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First Looks: Pros, Cons & Alternatives in 2021, A Guide For The Planning Bride

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Bride and Groom during Frist Look, summer wedding at maple lane pavilion in Arcadia, IN

Quick Links Pros | Cons | Alternatives

So you’ve officially dove into wedding planning, huh Sis?


...And now as you start collecting ideas, dreaming about wearing the dress and starting to think about timelines – the question pops up. Should we do a first look?

If you’re the main force planning your wedding, which I’m guessing you are since you're here, I bet your SO's (significant other) response sounded something like “huh?” or “what? I thought it as a down the aisle thing" -- grooms. Pshhh. 🤣

But I hear ya, it’s a big question that only you two can really answer. There’s a lot of pros and cons that one could argue – and even better, some alternatives options for those who don’t find themselves strongly on one side or the other of the coin. So here’s some things to think about as you dream up the big day and whether or not a first look is in – or out.

First Look: Why You Should Do One


There are several great arguments in favor of first-look moments, some of the most popular include:

  • You're Engaged To An Introverted, Private or Shy Brides/Grooms

Although pretty obvious, this factor is often overlooked by brides in a hurry to plan their weddings. If you or your spouse-to-be is a more private person when it comes to PDA/showing affection -OR- is simply more introverted or shy, this is a great way to take the “pressure” off that big moment, by keeping it private with just the two of you and your photographer present.

I, myself, didn’t like the idea of everyone staring at me coming down the aisle at the same time Justin was going to be seeing me the first time too – it all just felt like too much. So we decided to opt for a semi-private first look, where our bridal party was able to watch from a distance, but if felt as though he and I were tucked away for a completely private moment together, before the hub-bub of the day really took off.

Take our groom, here. He's an AWESOME guy, funny as all heck but he's not into PDA... So when it came to their wedding day, his bride, really wanted them to have a moment the day of their wedding where he could let his guard down and it just be them for a moment. And she was totally spot on -- as we were even able to capture that catch in his throat -- and hers in images 2 & 3.

  • Logistics Planning & Timeline Flexibility

Think about it... keeping the bride and groom separate the day of the wedding can definitely be a challenge, depending on the layout of your wedding venue. Some venues are full service, offering grooms quarters to dress in as well as a bridal suite for the ladies to get ready in. Other times the guys get ready off site and arrive before the ceremony as the ladies get ready on site. So the sooner the couple sees each other the less “hiding out” and best man/maid of honor coordination that has to occur to keep the line of sight blocked.

Another logistical plus is that it allows the couple to typically shoot in an additional locations, making for more dynamic wedding portraits. This can help create the feeling of better story telling of the over the course of the all day, when a gallery is delivered as it can greatly allow for diversification in the final product.

  • Creates Opportunity for more COUPLES photography

In addition to offering better logistics, in terms of location options, by opting to include a “first look” in your wedding timeline, you also create the opportunity for MORE overall photography of just you two as a couple. It also allows you to start shooting those join photos earlier in the day while you’re makeup is fresh – as opposed to after the ceremony when tears might have messed up your make up, his feet might be tired of wearing these “damn dress shoes” or any other number of factors that can pop up as the day goes on.

Basically – the earlier in the day you set eyes on each other the fresher you’ll look in couples portraits, the more options you’ll have for your overall timeline of events and the more likely you both will be enthusiastic (and not tired or have sore feet) when it comes to those stunning shots of the two of you alone… which after all, is really what you’re after. Right?

The Cons of A First Look On Your Wedding Day


But I mean let’s face it – there are some down sides too. So let’s just dive right in.

  • Not the classic aisle moment

First and fore-most, every little girl dreams of walking down the aisle and the look that she hopes for on her SO’s face when they see them for the first time.

  • Family Traditions

A lot of quirky and weird things pop up when your family finds out your engaged and planning a wedding. Have you found this out yet? Oh girl… if not, just wait for it – it’s coming! But to put it simply, some families have superstitions/traditions/expectations when it comes to your wedding. As the bride, you’ll have to weigh how strongly you want these things to be factored into your decision.

  • Religious or Cultural Expectations

Those brides with strong cultural or religious roots should check with their officiant and/or elders to understand how these things may be a factor when considering a first look before the wedding ceremony. Although, not always applicable, you and your SO will have to decide if this is something that needs exploring before finalizing your overall timeline for the day.

Modern Day Alternatives For The Classic "First Look"


As with every other area of wedding planning, couples today don’t think twice before customizing pieces of their day to create exactly what they’re dreaming off. This is where fun first look alternatives really get to shine!

  • Corner Hand Holding

Corner hand holding is basically what it sounds like. The couple is placed back to back on a corner, allowing them to hold hands. Sometimes a blessing is said over the couple as they hold hands, by their officiant.

Another similar option is to place a structure, such as a tree, between the couple as they stand back to back holding hands. They then take turns reading private letters to each other or personalized vows to each other. This is also a great option if you opt to use a videographer as well!

  • Bride’s First Look with Dad, Grandpa or Other Important Figure

Maybe there is another special someone in your life that you want to have a private moment with before the ceremony? For those brides who are 100% on that “down the aisle” moment, another great memory to add to the day is a quiet first look with Dad, Grandpa, Brother or whom ever you’ve chosen to walk you down the aisle.

This could also be Mom, Sister or Grandma (etc) if they weren’t apart of the bride getting ready (and wasn’t present during dress shopping). It’s creates a great extra sentimental touch for those looking to have a special moment with someone important.

first look with dad on your wedding day, first look alternatives, make the most of your wedding budget with these tips

So there you have it...


The pros, cons and alternatives to planning a First Look for your wedding in 2021! As you work through the list consider which items may offer you the best value or overall vibe you had in mind for your nuptials. Every bride, family and wedding is different. Don’t be afraid to shine! If you’ve got another idea – go for it & be sure to tell us about it too! We’d love to hear about what you came up with.

central Indiana & traveling wedding photographer

Until next time Sis. Cheers! Xo -c


Hey You... Let's Be Friends, K?!

Hey there - I'm Chelsea! A coffee worshiping Hoosier native, just trying to raise a kiddo and capture vivid memories in central IN for my families & brides. To see more of our work, make sure to FOLLOW us on Facebook and Instagram & sign up for our VIP club to get first dibs on session release dates!

Curious about me? It's all right here. Dive into my story of how I flushed my comfortable Fortune 500 Marketing Career to take on the life of a SMB owner at HashTag Memories Photography.

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