6 Pros and Cons of Having a First Look (Plus 3 Compromises)

Contemplating a first look? We'll help you decide whether to get an early glimpse or save that magic moment for the altar.
by Ivy Jacobson and Alyssa Longobucco

More couples are doing first looks—45 percent, to be exact, according to The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study. Although nearly half of couples decide to sneak a peek at each other before walking down the aisle, the choice usually comes after a fair amount of deliberation. So what's the best decision for you? Here, six pros and cons of doing a first look, plus three compromise options if you and your partner are having a hard time agreeing.

1. Pro: You save time by taking the bulk of your photos together before the ceremony.

Pair your first look with couple portraits (and wedding party shots) before your ceremony to translate that romantic feeling in photos and free up more time to enjoy cocktail hour with guests. Just make sure that whatever secluded spot you choose, it's one that's away from any guests to prevent them from seeing you.

2. Con: You lose having that special moment at the altar.

Delaying that first moment seeing each other builds suspense, adds emotion to your ceremony and gives a nod to tradition. "Plenty of couples forgo a first look," says Jana Williams, owner of Jana Williams Photography in California. "Just make sure there’s enough time after 'I do' to take portraits." Work with your photographer to perfect your postceremony timeline. That may mean you need to skip out on some of your cocktail hour to score shots during golden hour or sneak in family portraits.  

3. Pro: A first look could ease any nerves before the ceremony. 

If you're an especially emotional person, or you know you're going to be jittery or nervous, a preceremony glimpse may be the way to go. "I always suggest a first look—it eases nerves, allows couples to focus during the ceremony and is a great way to capture an intimate moment," says Judy Pak, owner of Judy Pak Studio in New York City. Besides doing your first look photos, you can also maximize this time to sneak in a few moments alone with each other that you may not get later on. 

4. Con: Your first look could make you more nervous, since your photographer and videographer will be closeby (and wedding party may be too).

Make it clear to your photographer and videographer ahead of time what you're envisioning for your first look. If both of you are on the introverted side, it may feel awkward if you think the expectation is to make a shocked face or cry—you could clam up and be more reserved than you thought in front of the camera. A good solve is to have photos and video taken from further away so you can still be in the moment with your partner and say what you want without anyone hearing. You can also tell your wedding party you're having a private first look in case they were hoping for a peek.  

5. Pro: If you're worried about crying at the altar, you can get your tears out of the way before. 

It's every bride's dream not to sob at the altar with mascara all over her face (one glistening tear hardly ever happens), so if you know you'll likely turn on the waterworks during the ceremony, a first look could help get some of your feelings out beforehand. Your first look photos will be that much more emotional and moving, and you'll have plenty of time for makeup touch-ups before the ceremony. 

6. Con: You have to get up earlier.

Taking photos earlier means you and your wedding party need to get up earlier to eat, have hair and makeup done and get dressed. If you're having an 11 a.m. brunch wedding, that means you may have to get up at the crack of dawn to be able to do your first look. If you dread the idea of getting up any earlier than you have to, night owls may think twice about this.

And if you and your partner just can't agree:

Here are three compromises worth considering. 

Do a first read and/or a first touch like the couple in the video below did, and like this couple did.


You could also do your first look sans veil or other accessories to not give away the whole look, then put it on before your ceremony as a sweet surprise for your partner.


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