How Can a First Look Wedding Give us More Time With Our Guests?

The first look. You’ve seen the photos – an elated, yet anxious groom stands patiently (or impatiently) at the end of a wharf or under a tree, awaiting the arrival of his bride. Beautifully dressed in her gown for their day, his bride quietly approaches from behind. Tiptoeing on approach to preserve the anticipation, she taps her groom on the shoulder to announce her appearance. The groom turns around to see his stunning beauty. A first look wedding day schedule can allow for raw and unexpected (genuine) moments between a bride and groom, however, the concept of seeing each other before the ceremony is not always desirable for every couple…

You’ve probably seen some photographs from other wedding day celebrations, or your now married friends have informed you on how a first look schedule works. If you haven’t, here’s how it goes:


  1. You continue on a relatively normal morning of preparations – crack open the champagne/beer/scotch, hair and makeup (for the ladies), and have a great time with friends and family.
  2. Once you are ready, and before you head to your ceremony, the groom awaits the arrival of his bride in a nice, preferably private, photogenic location.
  3. The bride arrives to meet her groom, and the two of you take a moment together to enjoy each other’s company for the first time on your wedding day.
  4. Once the bride and groom have had a moment together and are ready; we take a walk together to capture some photographs of you guys (and your bridal party). We can spend as long or as little as you like. We can also head to another location of your choice for a few more photographs. Of course; drinks, nibbles and banter are standard, along with time to relax.
  5. After your photographs, we head on to your ceremony for your nuptials. We can take some family photographs after your ceremony so that your parents and guests have an opportunity for some Kodak moments.
  6. Here is a key difference from a traditional wedding schedule: After your ceremony, you enjoy some canapés or drinks with your guests, and then stay the rest of the evening together with your family and friends at your reception.

A first look wedding schedule is considered non-traditional, and hence it doesn’t suit every couple. In fact, most families with traditional preferences (i.e. the bride and groom meeting at the altar for the first time) are more likely to steer away from this concept – which is great (you are in the majority!). I don’t recommend a first look schedule to everyone. The purpose of this blog post is to bring the concept of a first look into the discussion space because a first look wedding can help solve an issue that appears at increasing numbers of my client meetings.

A little context…

When I sit down with new clients for a coffee and a chat, we start to discuss their wedding day plans. We talk about their ceremony, their reception and also their thoughts on location photography. I ask questions about cultural traditions to understand the couple in front of me, and what their wedding day means to their wider family.

When we start deliberating over location photography, someone usually asks “do you think that this is enough time for our wedding photos?”. Before I can respond, the other person modestly adds “I don’t want to spend too much time away from our wedding guests”. Hence, here is a dilemma that couples face when adhering to traditional wedding day timelines.

The issue with a traditional wedding day agenda is that there is commonly a time period between the ceremony and reception, where the couple and bridal party leave their guests to take photographs. Everyone’s been to that wedding where there was a 2 or 3-hour gap between the ceremony and reception. Whilst the happily married couple are off having fun with their photographer, their wedding guests have no idea of what to do with themselves.

Although it’s the guests that need to fill this time with an activity, my couples are increasingly wanting to address this at client meetings. Remember when your auntie and uncle married 10 years ago? At their wedding, you sat around twiddling your thumbs for 2 hours whilst they went off to take photographs. Now that you are having your day in the sunshine, you do not desire this experience for your guests. Brides and grooms these days want to offer their guests an awesome overall memorable wedding day – and this time gap interferes with the guest experience.

So how can a first look wedding day schedule give us more time with our guests? 

A first look wedding day schedule can bring about some advantages, which I have highlighted below:

  1. There is no time gap between your ceremony and reception for location photography. This means that you and your wedding guests have a seamless experience together – straight from your ceremony to your reception.
  2. Some guests (who may have travelled from afar) want to spend as much time with you as possible. Your mid-wedding day photography session might detract from time that your guests have to celebrate with you. A first look will maximise engagement time between you and your families.
  3. Your wedding guests won’t need to find something to do during your photo session. They won’t need to go home and then come back. Your parents needn’t host your guests at their house to pass the time.

The above logistical advantages to a first look wedding offer benefits in addition to the below considerations:

  1. By having your location photography earlier in the day, you are fresher than if you took photographs after your ceremony. This can be favourable if you are having a summer wedding.
  2. There is perhaps more privacy for the bride and groom at a location we choose for a first look. If you are shy, a first look wedding schedule might allow you to enjoy each other without the prying eyes of other bystanders.

Some final thoughts…

Whilst a first look wedding schedule is not for everyone, I do recommend that you consider it for the benefits that this alternative timeline can provide you. In particular, I think that a first look schedule can really benefit a smaller wedding. The negative effect of a time gap between your ceremony and reception tends to get amplified with respect to the guest experience at intimate weddings. As smaller weddings tend to be more personal, the intimacy can disappear quickly if the bride and groom vanish.

This blog post is just some food for thought. If you are considering a first look wedding and would like some feedback on your timeline, drop me an email here, or leave a note below.



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