what is a first look

Wedding Day Breakdown: First Looks

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

Welcome to the second installment of the Wedding Day Breakdown series, where we’ll be giving in-depth descriptions, analyses, and advice regarding different portions of a wedding day. Today we’ll be answering the question: what is a first look?

You can view the other installments as they come available here:

Getting Ready | First Looks | Ceremony | Portraits | Cocktail Hour | Reception | Timeline Planning | What Needs to Be Photographed | Breaking all the Rules

Wedding Day Breakdown: First Look


The first look is a modern wedding trend that gives the couple the opportunity to see each other for the first time before the ceremony. This is usually done just between the two of you (and often your photo/video team). It’s often followed up with some light portraiture. But really, the purpose is to just get to see each other, relieve your nerves, and have a few embraces before you get married. A first look can have a lot of benefits – reduced anxiety, extra time with your person, etc. Whether or not to do one is a personal decision that nobody should pressure you into or out of.

First looks also don’t just have to be for spouses. They can be had between wedding party members, parents, dogs, children, anybody. If you’re excited for anyone in particular to see you dressed up, you could choose to have a first look with them. It doesn’t need to be a big hurrah. It can be as simple as coming around a corner, or a loved one entering a room.


1. There are timeline logistics that work well both with and without a first look

There’s a huge push from vendors in the last few years for couples to do first looks, and this is a decision that you should not be coerced into. Don’t feel like any other aspect of your timeline is going to force you into a first look – we’ll work with your decision regardless. Consider this instead: will seeing them before our ceremony help ease my nerves? Would it give us time to do something else, like get a drink or pray? Is there something we’d rather do together that morning, than apart? These are questions that are better suited to decide if a first look would benefit you logistically.

2. How the experience is for you will heavily depend on what you do before it.

If you’re coming from a rushed environment, your reaction during a first look would be different than that if you just read a love letter from your partner. So if the first look is a really important moment to you two as a couple, considering doing small acts/tokens of love beforehand, however those look for you.

It’s important to note that the same thing is true of your partner – if your partner isn’t normally an expressive person, they probably won’t have the wild, mouth-covering, eye-watering first look expression that you see in viral photographs (most of which, are faked).

3. Remember that this moment is entirely yours

Whether you choose to share it just between you or in front of all your ceremony attendees, remember that this isn’t just a checkmark on your to-do list on your wedding day. This also means that the reactions (huge or small) will also be yours. You don’t need to put on a show for anybody, or do anything you wouldn’t normally do. You are greeting your person which you’ve done a thousand times – and this moment needs to be only that again. It doesn’t matter if you feel all your feels internally or externally. The first look does not define your relationship.

Are you choosing to have a first look with anybody? Did you have one at your wedding? Share the experience below!


Hey! I'm Makayla, a wedding photojournalist based in Duluth, MN and Saint Paul, MN. 

I believe that stories are best told untouched, undirected, and with intentionality and meaning.

This blog is a space to share advice for couples about weddings, advice for photographers about witnessing events with intention, and steps to create decisions based on your values and what matters most to you.

Grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and let's get to know each other.


The Autumn Dog Studio

Makayla of

explore the categories:






this post is part of a limited series:


you said:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *