What is a First Look? Should You Have One? » Sam Starns Elopements
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When I chat with couples about their wedding day timeline, the question will inevitably arise about whether they want a first look, but what exactly is that?

Instead of seeing each other in their wedding garb for the first time at the ceremony, a couple can schedule a pre-wedding, private peek before they walk down the aisle.

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Luke saw Brooke for the first time on a marina dock before their Oregon Coast elopement.

There is something to be said for getting ready in separate locations, wondering what each other is up to as you anticipate your wedding. Is your significant other putting on their shoes, checking their hair in the mirror, or laughing at one of your inside jokes? The getting ready part of the day is like a story in itself, where the tension builds until you finally get to see the one you love. 

It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly as knowing when the two of you will finally see each other on your big day can build excitement and create special memories. So, will you or will you not do a first look? If you’re on the fence, read the points below to help you decide. 

The Case for Waiting Until the Ceremony

Steve waited until Martyka walked down the aisle on the Oregon Coast (with their doggo, Rooster!)

Traditionally, a couple sees each other at the wedding ceremony. The attendants head down the aisle, and then all eyes are on the bride as she enters and sees her love for the first time on the wedding day—cue tears for the couple and all of their wedding guests.

One of the top wedding day moments for guests is seeing the looks on the couple’s faces as they glance at each other for the first time at the aisle. Of course, if you are eloping instead of having a conventional wedding, chances are you don’t want to be traditional at all.

The Case for Scheduling a Pre-Ceremony First Look

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Manny and Caroline had a first look among the California Redwoods before their elopement.

First, consider that the wedding day is supposed to be fun and meaningful, and – even though you are eloping – creating intimate moments throughout the day can help ease any nerves. Having a first look can genuinely alleviate the tension. 

It may not be necessary for you and your spouse-to-be to share the emotion of seeing her in her gown for the first time or gasping at how handsome he looks in his tux at the ceremony. Having a first look gives you time to connect beforehand to hug, chat, and look at each other. 

A bonus is that prolonged eye contact releases those feel-good chemicals and hormones, furthering that affection and connection!

The Case for Getting Ready Together

Deidra and Juan got ready together in their hotel room in Princeville before their horseback riding Kauai elopement.

If you’re reading this and plan to get ready together on your big day, let me say – that’s ok! Doing so allows you to get excited together. You can chat about how you can’t wait to share your first dance and tease about whose handwritten vows will evoke more tears. Helping each other dress and prep for the day can be romantic, and there is no need to tiptoe around to avoid seeing each other before the ceremony or first look. 


For those choosing to ready themselves separately, deciding between a first look and a walking-down-the-aisle moment is up to you. The truth is that there is no right or wrong answer. Each option has merit, and do what you feel is best. After all, it’s your wedding and your memories you are choosing to make together.

So, to look or not to look? I say to dismiss anyone else’s opinions and decide what you both truly want!

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