Pros and Cons of a First look + Alternatives

First look as the groom sees his bride for the first time walking down the aisle

One of the main things I tell all my couples when we hop on call to craft a timeline together is that the pre-ceremony moments can sometimes be the most chaotic parts of the day. And the reason for that is because you can make it however you want it to be, but you’ll have to understand how long of a time you’d need to set aside for those things in order for your timeline to continue flowing seamlessly – and that’s where I come along!

In a default wedding timeline, there is the getting ready portion of the day that comes before the ceremony, and a way to customize that portion of the day leads to one of the main questions I always ask my couples: Do you want a first look?

So here are the pros and cons to having a first look:


  • Seeing your partner may help ease your pre-ceremony nerves. Most brides tell me that seeing each other beforehand helped them shake off all those jitters they have beforehand since knowing the ceremony start time is right around the corner brings that oh my god it’s finally happening anxiety, and being able to talk a little together beforehand helps excite each other more.
  • Since you’ve already seen each other, we can knock out some quick private portraits beforehand!
  • It is an ultimate time-saver! If you don’t have much time allocated for your cocktail hour and you have a large bridal party or a lengthy shot list for your family photos, we can save time by knocking out bridal party group photos before the ceremony, instead of after. That way, after the ceremony, we can focus on just the family group photos before jumping straight into your private portraits together. In short, this means we will be able to have more time for photos of just the two of you.
  • If you or your partner is shy or you know that one of you doesn’t like bearing any sort of emotional vulnerability in front of a crowd, then I recommend a first look because this private moment is ultimately reserved for just the two of you to have together.
  • You get to see your partner cry twice! (Hopefully)


  • In having a first look, you lose the possible chance of having that wow factor when you see each other for the first time while walking down the aisle during the ceremony.
  • If it’s a really hot day, sometimes you don’t want to do all these group photos beforehand so that you won’t sweat so much before the ceremony. However, having a first look doesn’t mean we have to do group photos beforehand – it’s ultimately up to you! But this is a downside for if you do opt for having bridal party group photos right after your first look.

Example @ Heather + Jeff’s wedding

I know from the above lists, it really looks like I’m pushing for a first look or that I think having a first look is superior, but to the contrary, I really do believe that preserving that initial awe-factor of traditionally seeing your partner for the first time as you’re walking down the aisle is a very precious moment that many people want to have. For some, it’s part of the day they’re most looking forward to. So I definitely don’t want to sway your opinion and take away something you thought you really wanted. That’s why I want to suggest alternatives you can possible try for if you don’t want a first look but you still really want to customize your pre-ceremony timeline somehow!



1. First touch

This amazing alternative still reserves that precious moment I mentioned earlier while still possibly relieving any pre-ceremony jitters you may have! What I typically do for these moments is finding an aesthetic and private corner for you and your partner to meet up, hold hands if you want to, and speak to each other privately beforehand. You two can hype each other up, express your excitement together, and say your I love you‘s one last time before officially becoming newlyweds.


Example: Cecilia + Ben’s wedding


If you want to spice it up even more, you can do what was done at Marice + Kneil’s wedding, where the couple had one of their best friends come up, pretending to be the bride, to surprise the groom before the real bride actually comes in haha!


2. First touch + Private vow reading

You can add even more emotional moments to your first touch by adding on a private vow reading, separate from the one you’ll read at the ceremony if you already have one planned to be read in front of the crowd. Tears are 99.999% guaranteed.

Example: Thelisha + John’s wedding

Example: Jailin + Gemil’s wedding

Example: Natsu + Sean’s wedding

You can also opt for a first touch with a private vow reading, and then additionally have a first look right after too, like at Rebecca + Grant’s wedding!


3. First look with bridesmaids

Let’s not forget about your homegirls! Some people may say “Oh it’s not the same since most bridesmaids go dress shopping with the bride,” but to that I say, it’s most definitely not the same! Because even if they saw you in your dress before, nothing compares to seeing the full image of a bride on the real wedding day with the veil, dress, and bouquet in hand.

Example: Rachel + James’s wedding

Example: Kayla + Carlton’s wedding


4. First look with family members

Another precious moment to include on your wedding day. Moments like these are unlimited to who you would like to be a part of this. This includes variations like brides with the parents, grooms with the parents, brides/grooms with siblings, grandparents, etc.

Example: Dawn + Kirk’s wedding

Example: Monica + Drew’s wedding

Final thoughts

All in all, there is no right way to wedding timelines – it’s literally whatever you want to make it out to be! It’s your wedding day, and I want you to live it out the way you dreamed it would be. I’ve had couples opt to do all of the above: first look with bridesmaids, then family members, then a first touch with private vow reading, and then finally a first look with their partner before moving onto private portraits and then bridal party group photos and family members – which is a lot! But it’s so, so rewarding and heartwarming. Some couples opt out of all of the above, and guess what? Their wedding was still amazing and heartwarming in so many other ways too. There is no right or wrong!

Whatever your pre-ceremony timeline is comprised of, if it’s well-planned and there’s an appropriate amount of time allotted for each of those events (all of which I will assist with, so don’t fret!), they are all precious memories that I highly recommend you give considerable thought to preserving.

The Journal


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