The "First Look" | JNP Wedding Photography - Jennifer Newberry Photography Blog
Jan 162012

The 2012 wedding season starting, so I thought I would talk about something that I discuss with couples about their big day. Every wedding is different, and because of that, I like to talk to clients about what they envision their wedding day will be like. More and more couples are realizing how important wedding photos are, and how important it is to allow enough time for these photos.

What is a First Look?

Text below is from Wedding Market News

Traditionally, the bride and groom do not see each other before their ceremony. A lot of couples have been breaking this tradition, as so many people are realizing how important time management is in regards to their wedding. It’s always been common practice to take family formals immediately after the ceremony, then move right into the most important part of the day, the portraits. The portraits are the most important part of the day because these are the photos that you are going to be hanging on your wall, putting in your wedding album, sending to friends, uploading to Facebook and setting as your desktop wallpaper. What usually ends up happening is the portraits get rushed because they are taken during the 60 minute cocktail hour and have to be taken after the family photos. Understandably, the family wants to congratulate the newly married couple, which eats into the time allotted and giving the photographer even less time to spend with the couple.

Taking photos before the ceremony changes all of that and in my opinion, gives our clients even higher quality photographs. I always suggest starting photos before the ceremony with a First Look session. This is 10-15 minutes that we can spend with the couple as they lay eyes on each other for the first time on their big day. After the first look is completed, we suggest doing some group photos with all the bridal party. Getting the bridal party shots done frees up more time for us to spend with the couple, and keeps the bridal party from getting bored! The time set aside for bridal portraits is when we get to become really creative with the couple and our surroundings and not having to rush to get to a reception helps us get you the photos you want. Having the portraits taken before allows us to only have to take the family photos during your cocktail hour, and since most family photos can be done in 20-30 minutes, you’ll be left with plenty of time to relax, mingle with guests or even bustle up your dress.

If you’re still unsure about a first look photo session, here’s some pros and cons we’ve come up with that will hopefully help you in your decision:


  • You will be able to really take in the excitement of seeing each other for the first time and enjoy some quiet moments alone with each other. You’ll be able to smile, laugh, cry, dance, etc
  • Most women cry when they see their fiance at the end of the aisle, giving them less-than-perfect makeup for all the photos taken during the ceremony
  • Amazing photographs full of genuine emotion shared by you and your soon-to-be spouse will be captured
  • You’ll have more time for mingling at your cocktail hour/reception
  • You and your spouse won’t be rushed
  • Your wedding photographers won’t be rushed


  • A first look session could take away the suspense and anticipation when you first see each other down the aisle
  • If your family is very traditional, seeing your fiancee pre-ceremony may upset them

With so many modern brides taking their fiances with to do dress shopping, it’s not uncommon for a couple to also opt to do photos before the ceremony.

A first look I did this past August.
first look

From a Bride’s Point-of-View

A fellow-photographer I know recently got married, and I asked her about her decision to do the First Look. Here is what she said.

“My name is Sarah and I am a Calgary-based wedding photographer. I am also a newlywed. Choosing to do the “first look” at my own wedding wasn’t a difficult decision. You see, I have been lucky enough to base my decision on first hand research. During my consults with potential clients, the “first look” option is quite the hot topic. I am adamant against being pushy on this subject as I have found that couples have very strong opinions about it on both sides of the spectrum. But since this is my story I am going to be completely honest. For me, the “moment” was paramount: that moment being the one where my future husband would see me for the first time. And so I needed this moment in history documented to it’s greatest ability. I needed this moment to be intimate and special. I needed it to be shared with him, alone. Just the two of us. I wanted to hug him, kiss him, hold his hand, look into his eyes, tell him how much I love him, tell him how good he looks and I wanted to relieve his nervousness by being together. I needed the moment to last as long as I wanted. In other words, I wanted our moment spent together, photographed beautifully to last forever, on our own terms: certainly not determined by the ceremony or the officiant. In addition to the documentation aspect, I also knew how nervous and anxious my fiancé gets in front of people. Looking at our first glance series, seeing the expression on our faces, our pure joy/relief/excitement, I can say with 100% certainty that those feelings would not have translated to that extent, if left to coming down the aisle. The expression would have been subdued and downplayed due to the magnitude of the event, the long build up and being surrounded by our guests. The moment would be fleeting, quickly and abruptly ended and replaced with the start of the ceremony.

Aside from the “moment” and its importance to us, we also wanted our day to flow. We wanted to be with our guests as long as possible, after all, most had traveled to be there with us, as our wedding was in Scotland. The first glance and creatives prior to the ceremony afforded us a lot of time to get the shots we needed without worrying about a long break in between the ceremony and reception. In fact, one of the best parts of the day (besides of course marrying the love of my life) was sipping champagne on the lawn after the ceremony with all our guests and hugging each and every person in attendance.

I will never push my clients toward or away from the first glance as there are pros and cons to every situation and as mentioned before, some couples do not even want to hear about it. I would be remiss on this issue if I didn’t mention the cons: I was much much more cautious and anxious about my hair, makeup and dress. If there is bad weather on your day, there is more potential for someone to get dirty, thus upping the stress factor. I find that when the creatives are done after the ceremony, there is a definite relief about appearance and I do see a little more relaxation from everyone. However, with planning ahead and leaving buffer time for touch ups of hair/makeup, stress can be alienated quite substantially.

If tradition is important to you, steer clear of the First Look. However, if you dream of the “moment” and can’t wait to see the look on his face when he sees you, I urge you to consider the magic and intimacy that is the First Look.”

Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience! 🙂

  8 Responses to “The “First Look” | JNP Wedding Photography”

Comments (2) Pingbacks (6)
  1. so glad you posted this 🙂 I wish we would have done that at our wedding!

  2. This is an awesome read! Thanks for posting it!

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