columbus ohio wedding first look

Creating A Wedding Timeline Series | Part Three – The First Look

Wedding Tips

The first look is something a lot of couples feel very strongly about one way or another. Some often choose to hold fast in the tradition of not seeing each other until the walk down the aisle. While others often opt to share a private moment between the two of them before their walk down the aisle. There is no right or wrong answer to the first look, but it is a very big factor in creating your timeline. I will always encourage my couples to choose a first look for many reasons. However, no matter what they decide, I will support them and they will have beautiful images either way!

The tradition of waiting to see your bride walk down the aisle started back in a time when arranged marriages were common. The thought behind the practice was that the groom would not have a chance to change his mind solely based on the brides appearance. By waiting until she was in front of him at the alter, it was then too late for him to flee. The thought of waiting sounded so romantic to me until I learned this. In 99% of cases these days, you have seen your bride or groom before deciding to get married. So the chances of one of you bolting before the walk down the aisle is slim to none. I am truly thankful we live in a world where we can decide to get married based on love and not status or money!

Since in today’s age, we get to choose the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, the decision to have a first look is truly ours! Its also a decision that plays a big part in planning our timeline! As a photographer, I am not doing my job to its fullest if I don’t explain the benefits of a first look from the wedding photo standpoint.

Timeline Reasons to Consider a First Look

When planning your timeline, there are many reasons to consider a first look. One of the most important things is that it allows you to get the majority of your photos out of the way before your ceremony! What does that mean for you? It means you can attend your cocktail hour or get to your reception earlier. That also means you have more time with your people!

When you choose a first look we are able to get photos of you and your very soon to be husband or wife before the ceremony, which cuts back on portrait time after the ceremony. We are also able to do your full bridal party photos before the ceremony as well. Collectively, this can give you almost an entire hour back after the ceremony, if not more!

Some ambitious couples even opt to take their family formals before the ceremony as well. While that is a little less common, I have never had a couple regret making that decision. The wedding day goes so fast, and so many people are there to celebrate your love. Finding time to visit with each person and still enjoy the day and your reception is HARD.

Can you imagine if you could spend more time on the dance floor making more memories? Getting the chance to attend cocktail hour will allow you to visit with the majority, if not all of your guests before the reception. This means they are less likely to interrupt you trying to eat your dinner (which I promise you will be starving by then)!

I Could Talk About First Looks FOREVER

There are so many benefits to a first look beyond the timeline, but since that is what this series is about, I will save my rambling for another blog. Returning to the timeline benefits… So, you opt for a first look, how do you plan that in your timeline?

A first look usually takes about 20 minutes to set up and execute on a wedding day. I never want it to feel rushed though, so I typically advise my couples to a lot for 30 minutes. This gives you time to walk to your first look site, see one another and spend genuine time enjoying being in the presence of one another. I will never interrupt a first look to tell you that you are out of time. This may be one of the few moments you have to yourselves the entire day, so you definitely want to schedule more time than you think you’ll need… Trust me, you will thank yourself later!

After your first look, we will go right into portrait time for the two of you! Depending on how many locations on the property or off the property, will really determine how long you need to schedule for this. I typically suggest about 30 minutes so that we can get plenty of photos of you both. If we are able to have portrait time after your ceremony, its a bonus! I’ve had couples so thankful that they got photos beforehand because it rained right after their ceremony!

Once we are done with your couples’ photos, we will bring in your full bridal party. During this time we will take photos of you with your girls, him with his guys and everyone all together. You’ll find 30 minutes is my sweet spot and I usually schedule photos in 30 minute increments because life happens and things run behind. Having a buffer helps relieves stress if things get a little behind!

If you opt not to do family formal photos before the ceremony, then overall you should have about an hour and a half window of time that needs scheduled before the ceremony. In true Courtney fashion, at least 30 minutes should be added on to that to allow you to go into hiding before your guests arrive so that you are not seen by them before its time! With a first look, I typically suggest its starts at least 2 hours before the ceremony time!


Did you miss the previous blogs in this series, Part One – The Ceremony or Part Two – Getting Ready ? This is where I recommend starting when mapping out your wedding day! The ceremony start time is what your entire day revolves around and getting your hair and makeup done has to happen before you can do anything else! Click the links above to be taken back to those blog posts.

Creating a timeline is stressful and one of the top questions I get from my couples. I hope this series will be helpful in taking a little of the stress off of your wedding planning plate! If you need more help, or have questions I would love to connect! OR if you’d like to find out more about becoming a #CourtneyPaigeCouple head back to the home page and fill out a contact form and I will be in touch!

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