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Should You Do A First Look? The Definitive Answer.

May 6, 2015

By Mariah Ashley

Are you torn… trying to decide Should You Do a First Look? We’re here to help!

Start by asking yourself these three questions:

1. Does your cocktail hour immediately follow your ceremony?

2. Is it important to you to be a part of the cocktail hour?

3. Are you concerned about the formal photos feeling rushed?

If you answered YES to these questions then you should plan for a First Look. The decision is not so much about tradition or aesthetics (which we tend to get caught up in), it is actually about timing and practicality. That’s not to say the moment can’t be aesthetically pleasing and dramatic! It should absolutely be both of those things!

First Look I did a quick “First Look” calculation of the past three years worth of weddings. I wondered how many of our clients were actually opting to do the first look. Consistently over the past three years, 45 % of our clients have done a First Look.

First LookWe’re also consistent about how we execute the First Look. Here’s how it goes down:

1. We pick a pretty and if possible, private location with great light.

2. Trish sets the groom up, his back to the direction the bride will be arriving from. She will let him know the right moment to turn around.

3. Trish photographs the brides face as she cascades toward the waiting groom.

4. Mariah hangs back with the bride and photographs the grooms face as he turns and sees the bride for the first time.

5. We then swing around to the side and get the interaction between the bride and groom as they have the moment of the big reveal.

Side Note: We do not like the “bride taps the groom on the shoulder business” because then the groom cannot see the whole dramatic effect of the bride from head to toe!

First Look

So, if your cocktail hour follows right after your ceremony, you have approximately 60 minutes for formal photos and cocktail hour merriment.

In that time we’ll need to accomplish family pictures, bridal party and bride and groom formals.

To do this we will need:

1. 15 minutes for family photographs. Remember, at the very least there are two main family groups (brides family, grooms family)  that need to be documented. If there are any divorces or remarriages, then that list begins to grow. And don’t forget, there are also sub groups within the main group!

2. 15 Minutes with the Bridal Party. A formal pose, a fun pose, just the ladies, just the men… you get the idea!

3. 15 Minutes with just the bride and groom. This is the most important part of the day, we never want to rush through these.!

So, at the very least the formal photos will take 45 minutes. That leaves 15 minutes for cocktail hour. Keep in mind though, if anyone is “missing” and there’s always someone missing it will encroach on your precious 15 minutes. Also, toward the end of the cocktail hour your band or DJ is going to come looking for you so they can get everyone organized for intros. This doesn’t leave you very much time for cocktails. Womp.


I hope that this post helps relieve the stress of deciding should you do a first look. If you are crunched for time, want to spend the cocktail hour actually having a cocktail and chatting with friends, and if you don’t want to rush through the formals, the answer is a no brainer: YES a First Look is the right decision. It can be a really dramatic and beautiful moment, and also alleviate the stress of time constraints. We’ve never had a client tell us they regretted the decision to do a first look and I don’t think you would either. We want you to get the most fun, the most time, and the best photographs out of your day possible. The First Look is a way to make sure that happens.

  1. Plus, You’re pretty much coming right out of hair and make-up to the first look, so look your absolute best for your pictures. Great article!

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