At First “Glance”: First Look vs First Touch

First look or first touch. This is one subject I love to approach with brides when we’re in the planning stages!

While tradition has dictated that it’s “bad luck” to see the bride in her gown prior to the ceremony, it’s becoming more and more popular to have a First Look or First Touch before the wedding.

So where did this tradition come from and why is it changing? And why is this choice important?

Most of the time, a first look is written off by brides because they want a reaction! That moment when he first sees you all dressed up in your wedding gown and tears up along with all of your guests.

Many brides think that if they have a First Look, they’ll part of that reaction. There is also this assumption that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle.

So I’m here to tell you all about my experience both as a wedding photographer and as a bride about your first moments seeing one another on your wedding day!

First Touch

A first touch is an option for couples who want to “see” each other before the ceremony, without spoiling the surprise of actually seeing each other.

It’s a great opportunity to hold hands, share your thoughts and feelings, and pray together. This moment is like the calm in the storm – a chance to get away from the chaos of getting ready and let it all sink in.

Some couples also use their first look to read letters and even exchange gifts (it’s a great chance to make your groom blush by sharing some saucy boudoir photos)!

My Old Opinion…

First looks are my personal favorite in a wedding day! But believe me, I wasn’t always this way.

Before I became a wedding photographer, I wrote off the very concept of seeing my husband before my grand entrance down the aisle. Part of it was an attachment to tradition, and part of it was my love for the movie 27 Dresses and loving how Jane would turn towards the groom while everyone was watching the bride to see his first reaction.

Plus this quote: “And she got to look at the groom’s face as she walked down the aisle, knowing this time, that expression was all for her,” made my heart SWOON!


I became a wedding photographer and I came to realize the importance of the First Look on a wedding day. Not just from a photography perspective but from an emotional one.

After shooting triple digits worth of weddings, what I’ve found is the opposite of what I thought!

First Look Story Time

Everyone knows that wedding days can be quite a bit stressful for both the bride and the groom. The WHOLE day is focused on them, how they look, their need to follow their timeline and stay on schedule. Plus, the questions about where previously seemingly insignificant things are. P.S. Make sure you put your lighters somewhere you can find them! Little by little, tension grows and nerves start to take over.

Your groom’s palms start to get clammy as the clock ticks down to ceremony time, eyes glazing over with nerves. Everything happens in super speed and yet too slow simultaneously. When your groom enters the ceremony, reality sets in as he sees 20-200 people staring right at his face.

I know for my husband Brendan, who is a total introvert, the just thinking about the idea of this was nerve wracking. The beginning of the ceremony is the farthest thing from a private, intimate moment.

Yes. It’s a magnetic moment. It’s magical. But it’s also overwhelming.

And when you’re feeling a whole host of feelings, it can be really hard to just focus and feel grounded in that incredibly special moment.

Instead of keeping the groom behind closed doors as the nerves set in until it’s his moment to enter the ceremony, we have a first look. What if you got to take him somewhere just the two of you? No people, no distractions.

And you: the love of his life, soon to be wife, beautiful bride – quietly call his name. Your groom turns slowly around. He gets to see you. Embrace you. Cry with you. Kiss you. And ENJOY that moment for as LONG as you want!

All the nerves just melt away (possibly along with some of your makeup) and you get to really take in that moment and feel all the feelings and create that memory.

We loved getting to do a First Look at our wedding! Just check out Brendan’s ADORABLE smile!

As an added bonus? You’ll have PLENTY of extra time for romantic photos before your ceremony with no wedding coordinators butting in to say: “5 minutes until reception entrance!”

First Look with Dad

I’ve had many brides decide to do other First Looks, not just with their minutes away spouses. One of the most popular is doing one with Dad!

This can be a SUPER emotional moment. Sometimes even more so than with your almost hubby! After all, your dad has probably been thinking about your wedding day since the day you were born.

Some brides choose this moment to give their dad a special gift, and sometimes it’s just to see his reaction!

Bridesmaids First Look

My final suggestion, and a very popular option is to have your girl squad wait outside of your getting ready area. This gives you a private moment with mom to get your dress and finishing touches on.

It’s one of the loudest parts of the day, hearing your bridesmaids squeal when they first see you all dressed up!

Wedding Planning 101: The Series!

Check out some of our other wedding planning tips with our series Wedding Planning 101!

One | We’re All in This Together

Two | The Wedding Planner

Three | Our Proposal Story

Four | Wedding Venue Open House

Five | Wedding Officiant

Six | Choosing Your Color Pallet

Seven | Wedding Planning Goals

Eight | When to Elope

Special Thanks

Special thanks to my mentor photographers who I have gotten to work with this year and I have shot for!

Square 8 Studio

Kate + Co Photo

Hannah Heidrich Photography

Personal wedding photos by: Chelsea Farner Photographs

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