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  • Writer's pictureRachel Z

Why You Should Do a First Look

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Couple doing first looks while holding hands in woods
Photo by Rachel Z Photography at Berkeley Botanical Gardens, Ca

First Looks on wedding days is a topic I get asked about a lot, so today I’m going to address the frequently asked, sometimes controversial topic of First Looks. Here is a look at why you should do a first look from Rachel Z Photography!

Breaking Down a First Look

First, you should know that I actually don’t always think a First Look is essential (more on that in a bit!) but with venue weddings being so popular nowadays, First Looks are often recommended if you want to get the most out of your wedding photography. For those of you who aren’t sure what a First Look is, I’ll start with a brief explanation. Traditionally, a groom would see his bride for the first time as she walked down the aisle at the start of the wedding ceremony. However, the term First Look now refers to the private moment when the bride and groom see each other for the first time *before* their ceremony. There are many reasons couples often opt for a First Look but the First Look is essential if one of the three reasons below applies to you.

  1. You are having your reception directly following your ceremony at the same venue. In this situation, if your ceremony is at 5:30pm, your cocktail hour is from 6pm – 7pm, and your reception is from 7pm – 11pm, then the only time for portraits if you *don’t* do a First Look would be during cocktail hour. This means that you’ll miss your entire cocktail hour to take family formals, bridal party photos, and bride/groom photos. This also means that your family and bridal party will miss a sizeable portion of the cocktail hour, too. And since you’ll need to end the portrait session early to bustle your dress, you’ll have fewer portraits in your wedding gallery.

  2. There is a long drive between the ceremony’s location and the reception venue. If this is the case again, a First Look is essential so that you can get right to cocktail hour as soon as you arrive at the reception venue.

  3. You are getting married in the late fall, winter, or early spring when the days are shorter. The first thing I do when creating a wedding day timeline is check the sunset time on your wedding day. If the sun will set by the time your ceremony starts, then it will be too late after the ceremony to get any natural light photos of you, your bridal party, and your family.

Now, what if none of these reasons apply to you? Should you still consider a First Look? It depends. A First Look is actually not always advisable. Below is when a First Look simply doesn’t make sense.

When not to do a First Look

You are having a church ceremony and you have allotted plenty of driving time, wiggle room, and two hours of portrait time during daylight hours between the ceremony and reception for family, bridal party, and bride/groom photos. Here, it would be better to have a leisurely morning getting ready with your bridal party and leaving all the formal portrait sessions for after the ceremony.

About Rachel Z Photography

I’m a 30-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, activist, tattoo enthusiast, and guardian of 2 lovely rescued birds. I adore doing portrait photography for others, whether that’s indoors or outdoors, covered in flowers and nature or covered in fake blood. My goal with my photography is to empower you by taking the essence of who you are and turning it into works of art. I want to hear what YOUR ideas are and help make them into a reality. I want you to feel powerful. I want you to feel beautiful. I want you to feel confident, because we all deserve that.

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