A wedding first look where the bride walks behind the groom at Villa del sol d'Oro

By Sun & Sparrow

Weddings have come a long way over the years, and the Wedding First Look appears to be a fairly new development. There are tons of things to consider when planning a wedding, and so many decisions to make. Some people need to follow certain cultural traditions, while others seem happy to make things up as they go along. As long-time wedding photographers, we have seen a lot of different types of weddings, and love how all of the little details give your wedding that personal feel.

With weddings changing so much, several new events have been added to everyone’s “must haves”. I often field questions from brides asking, “Should I have a first look at my wedding?” So I decided to explain a little bit about them here to help you decide whether or not to have one. Read on to find out What a first look is, reasons to have or not have one at your wedding, and then what we recommend to our brides and grooms. Then, stick around for a treat as we share five of the cutest first looks we’ve photographed. Maybe you’ll get some good ideas for your first look!

Table of Contents

  • What is a First Look at a Wedding?
  • Five Reasons To Have A First Look At Your Wedding
  • Three Con’s Of a Wedding First Look To Consider
  • Should I Have A First Look At My Wedding? Our Opinion
  • Five Of Our Favorite First Looks
  • It’s More Than An Image, It’s An Experience!

What is a First Look at a Wedding?

A bride stands behind the groom, smiling, as he reads a note she wrote for him during their wedding at La Venta Inn The joy in this photo should be enough for anyone asking "should I have a first look at my wedding?"


While there are many articles online explaining where the wedding first look may have come from, it appears to be an invention of the modern American wedding industry, appearing somewhere between the years 2000 and 2010. If you know about first looks happening any earlier, please let us know in the comments and we’ll update this post!

During my research, I was able to find references to first looks as early as 2009, but these seem to reference them as something that had already been happening for a little bit. They probably saw a rise in popularity when digital photography got a huge boost in the early 2000s. Surprisingly, film cameras were the primary cameras used for photographing most things, through the early 2000s.

When weddings were primarily photographed in film, photographers had to be more careful about the styles they photographed and the events they chose to photograph. Film cameras are limited to the sizes of their film rolls, and a photographer couldn’t see their images until they developed them later so it was important to be precise. When the digital camera revolution really got going in the mid-2000s photographers gained the ability to experiment more and find moments for special photographs, like the first look!

Funny enough, I actually have experience seeing the first look come into vogue. I have been photographing weddings since 2008, and at the time of my first few weddings, the first look wasn’t something people were talking about, but by 2009 I had several weddings with a first look, and by my own wedding in 2013, it was a no brainer that I was going to have a one!

So what is a first look?

A first look is an event during a wedding, where the bride and groom see each other before the wedding instead of waiting for the traditional moment when they see each other for the first time when the bride is walking down the aisle. It is special and romantic and gives the couple a chance to breathe together before the wedding day really gets started.

  • It usually includes a cute moment where the bride comes up behind the groom and taps him on the shoulder. Then he turns around and they enjoy their time together
  • Often, brides and grooms get creative with their first looks, sharing notes or gifts
  • Sometimes couples choose to do parent first looks, where they spend a special moment with their parents before the ceremony.

Five Reasons To Have A First Look At Your Wedding

A bride and groom stand near one another during their first look

A First Look gives you more photo opportunities

As a wedding photographer, I’m always thinking about your wedding photos. Weddings often start pretty late in the day, which leaves a ton of time that could be spent taking couples portraits, wedding party pictures, and more. A first look slows down your day so you can feel more of your emotions and experience your day more fully.

Getting those photos at the beginning of the day also ensures you feel your best and look your best. If your dress rips or you cry your makeup away, at least you got those photos before that happened!

You get to spend more time together as a couple

With all of the hustle and bustle of wedding planning and the stresses that lead up to a wedding, your relationship can feel a bit pressed sometimes. So it is awesome that having a first look gets you precious time with your person, on your wedding day. I cannot emphasize enough how special it is to have a few moments together.

A lot of brides and grooms choose to use this time to exchange vows privately, without the pressure that comes with a ceremony. I love seeing the real emotions brides and grooms get to share during first looks. I’ll even remind a bride and groom separately that this is not a photo opp but a time to make real intimate memories. I make sure that they know this is a time to connect. I will be there to capture the moment, but the moment is honestly about them.

You get a quiet intimate moment together before everything starts moving quickly

The thing is that once the wedding really gets started it can be a blur. You start walking down the aisle, and before you know it you’ve run past the sparklers and it’s time to start living your marriage. So many brides and grooms tell me that they barely remember their wedding day, so it’s awesome to slow down for a moment with your person and just exist. Breathe in and enjoy some space before your big day!

You get to enjoy the surprise of seeing each other without the pressure and withholding that happens during your ceremony. A lot of brides and grooms tell me that the first look was their favorite moment of the entire day.

You get to go to your cocktail hour

With a traditional style first look, you see each other for the first time on your wedding day when the bride walks down the aisle. This means that any photo opportunities before the wedding have to be completely separate from each other, leaving a lot of photo sessions for the time between your ceremony and reception. If you’ve done a first look though, we can get through couples photos, wedding party, and even photos with your immediate family, leaving you with plenty of time to enjoy the cocktail hour. That means casually walking around and chit-chatting with your guests.

A First Look Can Calm You Down

My favorite reason to have a first look is that it can calm you down before your wedding. A wedding day can be full of anxiety for some people, and being with your person for a moment can be a lot less anxiety-inducing than seeing them for the first time in front of all your loved ones. Imagine spending time in each other’s arms and then embracing the rest of the wedding day together!

Three Con’s Of a Wedding First Look To Consider

A groom sees his bride

If You’re a Traditional Person, then a first look might not be for you

While it is true that many people love a first look, I have found that some of my clients can be a bit more traditional. There is nothing wrong with wanting the first time you see each other on the day to be when you are walking down the aisle. Honestly, while there are many benefits to having a first look at your wedding, at the end of the day it is still your wedding and you should enjoy it!

Sometimes we build up expectations through a lifetime of hearing about other weddings and we dream of having it a certain way. If you feel like changing that expectation will inhibit you from having a very special first look then its probably not worth having one. The whole reason people have these huge weddings is to build incredible memories!

You might want to reconsider a first look if you have a morning wedding

A morning wedding means getting up early to get ready, and the getting ready process can take a while, so there isn’t as much time before the wedding to do things like a first look. Meanwhile, there is likely plenty of time in the day for you to take all the photos you need. There is no need to force yourself into an even earlier first look because you think it will be better. Enjoy your day instead. On the other hand, sunrise first looks can be pretty romantic if you truly are morning people.

You probably don’t need a first look if you have a long time between your wedding and reception

Why hire a photographer to wait around? If there is a long space between your ceremony and your reception, then there is probably a lot of time in that space to take all of the romantic portraits you might want. First looks are a tool to free up time in your day, but if you already have that time available after the ceremony, then you might want to have your portraits at a time that has better light. Still, If you just really love those first-look moments we won’t judge you for having one anyway.

Should I Have A First Look At My Wedding? Our Opinion

A first look on a boat between a bride and groom in Palos Verdes

A first look is a wonderful, dramatic, and special event, full of anticipation and romance. There is a lot to be said about your relationship through the photographs you get in a wedding first look. Plus, time saved, and intimate moments shared with your person are irreplaceable. That’s why I always want my couples to consider having one. I absolutely love a first look, and most of my couples loved theirs too, but it’s always a matter of personal preference.

I want all of my couples to make choices that will give them their most authentic and happy day. If you put a high value on tradition, you might have a better wedding day by waiting for the ceremony to see your person. Simply put, a first look isn’t for everyone and we want you to do what is best for you. As long as you know the pros and cons of a first look for your wedding, we know that you will make the right decision.

Five Of Our Favorite First Looks

A Private And Romantic First Look Moment

A bride and groom share a first look at their wedding, above a pond

I loved this first look because it was such a dreamy, private, and romantic moment. This couple has been together since high school so it was incredible to see them finally get this experience they’ve been waiting for so long.

A Playful Moment Brings a Wave Of Joy

Four images show the progression of a silly moment during a first look, as the groom thinks he broke the bride's dress

I love that this first look was perfectly this couple. Yeri & Ian had a gorgeous La Venta Inn Wedding and they show their love for each other through silliness and playfulness. When a clip-on strap on Yeri’s dress came undone, Ian thought he had broken it, but everything was totally fine. This joyful moment was perfectly theirs and led to a wonderful wedding day!

The Joy Of Being Together

A bride and groom have their first look and she throws her arms up in excitement

This was one of the best bride reactions I’ve ever seen. It comes from Kelsey & G’s luxurious Cancun Wedding and I love that she just threw herself at him. G turned around with a look of happiness on his face and she immediately threw her hands in the air and jumped in with a hug. A lot of planning went into this whole day, and it was satisfying to see it get off to such a bubbly start.

Spending Time In Their Beautiful Connection

A first look at Storrier Stearns Japanese gardens featuring laughter and a note

This first look is from Kristen & Chris’s fairytale wedding at Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden. Kristen & Chris decided to exchange notes just before they saw each other and it was so cute! When Kristen tapped him on his shoulder and he turned around, they both started laughing. They laughed for a whole minute before they even said anything and then they just talked and admired the moment. No better way to spend some time together on your wedding day than to fully release all of those buzzing feelings from the morning together.

When You Share Your First Look With Special People

A wedding first look where the bride walks behind the groom at Villa del sol d'Oro

This first look is from Jen and Anh at Villa del Sol d’Oro. I loved this one because Jen’s daughter and sister were overlooking the first look with the other bridesmaids and they got to take it in. It was special that her daughter got to be part of it and the pictures ended up gorgeous.

It’s More Than An Image, It’s An Experience!

Whether you choose to have a first look or wait to see each other for the first time during your ceremony, your wedding is a beautiful and important time in your life, and we want to help you enjoy it! Sun & Sparrow has been photographing weddings since 2008 and has the experience you need to feel confident and free during your most important moments and events.

We focus on connecting with you so that your dreamy images come with a comfortable and fun experience to cherish forever. Let us focus on creating dreamy and magical imagery, so you can focus on your special day. We want nothing more than to tell your fairytale love story through our lenses. Contact us today to connect!

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