Your First Look - Or Not.

Ah, another wedding season dawns! It is my favorite time of the year and a privilege to coordinate and plan the weddings of each bride and groom on my calendar.

With time comes change, and one trending question on peoples' minds today is whether a first-look is still required. If we have worked together before or if you follow me on my blog or Instagram, you already know I encourage my couples to do what feels right in their ceremonies.

In this post, I am going to share my insights and experiences from planning hundreds of weddings in Napa and Sonoma counties, some of which included a first-look and others without. A recent survey by revealed 44% of newly married couples in 2017 included the first look at their weddings. My experience mirrors this statistic - about half include it, and half do not. Before you make a decision, though, let's take a look at what a first look is and how it can enhance your wedding experience.

At its core, the first look is a private moment for the bride and groom and takes place before the ceremony. Your planner will work with you and your photographer to pick a spot in your venue with both privacy and great visuals.

Once you and your groom are dressed and ready, the groom will be escorted to the secret location and positioned so the photographer can capture his expression when he first sets eyes on his bride-to-be. A second photographer will be pre-positioned to capture the look on the bride's face when she first glimpses her husband-to-be. There is a touch of magic in the air as the bride quietly and gracefully crosses the space to tap on the groom's shoulder so they can see each other for the first time at their wedding.

So, why do couples choose to do a first look?

First looks are a popular option for couples in the Napa / Sonoma regions. As an experienced wedding planner, I have had to work in some logistically challenging spaces, and a first look simply wasn't possible. The good news? Most venues in Napa / Sonoma are first-look friendly, and some even have designated first look locations.

Sometimes, first looks can be handy time savers. I remember one wedding where the venue enforced a short time for the wedding reception. By loading up on Mr. and Mrs. shots during the first look, there was less stress during the reception, and the bride and groom could socialize more with their guests.

To do or not to do, that is the question.

You and your fiancé should discuss the pros and cons, and in the end, it's all about your personal preferences. If you are feeling a first look is not right, then by all means - don't do it and don't give it another thought. In first looks, as in life, you shouldn't do something because everyone else is.

But if you do

If you decide to do a first look, keep in mind your day will be starting earlier to accommodate. In most cases, family and wedding party photo shoots will happen after the first look, so make sure everyone knows what time to arrive and where they should go for photos.


So - whatever your reasoning, this is your decision and not the decision of your parents, wedding planner, or photographer. If the first look tradition resonates with you, then so be it. If not, don't let anyone stand in your way. After all, this is your day, right?

Lura Albee