first time when he saw me in my dress not for one second but for ten whole minutes.

It’s a moment you need time to take in and a moment you will truly remember forever.

This article is featured on Bride Vs Groom – The Blog for the Baffled Bride and Groom.