Having a first look can be an amazing part of your wedding day! If you aren't sure about this tradition, this blog will explain why it could be a great fit for your day!

The First Look Option

Imagine this. It's your wedding day. You're nervous. The only person who can make you calm can't see you because of an old tradition. The first time you get to see them is in front of 200 people where you'll commit the rest of your lives to one another. Now you're even more nervous? The moment is here, and with sweaty hands and a heart racing 100 miles per hour, you step out and see them for the first time. The moment is thrilling and emotional. And when you get to the front, you are so happy to see them that you wish you would have spent even more time with them because you're realizing that your nerves are starting to settle. But the ceremony is going on. You can't really talk to one another, or kiss, or really embrace, or do anything. You're stuck for the next 30 minutes waiting to embrace each other and you can't wait to just be yourselves.

The First Look

The first look is a new tradition involving a one-on-one photo session between the wedding couple where you get the opportunity to see each other for the first time prior to the ceremony. Not only does this allow for some special moments and emotional images but also has many logistical benefits as explained below.


An Intimate Moment

When you share a first look you'll actually get time to be alone together. You can hug, kiss, relax, talk, and share your excitement with one another. What a lot of people don't realize is that the down-the-aisle moment carries just as much weight regardless of if you share a first look or not. The difference comes in the fact that you've already spent so much time together that you've already been able to catch up on the emotions from the day.

More Photos!

You're going to have your wedding photos for the rest of your life and you won't get a do-over on your actual day - so don't you want to have as many photos as possible? Well, sharing in a first look means that you'll actually get a lot more photos because we'll have an ample amount of time for portraits! This includes your couple portraits, wedding party portraits, and family photos (if you choose to do them all before the ceremony). Without a first look, we may end up rushing to get through everything, and that's assuming everything runs on schedule and isn't behind! These are photos that are going to be hanging in your home! The more time we have, the more beautiful images we'll capture together. For more information on scheduling and how long these kinds of things take, view my Scheduling Blog linked here.


You get rid of your nerves! I’d say, literally half of my couples who have decided to do a first look, the grooms were not fans of it at first. However, because they have never experienced their wedding day before, they didn’t know how nerve-racking it can be. Many grooms who initially weren’t a fan of the first look admit that it allowed them to be so much more relaxed for the ceremony!


With the photos taken prior to the ceremony, you have all the time after free to actually mingle with your guests during cocktail hour and take in the day!  How great is that!?


Since it gets dark out much earlier, it may be too dark to take images after the ceremony. The First Looks is a great solution to this if you prefer outdoor images (I know do!)



First looks usually occur mid-day when the light is quite harsh given it’s a sunny day. But no need to worry, we will stick to the shade! Also, I always recommend taking out 20 minutes or so in the evening to have a little golden hour couple session

Venue Restrictions

Some venues will host more than one wedding on the same day and thus do not allow you to arrive on the property to take pictures before the ceremony. This is common at Ancaster Mill in Hamilton for example. If you are interested in having a first look I always recommend checking in with your venue to confirm you will have access ahead of time. If not, I recommend considering having a first look at another location, which I am of course happy to help you select.


Since more time is set aside solely for photography rather than running in parallel with the cocktail hour, everyone will typically have to get ready earlier in the day.

The Traditional Option

Keeping it Classic

With the Traditional Option, you do not see your partner before the ceremony, instead, the grand reveal happens at the start of the ceremony. A First Look isn't for everyone - and that's ok! It's your day and you make the calls! But if you're still not sure, I have provided some pros and cons of the traditional timeline option below.



Maybe you have always dreamed of your fiancé seeing you for the first time as you walk down the aisle. That’s totally awesome – the traditional timeline is definitely for you!


Generally, outdoor lighting is nicer as the day nears closer to sunset. The opium lighting is of course Golden Hour (which you may be familiar with from the engagement session!) which is the hour before sunset when the light is soft and warm. Depending on the time of year, the light may be better after the ceremony versus earlier in the day after a first look. If you want to be sure for your wedding date check out: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/canada/hamilton 

Early Ceremony

If you prefer having an earlier ceremony (or maybe this is the only option available at your venue) a first look doesn't have the same logistical benefit. This is because there would be a gap in the day after the ceremony and before cocktail hour no matter what. With a ceremony start time around 12:00 or 1:00 PM, there is typically plenty of time afterwards for photos. The only thing to keep in mind with this option is that it may be awkward for guests that won't have anything to do during this period.



Depending on your wedding, there may only be enough time for about 1 hour of photos in the time between the ceremony and reception. This means that family formals, wedding party, and your portrait sessions all have to happen in that 1 hour. This is can be doable, but keep in mind there may be less time to get lots of different variations of images.


Wedding Party Photos and Couple Portraits typically take place at the same time as the cocktail hour. This leaves you little time to mingle with guests and enjoy the cocktail hour yourself. If you have a second photographer, they can still capture your guests during this time.


I have seen time and again the benefits of a first look and the way it calms the nerves of the couple and allows them to spend more time together. It means the excitement of seeing each other for the first time can carry right over into portraits and can make real smiles, laughter, and other emotions more genuine. Of course, I never require a first look, but it is my job as a wedding photographer to help provide you with what I think might make your day run the smoothest and help you have the best wedding day ever! So in most cases, I do like to recommend having a first look. However, definitely reach out to me and I would be happy to make custom recommendations based on your situation.

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