Romantic Storytelling, Fine Art Wedding Photographer

I have been in the wedding industry for nearly seven years and each year, I still receive multiple emails from my brides asking my thoughts on a first look.  Have you ever asked yourself one of these:

Will it save time if we do a first look?
What will my family think if we decide to be non-traditional?
How many photos will we have to still take after the ceremony if we choose to do a first look?
What is a first look all about anyways?

If you have, I am here to help you take a look into the pros and cons of a first look.  Every couple should decide this on their own and shouldn’t feel pushed by family, a photographer or anyone else.  It’s your day and hopefully this will guide you to what your heart is telling you to do.  🙂


Question 1:  “Will it save time if we do a first look?”

Pro:   Absolutely.  One of the major reasons people opt for a first look is because they can take nearly every photo before the ceremony and get to partying like rock stars sooner than expected.  This will also help to keep you more on schedule because family and friends who will stop to talk after the ceremony won’t make you feel bad for having to go take pictures.

Pro: If your wedding is at sunset, a first look will provide golden perfection for your images.  Nothing is worst for photos than it being too hot or too bright.  If you are having a ceremony an hour before the sun sets (optimal timing for outdoor weddings as long as you have a good tree line the sun is behind!) , you’ll still have an entire hour of golden photos prior to the ceremony.  This is perfect for wedding party, bride & groom portraits.  Just make sure you have your ushers blocking entrance to the ceremony until 15 minutes before it begins so guests don’t come sit while you’re taking photos.

Con:  If you are having an outdoor wedding early in the day (especially true from June-August), your lighting is going to be much too bright and you will be in the hottest part of the day for photos.  If you absolutely are wanting to save time and take pictures beforehand, talk with your photographer early on about locations out of the heat of the day, in the shade and away from green grass.  When the sun is bright and you’re on green grass, your skin will turn green and nobody wants that.  You can get much better photos waiting until after the ceremony and getting as close to sunset as possible for softer and more forgiving light.



Question 2: What will my family think if we decide to be non-traditional?
I recently spoke to a few parents of my couples to get their take on weddings today versus 20+ years ago when they got married.  Needless to say, pretty much everything we do in the wedding world today is considered non-traditional.  Sparkler exits, cutting the cake before eating dinner, even the decorating.  Weddings have evolved quite a bit and new traditions are arising.  If someone is upset or worried about it, just take a moment to listen to them and then explain why you are choosing this.  More times than not, they won’t mind at all and will be more than happy to have dinner earlier than expected!



Question 3: How much time will we spend on photos before/after ceremony ?

Pro:  You’ll spend under 20 minutes after the ceremony if you have a first look.  All you’ll really need are any pictures you may have ran out of time for and then the two of you together alone.

Con: You’ll need to have your hair and makeup finished about 3 hours prior to the ceremony start time. The reason is because it has to be done as you get into your dress, for the bridal portraits, for portraits with your bridesmaids, for entire wedding party portraits, family portraits and the bride & groom photos.  I highly suggest asking your makeup and hair artist for tricks and possibly a “makeup emergency kit” on hand for you.  Don’t forget extra eyelash glue!

Pro:  If you do cry at all during the first look or when you see your father/mom, you will have plenty of time to fix it up before you have to walk down the aisle versus crying down the aisle and having tear stains during the entire ceremony.



Question 4:  What is a first look about anyways?

Are first looks only there to help us photographers?  Not at all.  One of my big loves of a first look is that it gives you a wonderful chance to actually have alone time on your wedding day.  Before your attention is taken up by guests, family, pictures and video footage.  It also is a great way to experience the entire day with the person you love the most.  It helps calm nerves when you get to experience it together.  Knowing your other half is right there by your side makes all the difference in the world.



Nearly 70% of my couples opt for a first look.  I asked a few of them about their experience with the first look.  This is what they had to say.

“I was so nervous.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t sit still.  We had spent months planning the day together and all I wanted to do was spend it with her.  When I turned around to see her for the first time, my jaw dropped and so did all of my anxiety.  She was really there.  She chose to spend her life with me and it made the rest of the day more enjoyable than I think it would have been.”

“As I walked up to him, every single memory of us flashed through my mind.  Then, the proposal hit me.  I started bawling before he even saw me!  I had never felt so happy in my life.  It was the most amazing feeling!”

“His parents were really against a first look and I really wanted to save time taking pictures because we have a huge family and I didn’t want to miss out of fun times with everyone by standing around taking pictures.  After the wedding, his parents told me that they actually enjoyed getting the family pictures out of the way because they were able to relax with guests while we focused on spending a few moments away together.”


About 30% of my couples choose to have their first look during the ceremony.  This is what they had to say.

“As she walked down the aisle, I cried.  I cried like a baby.  Looking back, I should have been embarrassed but I wasn’t.  It was overwhelming but a good overwhelming. She looked perfect.”

“I always wanted to see him smiling at me as I walked down the aisle but he didn’t even make eye contact with me!  I found out that he was just so nervous that he couldn’t think about anything except staring at his shoes.  I don’t have one picture of him seeing me for the first time.”

“It was super special to me because my dad got to give me away and having that moment when my dad put my hand in my husband’s and my husband was looking at his wife for the first time, made us both feel so emotional.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.”


My final thoughts are this. I believe that both ways are beautiful and I love shooting either.  I do think that intimate first looks make more of an emotional connection for both the bride and groom because they are solely focusing on each other instead of the ceremony with everyone watching them.  I do recommend first looks be private.  If anyone wants to watch, I have them looking through windows or far off in the distance.  This is your moment, your day.  You deserve to enjoy it fully.

Happy Fri-Yay!

Yours Truly,


Engaged?  Now through Cyber Monday receive $200 off any wedding package for 2018-2019.  🙂  Click here for more information: Sara Rieth: Romantic Storytelling 



First Look Pros & Cons

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