How To Create A Wedding Timeline With A First Look
First Looks at weddings have taken off in popularity over the years. I photograph around 50 weddings a year, and I estimate around 80% of them have a first look.
And for good reason! The first look offers couples significant emotional and logistical advantages over not seeing each other before the ceremony starts.
In a traditional wedding without a first look, the first time you see your partner is when they’re coming down the aisle. When they arrive, you’ll hold their hand, smile, and then turn and face the person performing the ceremony. There is no time to really get a look at the dress or suit each other is wearing. You can’t comment or talk to each other. When the ceremony is done, you’ll recess, and have about 30 seconds alone before the wedding party and parents join you for congratulations.
Then your photographer will quickly take you all for family photos, wedding party photos, and couple photos – while the guests enjoy cocktail hour. You’ll rush through these photos to make sure you make the grand entrance on time, and not leave the guests waiting. The 15 minutes of couple photos are going to be the first time you and your new husband/wife are alone on the day. (And a side note – Yes, catering will bring you cocktail hour samples to the family photos. But I can tell you, it’s not enjoyable to try and quickly scarf down food while trying to take family photos. You can’t do both at the same time, it’s not enjoyable and you go from enjoying your day to just checking off boxes).
Keep in mind you still haven’t had any real interaction with your guests yet.
After grand entrance, you’ll typically go into a first dance and parents dances, then a blessing or welcome, followed by dinner, then toasts, cake cutting, and then the party on the dance floor.
What’s missing? The time you have interactions with your guests or family member. That’s what dinner is for! And that’s why you hear so many stories about couples not eating dinner, or only having a bite of dinner, while they stand to talk to guests who are sitting and trying to eat. It’s not ideal for your big day.
So how is a first look different?
A first look is usually in a beautiful private location (most people prefer it, some people like the wedding party and/or parents nearby or watching from a distance). When you see each other for the first time, you’ll be able to react, hug, have a kiss. You’ll be able to see the dress, the suit, to compliment it, look at the back. And most importantly you’ll be able to connect.
The number one thing couples say about a first look is how happy they were they did it and how much more relaxed were because they connected with their partner.
Perhaps the biggest objection to a first look is being worried that you’ll lose “that moment of exhilaration” seeing your fiancé(e) come down the aisle. I can safely say that not one person who I’ve photographed who has done a first look said it was a letdown. And I would say at least 30% or more cried seeing their fiancé(e) coming down the aisle even after they had just seen them 30 minutes ago. There is something magical about knowing “This is it. I’m getting married now. In front of my best friends and family”.
You’re also spending more of your day with your future husband or wife.
This means logistically you can get more of the “housekeeping” items completed. Typically you’ll take all the wedding party, immediate family, and couple photos before the ceremony. This means after the ceremony you need about 15 minutes for extended family photos. And that means you spend 45 minutes at cocktail hour. Now not only do you greet and mingle with your guests, but you also get to eat and drink the food you picked and paid for.
If you can do this, then at dinner, you get to actually eat dinner, because you aren’t obligated to get up and visit the tables because you just spent almost an hour with your guests at cocktail hour. And not only have you accomplished everything, but you’ve also accomplished it without rushing through it. Which means you enjoyed it. And your vendors weren’t rushed so they are able to give you the best possible service increasing the value for the money you spent.
Tips On How To Create A Wedding Timeline With A First Look
Tip 1. Make sure you talk to your photographer
The most important thing is having a good timeline. When making your timeline, you’ll want to talk to your photographer about how much time they need and where they want to do it. You’ll then need to accurately calculate travel times to make sure the timeline works right. And you’ll want to include buffers for the travel as well as the time it takes to get out of the car, get to the spot you’ll do the first look, as well as set up time.
Tip 2. Make sure your Hair and Makeup team is on board.
Make sure hair and make-up know you’re doing a first look and what time the bridal party and you need to start getting your wedding dress on. Then add some buffer time (30 minutes is a good start).
Tip 3. Start your day earlier
A first look means starting your big day earlier to fit everything in. But I want to emphasize, if your timeline looks tight, just start earlier. It’s worth starting an hour earlier than expected to not feel rushed!
Tip 4. Don’t have your hair and makeup be last
If you’re the bride, you don’t want to be last. Be second to last. If things run late, you’ll still be able to make your first look on time, while the final bridesmaids get ready. They’re not going to be needed until after the first look and couple photos are completed.
Tip 5. Share your timeline and location links
Weddings are always better when everyone knows what is going on. And it prevents people from being late or getting lost. I highly recommend texting and emailing PDFs of your timeline to wedding party members, parents, and your vendors. In addition, send over Google Map links to everyone so they don’t get lost.
Sample Wedding Timeline With First Look
tHere is a sample timeline showing a first look and travel. The wedding ceremony in this example is a 5:30 pm ceremony. You will see the start times for the bride and groom, and you’ll notice in this timeline the first look and wedding party photos are at a park and the immediate family photos are being done at the ceremony site.
This timeline was made with our website Wedding Day Timeline. It uses AI to make wedding timelines for couples planning their wedding day. And it automatically takes care of all the travel times, buffer times, and event time durations we talked about above. It also automatically sends your timeline and Google Map links via email to text to the wedding party, parents, and vendors. It really is your own personal digital wedding planner!
I hope this helps in deciding if a first look is right for you. And if it is, the tips help in making you the best timeline possible!