Should I do a "first look" on my wedding day?

Should I do a first look? | Cinnamon Wolfe Photography | North NJ Wedding Photographer

To first look or not? 

Its a question pretty much every bride has to ask themselves once they get engaged and start planning out the timeline of their wedding day. For some brides its a very simple yes or no based on a litany of other factors about the day....ceremony time, timeline preferences etc...

For other brides, the answer isn't quite as simple. There is a long history and tradition built up for many of us that leads us to not want to miss out on that magical moment of the groom seeing their bride for the very first time on their wedding day as she is walking down the aisle toward him. But often times, there just isn't enough time to get all of the desired photos done after the ceremony and before the party begins. Sigh...if only it could be an easy decision every time!

For those on the fence...I've crafted a few points that are important to factor into your decision. It's important to note that there is NO (and I mean ZERO) right or wrong answer when it comes to this question. What works perfectly for some couples on their day may not be possible for others. Weigh the options, what works best based on your priorities for the day and then make a your decision! Whatever you decide, your day will still be the day you start your lives together and THAT is the most important thing of all! 

Should I do a first look? | Cinnamon Wolfe Photography | North NJ Wedding Photographer

Important Considerations

Ceremony Time

The time of year you get married and the type of ceremony you are having will usually dictate the ceremony time. If you are having a Catholic wedding (pretty much any time of year) your ceremony time will likely be earlier in the day. If you are getting married at an outdoor venue in Spring or Fall, your ceremony time might be around 4 or 5 pm. If you are getting married in the summertime at an outdoor venue your ceremony time might be as late at 6:30 or 7pm. All of this will factor into whether or not a first look between you and your fiance is necessary. 

When Paul and I got married in June of 2011 in Seattle, our ceremony took place at 7pm on a Friday evening. Our reception would be over at 11pm. It was a fast wedding! In order for us to get any sort of pictures at all of the bridal party, family and most importantly of me and Paul, we literally had no choice but to do a first look. Even though we were both fine with having that private moment for just the two of us prior to the ceremony, our ceremony time really dictated the necessity of incorporating a first look into our day. 

Getting the moment twice

One of my favorite aspects of a first look is actually getting that "moment" twice. Some couples feel like they will be missing out on the "moment" of walking down the aisle, when in reality you get that moment during the first lok and then AGAIN when you actually walk down the aisle towards your groom. The first look is private and sweet and you get to enjoy seeing each other as bride and groom alone without hundreds of eyes on you. It is a precious, precious time on your wedding day. 

And then, during the ceremony, you get to do it all over again! I know for me, when I walked down the aisle towards Paul during our wedding, the moment was so incredibly overwhelming. Here I was, about to get MARRIED and all of these people that I knew and loved were there supporting us and loving us and witnessing our union and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. In one sense, I was so glad that Paul and I had already had our moment together and now we were getting to enjoy this moment together with everyone else. 

Should I do a first look? | Cinnamon Wolfe Photography | North NJ Wedding Photographer

Cocktail Hour

If you opt not to do a first look, depending on the timing of the day, you will likely miss out on most of, if not all of your cocktail hour. For some couples this is not a big deal at all and for other couples it is very important for them to be in attendance at the cocktail hour. 

If you need to accomplish family photos, bridal party photos and bride and groom portraits all after the ceremony, unless you have a large gap of time between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour, the bride and groom will miss cocktail hour in order to capture those photos at that time. 


If you are really undecided on how you want to approach the timeline of the day, you need to prioritize what is MOST important to you as a couple. Consider all of the factors as they stand and rank them in order of importance. If attending cocktail hour ranks higher, go with the first look. If seeing each other for the first time walking down the aisle ranks higher, forgo the first look. If you want to have as much time as possible for bride and groom portraits, go with the first look as you can do all of that prior to the ceremony beginning. As I mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong's different for every couple. With some careful consideration, you will be able to make a decision that you are both comfortable with. 

Hopefully this information has helped you in your decision making process of determining whether a first look is right for you! As always, if you have any questions at all feel free to comment or shoot me an email! 

For more tips and tricks don't forget to check out the With this Ring blog series!

If you interested in booking me for wedding photography, contact me HERE. I can't wait to hear from you! 

Creating your Signature Wedding | With this Ring...

How to create your signature wedding | North NJ Wedding Photographer

by Jillian of Bella Carta Boutique

My dream for this business truly started with my own wedding, almost seven years ago. I had designed a handful of invitations for friends along the way, but getting the opportunity to design every element for my own wedding was what set my business in motion. I didn't know it at the time, but I was creating a brand for our day. Now that I'm designing wedding invitations for clients, I hesitate to use the word "brand". It seems cold and impersonal, when what we're trying to create is the complete opposite. It’s more of your signature wedding… the kind of wedding where your guests get a little preview when they open your invitation for the first time, and then see the entire vision unfold throughout your wedding day.

Working with a stationer early on in the process allows you to curate a thoughtful and intentional event that is quintessentially yours. Your wedding day is about celebrating your love, and family, and the start of your new life together, and the day you create is really an experience for your guests. Every thing they see and do during the day should have your signature on it - starting with your invitation and ending with the favors, every touch point is an opportunity to infuse your personality and leave a lasting impression.

When I started designing my save-the-dates, it was important to me that this very first piece of stationery be a reflection of what was to come. So before I even started designing, I created a mood-board to reflect the vision I had for the day. One day I'll scan it in and share it with all of you, but for now, I'll tell you what I knew I wanted: sophisticated, elegant and timeless. Black, white, champagne and gold. Pinstripes and pearls. Clean, elegant typefaces, and a wedding day that would still be beautiful in 50 years. So I narrowed my aesthetic, chose my colors and fonts and papers, shared all of that with my vendors, and every decision was based on that board. In the end, it all came together exactly how I envisioned it.

As a wife, I look back on our wedding day as quite possibly, one of the most perfect days of my life (right next to the births of my children). As a designer, I look back on our wedding day and realize that all of those tiny details, the ones you don't think anyone will notice, really do contribute to the experience. Here are the top five ways to create your own signature wedding!

1 | Use Pinterest... and dream big! 

Pinterest is both a blessing and a curse these days, but I like to focus on the positive. Start with creating a secret Pinterest board and pin like crazy. Honestly - anything and everything you see that fits the vision of your day. This is your time to dream big and outside the box. Colors, bouquets, invitations, attire... pin it all. Don't worry about editing, that's where your stationer comes in!

How to create your signature wedding | North NJ Wedding Photographer


2 | Research & find a Stationer

Even with a million resources at your fingertips - blogs, Google, friends - I still think it's a challenge to find quality vendors. Personally, I'd start with friends and then move onto blogs. Make a list of 5-8 vendors you'd like more information from and reach out to them. Make sure you look at their portfolio before reaching out! A stationer's portfolio is full of the work they want to do more of. If you like what you see, and it matches your vision, send them an email. Explain that you're looking for an estimate, but more importantly, someone to help define and create your signature wedding. 

How to create your signature wedding | North NJ Wedding Photographer


3 | Communicate Your Vision - visually & verbally

Part of the conversation with your stationer should include the vision of your day - either verbally or visually. Share your Pinterest board, and explain to your stationer what it is you’re looking for. Do you love calligraphy? Do you want a monogram you can use on multiple elements? Do you despise the color pink? Sharing what you don’t love is just as important as sharing what you do love.

How to create your signature wedding | North NJ Wedding Photographer


4 | Pick your Top Five

Once your stationer has started to work through your wedding "brand", start thinking about how you can tie those elements into your day. The key here isn't to do it all, it's to do the things that matter most. You could go crazy with your monogram - on your cake, the dance floor, favors, signage.... you get the idea. Pick the five things you think would have the biggest impact, and go from there. Maybe a monogram on your cocktail napkins will stand out as a personal detail, or a flag hanging in the barn of your wedding, or maybe it's used at the top of your menu. You want to pick the things that matter most to you, but also those elements that make it seem effortless.

How to create your signature wedding | North NJ Wedding Photographer


5 | Follow Through

Research the places in which you'll need to order from, and partner with your stationer to make those things come to life. Be organized in your approach, and your stationer will love you forever! List out each vendor you're ordering from, what file type they need and any size requirements, and send that list over. Personally, I charge a flat fee for any form of digital file brides need, and if you send it over like this, it makes both of our lives easier. If you can't find someone to bring your dream to life, let us know! We have wonderful networks of vendors and Facebook groups and would be happy to help find that perfect partner for the rest of your vision!

In the end, creating a day the perfectly represents you, your relationship and captures the personality and enthusiasm of your love, just requires some advance planning. Make your decisions with your heart, and you won’t go wrong.

Happy Planning!

Photos by Amy Roth Photo | Calligraphy by West Sheridan

How to create your signature wedding | North NJ Wedding Photographer

Located in Northern New Jersey, Bella Carta is a boutique stationery studio specializing in paper goods life's biggest celebrations. With a focus on quality paper and sophisticated typography, our designs are refined, timeless, and elegant. 

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