The First Look

  • Wedding Wednesday

You may be thinking “Hasn’t she already blogged about this topic?!”… And the answer to that question would be “Yes”.  I have confessed my deep love for “First Looks” numerous times on the blog and I tend to point them out in every blog post. There is a reason for this. They’re AWESOME.  However, not everyone is aware of how awesome they are because they get caught up in how “un-traditional” it is and they immediately write it off.  I can talk about those brides because I almost was one of those brides. I wanted a REACTION….I wanted Michael to be so surprised and overcome with joy when I walked down the aisle that he bawled at the first sight of me!

Isn’t that EVERY girl’s dream? Who doesn’t want that reaction? Luckily, I was able to have the best of both worlds because Michael and I decided to share an intimate “First Look” moment on our wedding day AND he LOST IT when I came down the aisle.  He was in tears and so was everyone who was watching him!! YESSS!! I felt like a million bucks. Walking down the aisle on my wedding day was a moment that I will treasure for a lifetime!!

After experiencing my own wedding and shooting over 80 others…. I’ve come to this conclusion.  Sure, some brides love “traditions”…. but what a bride REALLY wants when it comes to her groom seeing her for the first time is a REACTION.  Those that are not interested in a First Look usually think that by seeing each other beforehand, they will lose part of that reaction. They also assume that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle. What I have found (this is starting to sound like a research paper!) is so ironic!  Everyone knows that wedding days are a bit stressful for the bride and groom.  The whole day is focused on them, they need to look their best, they need to be on time, the groom has no idea what side the bout is supposed to go on and little by little… the tension grows.

It’s before the ceremony and the gravity of what is about to happen starts to sink in and the calm, collected groom that was playing golf in the AM is now starting to feel a little anxious. So what happens next?  The groom waits in a little room somewhere just waiting for his que from the coordinator.  It seems like it’s taking FOREVER.  Finally, the coordinator leans her head in and hurries the groom to get ready.  With clammy hands, the groom enters the ceremony and what does he find? …. he finds anywhere from 80-300 people and they’re all looking where? Right at his face… because everyone has expectations and anticipation about his first reaction. This is the farthest thing from a private, intimate moment. Sure, it’s SO powerful and SO wonderful. … I already said that walking down the aisle was one of the BEST PARTS of my WHOLE wedding day!! It’s magical!! ….. But when I walked down the aisle… Michael  wasn’t a nervous wreck…he had spent the morning with me and our best friends and the pressure was OFF. By the time our ceremony rolled around he was ready to ENJOY our beautiful day!  The nerves were gone and when the nerves are gone… true emotions are free to be expressed. And OH were they expressed! (Seriously, he cried so much and I loved it.. it was beautiful:).

So if I were to condense what I just wrote… basically, Grooms normally become incredibly nervous on wedding days…. even if they seem cool and collected.  For most grooms, the nerves kick in before they see their bride because when they see her… all of a sudden everything becomes VERY real! So when the nerves start creeping up, instead of keeping the groom in a secluded space until his time to enter the ceremony…. what if you took him to a private place… no people, no on-lookers, no distractions…. and  you let his beautiful bride, the love of his life, walk up to him and gently tap his shoulder.  He would turn around and finally get his first look at his stunning bride and not only would he get to see her… he could embrace her… cry with her…. kiss her… and ENJOY that moment with her for as LONG as they wanted. As she shows him her dress, twirls a few times and then asks him what he thinks… his nerves start to diminish. After all, she’s the one that can make him most comfortable anyway.

Because they aren’t on a time crunch… they casually move into their romantic portraits.  No one is around, the coordinator isn’t announcing “15 minutes left”, and there is no pressure.  It’s just the two of them and their photographer….. capturing the excitement and the joy of their wedding day. This is their time to be TOGETHER…and to be ALONE. When does that happen on a wedding day? Without a First Look…. it doesn’t.  After their romantic portraits are done, they meet up with their best friends.  Their bridal party joins them and because they still have plenty of time to spare… the bride touches up a little makeup while the boys act like boys.  After a few minutes the bridal party portraits begin and they’re FUN. They’re FUN because there is time to make them FUN.  There aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check.  It’s wonderful!

After portraits are done, the girls and guys separate and prepare for the ceremony.  The guests begin to arrive and the ushers are in place. Pretty soon it’s time for the processional music to begin and one by one, the bridesmaids make their way down to the front of the ceremony.  As the groom clasps his hands… they aren’t clasped out of nervousness but excitement.  The musics builds, the mother of the bride stands and all of the guests follow her lead.  The groom looks up and here comes the BRIDE!!! His best friend, his companion, his sweetheart…..she’s stunning…. ABSOLUTELY stunning.  The closer she gets, the bigger his smile.

Now let me put a disclaimer on here before we continue…my clients are not required to do a First Look… AT ALL. This is totally up to the bride and groom. I used to feel bad for sharing this option and encouraging couples to do it but I’ve gotten over that phase. I’ve seen the benefits of a first look over and over again and so I only share this because I want the BEST for my couples!! It’s totally ok if couples choose not to share a first look!  It’s just my preference to do one:) Ok, now lets keep going.


Couples who opt for a First Look experience these benefits:


– You’re investing a lot into your wedding photography and with a first look, you get 40% MORE portraits of the two of you… and those are the images you decorate your first home with! (Believe me, our house is PACKED full of our portraits!)  This is a huge investment for you and so obviously your photography is a BIG deal. With a first look, you make the most out of this huge investment and get the most for your money.

– You actually get intimate time on your wedding day with your man. Normally, most people think walking down the aisle is the BIGGEST, most emotional moment of the whole day because that is what the tradition is. But people don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeous-ness… he can’t even tell you how amazing you look… he can’t touch you or embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 40 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 40 minutes of gazing into each other’s eyes, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance.


– First Looks allow you to extend your wedding day. Normally the wedding day would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end, you would rush through portraits so that you’re not late for the introductions and then it’s reception time.  With a first look, your wedding day is extended by almost 3 hours! Instead of being rushed for your bridal party portraits… you actually get to enjoy them and have fun hanging out with your BEST friends on your wedding day.  The WHOLE first half of our wedding album is filled with just images from this time together before the ceremony. I’m so grateful I had time to relax and get some great images with the people that I care about the most!

– First Looks allow you to be TOGETHER and alone on your wedding day. When Michael and I saw each other, not only was it intimate, it was our ONLY time to be alone… the whole day! We cried and laughed and cried some more… and then that put us in the PERFECT mood for our romantic portraits. Normally portraits are rushed after the family formals and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode…. especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other and I always capture some SWEET images during those moments!

– You get rid of the nerves. I’d say, literally 1/2 of my couples who have done a first look, the grooms were not fans of it at first. However, because they have never experienced their wedding day before, they didn’t know how nerve racking it can be. I have testimonials from so many grooms that initially weren’t a fan of the first look.. but afterwards admitted to being SO much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony!

Straight from the Groom:

“We decided to do the first look to take a little bit of the pressure off. We wanted to enjoy every second of our wedding and didn’t want there to be this immense build up as I was seeing her for the first time in front of 200 people that were also seeing her for the first time. We wanted to share that moment together and to be able to sit in that feeling for a moment alone. And trust me, ti was WORTH IT. It ended up being the one moment that if I go to think about it I feel like I am instantly there. I remember every second of it. And the icing on the cake was that it didn’t take anything away from the ceremony. When I saw her I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion, I was overwhelmed with joy. She was gonna be mine!” –Craig Lily

“I am so glad Jill and I did a first look. Your wedding is a really busy day–You’ve got all of your favorite people in one place, for one day, and you want to make the most of every moment. So, it is awesome to have a time where it is just you and your bride (and Katelyn). It allows the two of you to have time to soak it all in and really be present with each other. Apart from a first look, our wedding day was a whirlwind, but the first look created a time for us to stop and enjoy it all. Even though it’s not deemed “traditional”, I highly recommend doing a first look and we jokingly refer to it as the “new tradition”. – Buddy Powers

“At first I was very hesitant to agree to a first look at my wedding. I had always invisioned the first time seeing my soon to be wife would be as she was escorted down the isle by her father. I was very closed minded about the thought of a “first look” initially, but I am SO GLAD that I decided to take part in one. Your first thought may be that a first look takes away from that “special moment” when you see your bride for the first time, but for me the first look ADDED so much more joy to an incredible day. I was able to see Britt in a very intimate environment before the ceremony because of our first look. It was an experience that I will never regret agreeing to or forget. It was very special to be able to see how beautiful Brittany looked, and the experience literally took my breath away. If you choose to include a first look as a part of your wedding day, you will certainly not regret it! It was a unique and incredible experience that words truly cannot express. I would reccomend a first look to EVERYONE getting married. The experience is breathtakingly incredible and was one of the highlights of my wedding day.” – Harry Claridge 

“Coming from a pretty traditional Southern family, it was scary for me to think about straying from years of custom, but when Ali and I really thought about it the events of our wedding day, the First Look was the only way to go.  With all the nerves and excitement of that day looming just hours away, I am reminded as often as I look back of how thankful I am for Katelyn’s suggestion to do the First Look.  It is a moment of my life that will be forever etched in my memory.  That precious time spent together before all the day’s events went under way did not detract from the excitement of seeing her walk down the aisle at all.  On the contrary, it added to the sweetness of that magnificent day, and I would highly recommend it to anyone!” – Manny Betancourt

xoxo, Katelyn
41 Comments Wedding Wednesday
  1. Mariel reply

    I fell into the “traditional” side until THIS MOMENT. I am definitely going to do a first look now! Your post made me a little emotional but SO excited to have those unique moments with my soon to be husband and our BFFs. Thanks for the insight!!

  2. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Love this post! Beautiful, beautiful moments and pictures!

  3. Annetta reply

    Well said Katelyn. I totally agree with you on this. Just wish I could get more of my brides to do this.

  4. Rachel reply

    I was 100% against first looks before I read this because i didnt want to jinx myself and have bad luck (like the tradition says) but then, swear to god, I read this and now I 100% HAVE TO HAVE ONE!!! It all makes beautiful, intimate, perfect sense!

  5. Elizabeth reply

    This past weekend I was a second shooter at my first wedding, and the couple did a first look and I absolutely loved it!!! It’s such a great idea!!!

  6. Jen reply

    I have been following your blog for a few months now and this was a beautiful post. I am already married and we chose to do the “first look” – it was so worth it! It’s amazing moment that my husband and I both treasure. It’s a nerve-wrecking/busy day but in this moment, everything is washed away and you just get so excited to see your man. I got to hold my soon-to-be husband and tell him I love him without the pressure of 200 people watching us. (And his reaction to our “first look” was the same reaction I got when I walked down the aisle – pure joy :) ) This post really gets to the heart of the “first look”. Everyone should do it :) You won’t be disappointed! Thanks Katelyn for your perspective!

  7. Lauren Winstead reply

    This post is invaluable! Thank you so much for the personal insights and all the new perspectives on first looks. I feel like I’m always just explaining the benefits they have for me, and that’s so impersonal! This is SO helpful.

  8. Sabrina reply

    Ah! You said it all so well!! One bride I had several weeks ago was all but a wreck before their first look but after she saw her groom and we did some portraits, she looked at me and sighed with such relief and had a HUGE smile on her face the rest of the day. Plus, we did a first look and I wouldn’t change it for anything! Thanks, Katelyn! :-)

  9. jamie reply

    so well said!!! I wish that I did a first look when I got married eight years ago!

  10. Kristina W. reply

    Awwwww… what a sweet post!

  11. Ahna Beth Photography reply

    This is awesome! I can’t wait to shoot a wedding with a First Look. :)

  12. Megan reply

    Thanks for this awesome post!! And love all the pictures, the first look pictures are always my fave in your wedding posts :)

  13. Lindy reply

    I seriously get teary eyed looking at these.. is that lame?! I don’t even know these people!
    I love all the captured emotion. Simply sweetness & joy!

  14. Jill Powers reply

    Amen and Amen! First looks are AMAZING!

  15. mellissa {de Lovely Affair} reply

    I cried through the entire post and made me wishing had done a First Look with at least one of my weddings – one man two different weddings. Thanks for the great tips. Sharing this with my readers who will dig the getting more one on one photos. Thank you!

  16. Deborah Zoe reply

    PREACH!!! Omgosh. Thank you for writing a blog post that describes my feelings EXACTLY! Already shared :):)

  17. krissy traustason reply

    this post had me in tears! I cannot wait for such a beautiful moment on my wedding day!

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  20. Truan reply

    Wow. What a bunch of beautiful moments!

  21. Sarah reply

    These are beautiful. Clearly the first look is a valuable point of the day. What I wonder, however, is why are first looks about the groom seeing the bride and not them seeing each other? Is the bride not also allow to wait in anticipation to see her groom? Is she not also excited to see him made up for the day?

    • Camacho R reply

      This is a great point Sarah and it has encouraged me to give this more thought. I believe in that case it would be good for me to ask my clients how they would like to do it and not assume another tradition that it is or should be the groom anticipating to see his bride.

  22. Laura Elizabeth reply

    I will *definitely* link back to this post!! You captured some AMAZING moments! :)

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  27. Amana reply

    Best. Blog. About first looks. Ever!! Loved this! It’s so, so true!! Beautifully well written :)

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  29. Rachel reply

    I’ve had 2 weddings – I went the traditional route the first time around. Honestly the whole day was a blur. My second time, we did first look photos and… well my wedding day was still kind of a blur, to be honest… but that time spent with my groom before the ceremony is clearest and most precious to me. And the pictures we got are most special. I highly recommend the switch-up – it’s very worth it.

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  35. Lindsay Colson reply

    100% yes! So well written and perfectly described… I may or may not have gotten a little emotional reading it! ;)

  36. Seline reply

    These photos are breathtaking and of good quality. Log in to and be part of the competition.

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  38. Jaime Bunker reply

    This is the perfect blog post!!! I just started doing weddings last summer and have more scheduled this year. My first wedding and first look was for my sister. I think this event was their favorite part of the whole wedding activities. It was definitely my favorite!! It was so much fun and truly did bring out so much emotion (especially in the groom!). I hope all my couples this year decide to do a first look. Can I share this post ??? You’ve said it all so much better than I ever could! Thank you!!

  39. Camacho Roberts reply

    This is a great idea and I’ve already suggested it to my soon to be married clients for my first wedding.

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