First Look Wedding Photos: Capturing the Magic Before ‘I Do’

December 28, 2023

By Alain Martinez

What’s a First Look?

First looks are relatively private moments where the bride and groom get a “first look” at each other in their wedding attire before the actual ceremony takes place. It’s typically a very emotional moment for the couple and usually produces some breathtaking photos. Pictures aside, it just gives the couple a beautiful moment to share with each other amongst the usual chaos of a wedding day.

© Alain Martinez

What’s the Point?

Some of you might be wondering, “Why have a first look?” It might seem like you’re just adding more to an already packed day, but a first look definitely has its benefits. 

The Moment Lasts Longer

There’s nothing quite like the feeling your clients get when they see their fiancé for the first time on their wedding day. It’s an incredibly special moment, and setting aside time for it gives your clients the opportunity to enjoy it for as long as they want. If they wait until the ceremony, the moment really only lasts from the entrance to the altar. Then boom! The wedding starts, and it’s over. With a first look, your clients get much more time to hug, hold and kiss each other while the photographer captures all of it. Then, once the two of them are ready, they can go on to take wedding and family portraits before the ceremony starts.

Some couples worry that by having a first look, they risk ruining the moment at the actual ceremony. Trust me when I say, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a couple cry at the first look and then cry again at the ceremony.

© Alain Martinez

Calm the Nerves

Wedding days can be an emotional roller-coaster. Those final moments before the ceremony begins will almost 100% leave your clients feeling stressed or flustered. By the time they make it down the aisle, they can be a giant bundle of nerves. While having a first look means an addition to an already hectic day, it can actually have a very calming effect. When the bride and groom share a moment together before the ceremony, it can help relieve so much anxiety! It’s like one deep breath of air before the final push. There’s going to be a big wave of emotion as they see each other, but once that subsides, they should start to feel more relaxed. And trust me, that relaxation definitely shows in their pictures!

© Alain Martinez

Extra Time to Touch Up for the Ceremony

Now, I wouldn’t wish this on any bride, but picture this. The couple decided to wait until the ceremony to see each other. The ceremony has started and the two of them see each other for the first time. It’s a magical moment, but it quickly becomes overwhelming and before you know it, the bride is crying. Not a few baby tears, we’re talking full blown ugly crying. She tries to wipe away the tears, but she ends up smudging her makeup. The ceremony is starting and there she is at her own wedding looking like a hot mess. Now picture the same scenario, but it’s a first look. She might still look like a hot mess, but thankfully she has another 20-25 minutes to go back and have her makeup retouched before the actual wedding starts. And like we said earlier, with most of the nerves out of her system, she’ll be so much more relaxed during the actual ceremony.

© Alain Martinez

Get Portraits Out of the Way Earlier

In most weddings, once the ceremony is over, there is a brief cocktail hour for guests while the newlyweds, bridal party, and close family have to run off to take portraits. Now, you would think this is enough time for photos to get done, but you’d be surprised at how rushed the entire process can be. Before you know it, time is up, and they have to get back to the guests at the reception. By scheduling a first look a few hours before the wedding starts, there should be ample time for the photographer to capture the moments between the newlyweds as well as the additional portraits with family and the bridal party. You know what that means? When the ceremony is over, the newlyweds get to enjoy cocktail hour with everyone else!

© Alain Martinez

First Look Client FAQ:

Q: Does a first look cost extra?
A: No, but it does add an extra hour or more to the photographer’s time.

Q: How long will it take?
A: Typically, one hour of portraits including first look.

Q: Will I have time to readjust my makeup?
A: Yes.

Q: Where do we take the pictures?
A: To be decided by photographer that day.  Game time decision.

Q: Can our families be there, too?
A: It’s recommended to be a private moment. Family can join later.

Q: Can we wear our rings for the pictures?
A: Definitely.

Q: Do we have to do family portraits after the first look, or can that wait until after the ceremony?
A: It is recommended. This way you can enjoy 100% of your cocktail hour.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on Alain Martinez’s blog. 


Alain Martinez is a luxury wedding and lifestyle photographer who has gone to more than 165 different destinations worldwide, photographing members of the royal family in the Middle East, professional athletes, and other luxury clients worldwide.

In his 2024 WPPI Photo Walk, “The Art of Unposing,” he’ll teach five techniques that lead to gorgeous wedding photos.

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