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The Art of the First Look | Snohomish County Wedding Photographer

When we’re hired to photograph weddings, one of the first things we talk about is whether or not they want a “First Look”.


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This “newer” trend in weddings is rising in popularity, and not just from a photographers stand point. Many of the “traditions” from the past are heading out the window – from first dances to garter tosses, couples are looking for more unique ways to make their day personal, intimate and a story of their love.

Still, we find many brides – and grooms – torn on the subject. With a tradition so deeply rooted in superstition, who can blame them? I will tell you though, over half of our couples opt for a First Look… so it’s definitely not something you should feel guilty about wanting.

Also, did you know the origin of this tradition? In the time of arranged marriages, when the couples had never before met, this started… and it was due to the fear that the groom would see the bride and no longer want to get married!

Having done a first look myself, I usually try to encourage my brides to do the same. And not because of the amazing moments it allows the photographer to capture, but because of the amazing moments it allows you to capture with your soon-to-be spouse on a day filled with so many other things and people.

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, we talked about the first look. What we really wanted the day to be about was experiencing the love between us… well, between us. Having both been married before, we knew all too well how quickly the day would become a social whirlwind we’d barely remember once the ceremony started. We knew how much we wanted time on this day, this precious day we’d planned so hard for, to truly just be us. To look at eachother and know that in a few short hours, we would be married.

Many of our brides express to us the concern that the walk down the aisle won’t be as special, because he’s already seen her. I’ll address that fear in just a few minutes … but first, I want to walk you through the art of that first look.

When we orchestrate this moment for our couples, we realize the powerful emotions that will be present. We set the groom in his waiting spot, and then we set the bride. This is one of the main reasons that all of our weddings include a second shooter – you both deserve to relive that moment over again for the rest of your life.

Once you’re both in place, we tell the bride to start walking, slowly, and then we have the groom turn around. We have special, long length lenses to capture these moments – we don’t want to ruin them with our presence (which is also why we don’t allow anyone else to be around, either).

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We stay in the shadows for a bit, and let you soak each-other in. Most often, because you’re alone, your fiance will be able to show his (and her!) true emotions. This is when the tears happen, the overwhelming awe, the outright yelps of happiness. You just can’t get that at an altar surrounded by hundreds of friends.

To us, this is an art. This is a moment that can’t be controlled – and it shouldn’t be. This is the first time on the day of your wedding that you’re seeing the person you’re choosing to spend the rest of your life with. The one whose ring will soon be on your finger, the one who you will, after this day, be calling your husband/wife. Shouldn’t it be just a little sacred, just a little private?

Some of our brides are concerned that this will ruin the moment as they come down the aisle. We have done weddings with first looks, and ones without – and heard from grooms on both sides.

Often, they’re so thankful to have had those moments with their bride before-hand, and found that seeing her walk towards him, to the music, was much like watching a very emotional part in a movie. With the right soundtrack, every feeling can be enhanced – especially the one of “this is real, and I’m about to be married to that gorgeous amazing lady”. Rest your fears ladies, if anything, having those few moments alone with you before all the rush and party only amplifies those emotions – it doesn’t diminish them.

Now, of course, from a photographers stand point – the non-emotional reasons to have a First Look:

1. A few minutes of calm = better photos. You will get images of each-other that are truly alone, with no obligations that are pressing, while you are relaxed and happy.

2. Time. The additional time allows for beautiful portraits together that otherwise cannot usually be taken. Once your party is in full swing, you won’t want to leave your guests very long.

3. Better control over the lighting for your photos. Sunset ceremony and no first look? Absolute darkness for your portraits.

4. We want you. I know that sounds creepy, but seriously, you hired us. We want to take photos of you. The First Look gives us more time to do that and more time with you. Selfish? Eh, kind of… but not for the reasons you might think.


Let us know, are you considering a First Look, or did you have one when you got married? How did you make your decision?

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