Top 5 Reasons To Include A First Look In Your Wedding Day


So what is ‘a first look’ and why should you consider it in your wedding day?

The moment when the groom sees his bride for the first time on their wedding day is almost always an emotional one, full of surprised faces and plenty of hugs and happy tears.

In Australia, the first time a groom sees his bride on the wedding day is almost always at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. It is almost strange that something so intimate is done in public, but that has been what tradition has dictated. In Australia, where it can often be a sign of weakness for a man to show raw emotion (such as tears) in public (particularly in front of his mates) it is ironic that a First Look is not common.

Bride and groom get married at school chapel with reception at Berowa Waters

Bride and groom get married at school chapel with reception at Berowa Waters


SOhlsen_Woodland Wedding_Mount Keira_Wollongong-292

The guests often see the bride before the groom. This groom tries to catch a glimpse of his bride prior to his guests with no success.

So What Is a First Look?

A First Look is when the wedding photographer organises for the bride and groom to meet prior to the wedding ceremony. As a bit of a traditionalist I was horrified when I first had this suggested to me. I always thought one of the most special moments on the wedding day was watching the groom’s face when he first sees his bride walking down the aisle. What I had not considered was the lack of intimacy of the situation.

The groom waits nervously for his bride during their First Look’.

The groom waits nervously for his bride during their First Look’.

His bride appears and surprises him gaining a natural flood of emotions that is then captured by the photographer. This becomes their special moment where they can enjoy each other’s company and reconnect before an often hectic event.

SOhlsen_Henderson Wedding_Mount Dandenong-27

This groom was overwhelmed with emotion


SOhlsen_Henderson Wedding_Mount Dandenong-27

Displays of this kind of emotion are touching to watch and document for a couple.

During this period the photographer will often take the opportunity to get a number of candid and more formal shots of just the bride and groom.

I first became interested in the concept of offering a First Look to my couples when a friend that had just got married said it was the best decision on her wedding day. Intrigued by this statement, I explored her reasons for choosing to do a First Look. Her responses were surprising and quite heartwarming. I could see the practical reasons for a First Look, but as weddings are emotional events it was her the first reason (see below) that touched my heart and opened my mind.

Top 5 Reasons for a First Look

1. The only intimate time to spend with your partner on your wedding day.

This is the time for the bride and groom to connect prior to the ceremony. Nobody else to try to look after, just time for them to reconnect before they need to share the rest of the day with their friends and family. Rather than taking away from the walking down the aisle moment (or a traditional first look), which is shared with their closest 100 or so friends and family, this First Look adds to a special moment into the bride and groom’s day. Every couple that I have had the pleasure of organising a First Look for have commented that it added a special moment to their day, and often enhanced the experience of seeing each other at the aisle.

Lord Howe Island Wedding

First Look before the wedding in secluded cemetary on Lord Howe Island

“We were able to connect with each other, calmly and in private, after all the preparations had been done but before the public part of the day was about to begin. It made me much less anxious and worried about how the rest of the day would go, so I was actually able to enjoy the ceremony itself much more than I otherwise would.” – Damien Maurice

2. Allows time for the bride and groom to get comfortable with the photographer and also with having their photos taken.

Erin, a recent bride that I interviewed stated her groom was more nervous about having his photo taken than of being married. I was shocked to hear that having one’s photo taken could cause that amount of stress. Her now husband was so relieved after their First Look because he was able to interact with their photographers and began to relax into the process of having their every movement captured.

Samantha-Ohlsen-Photography-Naulu Mosman Wedding

This groom was much more relaxed following his First Look at a secluded spot in a cemetery in Sydney

3. A chance to relax

A time to stop and breathe. In the lead up to the wedding there is usually so many things to do and not enough time to do them. Stress levels often prevent the bridal couple from truly enjoying their wedding day.
As a guest at friends wedding I was amazed at how calm she looked, in fact she was the most relaxed bride I have ever seen. Whilst her personality certainly contributed, she stated that it was due to having a First Look that allowed her to slow down and enjoy her day. She also told me a story of a wedding she had attended where the photographer was desperately trying to fit the wedding photos in prior to the commencement of the reception dinner, adding to the overall stress of the day.

Samantha Ohlsen Lord Howe Island Wedding

First Look before the wedding in secluded cemetary on Lord Howe Island

“The First Look gave us the time to relax and calm each other prior to the ceremony itself, and made the rest of the day much more enjoyable.” – Damien Maurice

4. More time with your guests after the ceremony.

Not only are bridal couples more relaxed having done a lot of their formal photos prior to the ceremony, it also allows them more time to spend with their guests after the wedding.

The Henderson’s ended their sunset wedding ceremony on the top of Mount Dandenong, followed by one formal whole guest photo. They then went immediately into their reception with their guests and no need for any more formal photos with their photography team. This allowed them far more time to spend with their guests.

5. More wedding photos.

Lastly the bridal couple is typically provided with more wedding photos to choose from if they do a First Look.  Due to the more relaxed environment and setting, usually the photographer can gain more candid and intimate moments between the bride and groom.

All those advantages made me allocate time in each of my wedding packages for couples to choose to have a First Look. The reasons on my part were simple. I am able to catch some lovely candid moments with the bridal couple and they were able to be more relaxed during the day adding to the overall experience of the day. Some couples have also elect to do some of their family and/or bridal party formal photos just after their first look.

Bride and groom get married at school chapel with reception at Berowa Waters

Nicole was able to have photos with her Mum prior to the ceremony that otherwise would not have been possible due to her Mum’s poor health.

Nicole’s Mum had been granted a day release from hospital to attend her daughter’s wedding. Her Mum was confined to a wheelchair for most of the day. The photos that our team were able to capture just after Nicole’s First Look became their favourite family photos as her Mum was able to stand for short periods without a wheelchair to get some family photos.

Bride and groom get married at school chapel with reception at Berowa Waters

Nicole and Jason decided to get a lot of the family photos out of the way prior to the ceremony.

It was raining on the day of the wedding, but the location that Sam had chosen for our First Look had a ideal spot for some photos out of the rain. This allowed us to get photos with our bridal party and family that would not have been possible later in the day after the wedding.” – Nicole Eyles

“It is a moment I will treasure as I got time with Damien, alone, before the ceremony and reception, which I would not have had otherwise. It really is such a fantastic idea and I love the photos from that section of the day. Some of my favourite photos that you took, are from those moments.” – Kristen Carroll

Naulu Mosman Wedding

Bill and Joanne decided to have their First Look at a Sydney cemetery, so that Joanne could lay flowers on her brother and father’s grave prior to the ceremony.

“Getting photos of the two of us when my hair and makeup was still fresh is the biggest practical benefit. I didn’t realise how exhausting the ceremony and the aftermath can really be.” – Joanne Paul

Final Words

As a traditionalist I never thought that I would ever consider it for my wedding. If you are like me (a bit of a traditionalist but have an open mind) check out the in depth blog series of three couples that I interviewed.

This series covers their personal experiences with:

  • What they thought about the concept of a First Look when it was first suggested
  • What concerns they had prior to deciding if they wanted a First Look
  • Why they decided to have a First Look
  • The experience of the moment
  • Advice for other couples considering a First Look
Kirsten & DamienNicole & JasonJoanne & Bill

Having now been privileged to be a part of a number of First Look’s with my bridal couples, I would now make it a priority into my personal wedding day planning. I can honestly say, as a wedding photographer I consider it such a privilege to witness and document this private moment for a couple. I can now say it is my favourite part of the wedding day as I witness some of the most moving special moments between a couple.

In the end the choice to do a First Look is a very personal one. This is a decision for you and your fiancé to make. Some couples who choose a First Look tell their families, others don’t, and some tell them after the wedding. My only advice is to look at the option of having a First Look with all the facts and discussing it with one another. Only you can decide if it is the right choice for your wedding day.

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