Is A First Look Right For You?

Wedding Tips & Planning

December 17, 2019

First Year
Weddings & Engagements
follow @Photographybyerinleigh
Central PA wedding photography is my specialty, but I also love following along as my couples grow their families. Since 2009 I've been honored to document over 200 weddings. Being obsessed with efficiency, organization & backup plans gives my clients peace of mind, and people like working with me because I'm fast, down-to-earth & fun - I make it easy to get amazing photos full of genuine emotion so you can get on with your day!
more categories
I'm Erin Leigh Weber.

Hey there!

Hotel Hershey
Cameron Estate Inn
Lakeview Farms
West Shore Country Club
John Wright Restaurant
The Barn at Silverstone
Moonstone Manor
Stocks Manor
Lauxmont Farms
Melhorn Manor
Linwood Estate
Beech Springs Farm
Harmony Hall
Historic Acres of Hershey
The Lodge at Liberty Forge

Your first look is an amazing part of your wedding day!  If you aren’t sure about this tradition, the following will explain why it would be a romantic addition to your wedding day celebration that not only adds to the experience but also reduces stress.  Please know that I would never want any of my couples to feel pressured to go with this option.  However, I do want to make sure that I share all of the benefits of a first look because there is a reason 90% of my couples do this and LOVE it!

first look in woods | Lauxmont Farms Wedding in Wrightsville PA by Harrisburg Photographer Photography by Erin Leigh

The First Look – Explained

I have confessed my deep love for “First Looks” numerous times and they tend to be some of my favorite, stress-free weddings!  There is a reason for this.  They’re AWESOME!  However, not everyone is aware of how awesome they are, because they get caught up in how “non-traditional” it is, and they immediately write it off.

After experiencing so many weddings from photographing and planning them… I’ve come to this conclusion.  Sure, some brides love “traditions”…. but what a bride REALLY wants when it comes to her groom seeing her for the first time is a REACTION.  Those that are not interested in a First Look usually think that by seeing each other beforehand, they will lose part of that reaction. They also assume that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle.  What I have found (this is starting to sound like a research paper!) is so ironic!  Everyone knows that wedding days are a bit stressful for the bride and groom.

The whole day is focused on them, they need to look their best, they need to be on time, the groom has no idea what side the boutonniere is supposed to go on and little by little… the tension grows.

It’s before the ceremony and the gravity of what is about to happen starts to sink in and the calm, collected groom who was playing golf just a few short hours ago is now starting to feel a little anxious.  So what happens next?  The groom waits in a little room somewhere for his que from the coordinator.  It seems like it’s taking FOREVER.  Finally, the coordinator leans her head in and hurries the groom to get ready.  With clammy hands, the groom enters the ceremony and what does he find? … he finds anywhere from 80-300 people and they’re all looking where?  Right at his face… because everyone has expectations and anticipation about his first reaction.  This is the farthest thing from a private, intimate moment.  Sure, it’s SO powerful and SO wonderful. … But when you walk down the aisle after having a first look… Your groom won’t be a nervous wreck… he will have spent some intimate moments with YOU and your best friends and the pressure will be OFF.  By the time your ceremony rolls around, he will be ready to ENJOY your beautiful day!

The nerves are gone… and when the nerves are gone… true emotions are free to be expressed. And OH will they be expressed!  So if I were to condense what I just wrote… basically, grooms normally become incredibly nervous on wedding days… even if they seem cool and collected.

For most grooms, the nerves kick in before they see their bride because when they see her… everything becomes VERY real! So when the nerves start creeping up, instead of keeping the groom in a secluded space until time to enter the ceremony, what if you took him to a private place… no people, no on-lookers, no distractions…. and you let his beautiful bride, the love of his life, quietly call his name and have him turn around to see her for the first time.  He would turn around and finally get his first look at his stunning bride and not only would he get to see her… he could embrace her… cry with her…. kiss her… and ENJOY that moment for as LONG as they wanted. As she shows him her dress, twirls a few times and asks him what he thinks… his nerves start to diminish. After all, she’s the one that makes him most comfortable anyway.

Because they aren’t on a time crunch… they casually move into their romantic portraits.  No one is around, the coordinator isn’t announcing “15 minutes left”, and there is no pressure.  It’s just the two of them and their photographer….. capturing the excitement and the joy of their wedding day. This is their time to be TOGETHER and to be ALONE.  When does that happen on a wedding day?  Without a First Look…. it doesn’t.  (Did you get that?)  After their romantic portraits are done, they meet up with their best friends.  Their bridal party joins them and because they still have time to spare… the bride touches up makeup while the boys act like boys.  Then the bridal party portraits begin and they’re FUN. They’re FUN because there is time to make them FUN.  There aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check.  It’s wonderful!

After portraits are done, the girls and guys separate and prepare for the ceremony.  The guests begin to arrive and the ushers are in place. Pretty soon it’s time for the processional music to begin and one by one, the bridesmaids make their way down to the front of the ceremony.  As the groom clasps his hands… they aren’t clasped out of nervousness but excitement.  The music builds, the mother of the bride stands and all of the guests follow her lead.  The groom looks up and here comes the BRIDE!!! His best friend, his companion, his sweetheart…..she’s stunning… ABSOLUTELY stunning.  The closer she gets, the bigger he smiles.

Now let me put a disclaimer on here before we continue… my clients are not required to do a First Look by any means!  I used to feel bad for sharing this option with couples who were against it, because I didn’t want to push anything on them.  However, I’ve seen the benefits of a first look over and over again, and so I only share this because I want the BEST for my couples!! It’s totally ok if couples choose not to share a first look!  It’s just my preference to do one for many reasons.  Keep reading to find out more of the benefits of sharing your first look privately!  For brides not interested in a First Look, we’ll chat about how we’ll create a special timeline to fit everything in!

First Look – Why It’s Worth It


You’re investing a lot into your wedding photography.  With a first look, you’ll receive 40% MORE portraits of the two of you… and those are the images you decorate your first home with! This is a huge investment for you and so obviously your photography is a BIG deal. With a first look, you make the most out of this large investment and get the most for your money.


You actually get to have intimate time on your wedding day with your partner. Normally, most people think walking down the aisle is the BIGGEST, most emotional moment of the whole day because that is traditional. But most brides don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeous-ness… he can’t even tell you how amazing you look.  He can’t touch you, embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 30 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 30 minutes of gazing into each other’s eyes, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance.


First Looks allow you to extend your wedding day. Normally it would start when you come down the aisle, then the ceremony would end, you would rush through portraits so you’re not late for the introductions and then it’s reception time.  With a first look, your day is extended by almost 3 hours! Instead of being rushed for your bridal party portraits… you actually get to enjoy them and have fun hanging out with your BEST friends on your wedding day.  The whole first half of my client’s wedding albums are filled with images just from this time together before the ceremony.  Huge added bonus- You also get to be at your Cocktail Hour.. You know, the one you paid for!


First Looks allow you to be TOGETHER and alone on your wedding day. When you see each other, not only will it be intimate, it will be pretty much your only time to be alone for the whole day!  It will put you in the PERFECT mood for your romantic portraits.  Normally portraits are a little rushed after the family formals, and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode…. especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other and I always capture some super sweet images during those moments!


You get rid of your nerves! I’d say, literally ½ of my couples who have decided to do a first look, the grooms or the brides 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.  I have testimonials from so many grooms that initially weren’t a fan of the first look.. but afterwards admitted to being SO much more relaxed and ready for the ceremony!

20190727 Youse Hyatt-0168
Everlasting Images Wedding Photography
first look_049
20190907 Wise Manns-0087


From The Groom

We decided to do the first look to take a little bit of the pressure off. We wanted to enjoy every second of our wedding and didn’t want there to be this immense nervous build up as I was seeing her for the first time in front of 200 people that were also seeing her for the first time. We wanted to share that moment together and to be able to sit in that feeling for a moment alone. And trust me, it was WORTH IT. It ended up being the one moment that if I go to think about it I feel like I am instantly there. I remember every second of it. And the icing on the cake was that it didn’t take anything away from the ceremony. When I saw her I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion, I just felt happy that she was gonna be mine!
When my wife initially asked me what I thought of a ‘first look’, I wasn’t quite sure what to think or even what it actually was. We had both been married before and did the traditional ‘no see until the ceremony’ so I thought it was a neat idea to go against the norm. It turned out to be a very intimate moment with just her and I. Erin did a wonderful job letting us enjoy the privacy of the moment. We bought each other small gifts that we opened and read before seeing each other. It was a more relaxed moment but in all honesty, just as special. It made for some GREAT pictures! By doing this, it also enabled us to get the majority of our wedding party pictures taken prior to the ceremony which made us available to enjoy a cocktail hour with our guests and allowed extra time to visit with everyone.
At first I was very hesitant to agree to a first look at my wedding. I had always envisioned the first time seeing my soon-to-be wife would be as she was escorted down the aisle by her father. I was very closed-minded about the thought of a “first look” initially, but I am SO GLAD that I decided to take part in one. I was able to see Kristin in a very private environment before the ceremony because of it. It was an experience that I will never regret agreeing to or forget. It was awesome to see how beautiful she looked before everyone else did, and the experience literally took my breath away. I didn’t even realize how emotional I would be, and I’m so glad it was privately with her! If you choose to include a first look as a part of your day, you will not regret it! It was a unique and incredible experience that words truly cannot express. I would recommend a first look to EVERYONE getting married. It was one of the highlights of my wedding day!
I am so glad Abbie and I did a first look. Your wedding is a really busy day – You’ve got all of your favorite people in one place, for one day, and you want to make the most of every moment. So, it is awesome to have a time where it is just you and your bride (and Erin, of course) before everyone else arrives. It allows the two of you to have time to soak it all in and really be present with each other. Apart from a first look, our wedding day was a whirlwind, but the first look created a time for us to stop and enjoy it all. Even though it’s not deemed “traditional”, I highly recommend doing a first look and we jokingly refer to it as the “new tradition”.

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Let's Make Pretty Things Together