First Look 101: Variations of the First Look

So you’re planning your wedding, and your wedding photography is kind of a big deal- I mean, obviously- and someone tells you that you should do a ‘first look’ so you can have more time for photos. 'What on earth is that', you say? Or maybe you are interested in doing a first look, but don’t know exactly how everything plays out. This article is for you. 

First of all, let me explain exactly what the first look is, for those of you that don't already know. The first look is quite simply: the first time a couple sees each other on the wedding day at a pre-determined time and place before the ceremony. This is usually done to relieve pressure from the couple in front of their family and friends, or to make more time for photography throughout the day. There are lots of variations and ways to personalize the first look. I am going to break down the first look for you, and explain four different first look variations, so that you can plan a first look truly your own. 

The Shoulder Tap

The shoulder tap is simple. One person approaches the other from behind, taps their shoulder, and they turn and have a first moment together. There is a bit of a ‘peek’ factor, in that one gets to see the other from the back as they approach. The only real variation to this would be the ‘who taps who’ decision. This is probably the most common first look that we see. 


Wild West Style

This unique first look variation can be really fun. Basically, you both are blindly taken to your places by either the photographer or bridal party, and then for the first look moment, you turn at the same time.  You both get to see each other at  exactly the same moment. Neither one of you gets even the slightest clue of what the other one will look like whatsoever during the approach. You get 100% full-on reaction. Both of you. At exactly the same moment. It’s really cool to see this type of first look, although there are a couple of things to keep in mind while planning it. First, planning a location to do this is key, and you should trust the opinion and suggestions of your photographer. Second, distance makes a huge difference. If you are positioned far away from each other, you have to physically walk (or run) to one another after you turn and have the first look. If you are closer, you can take just a few steps from first look to first embrace. There is no right or wrong answer here. In the end it’s all about you, and how you envision everything happening on your big day. 


The Partial 

The partial first look involves being near to your soon-to-be-spouse, but not actually seeing each other. For this to work, we usually use a corner or doorway, with one person on each side. Couples can hold hands, and speak to one another without seeing the wedding day look early. If there is a way to get the best of both worlds, or a 'perfect compromise' this might be it. It's also really precious when couples prepare something to say, read a love note, or say a prayer during this moment where all you have is the voice and the hand of your love before a huge moment in both of your lives. It's a great way to feel in it together. 


The Alternate 

If having a first look with your fiancé is out of the question and just not what you envisioned, that doesn't mean you can't do something fun and different with the same idea. You can save the big reveal for another wedding day VIP, and do a first look with them instead or in addition to your first look. I have seen first looks with bridesmaids, dads, moms, brothers, maid of honor-- the list goes on. Even if the traditional first look isn't for you, this option just might be. 

No matter how you decide to do your first look, it's really all about what's best for you. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to putting together a first look. We will dive deeper into the pros & cons of the first look in a follow up article, so stay tuned for that! And if I missed your favorite first look variation, sound off in the comments below so I can add it to the list!


Looking for a San Diego wedding photographer? Get in touch- I would love to hear all about what you are planning for the big day!