A lot of brides ask me what the deal is on First Looks. They are worried it will break tradition. What the heck are first looks?? I mean, are the pictures even worth it? Can you give me some pros and cons on this? YES, I can. 🙂

So here we go:

What is a first look for me (Maddie Moree)? (Because people view this differently).

For me, a first look is setting up a private moment that you and your fiancé can see each other before the ceremony starts. After you see each other and I capture that, we go around the venue and have bride and groom portraits taken. So when I say a first look, it’s not just a 5 minute thing, it’s all of your bride and groom portraits that we would take after the first look (about 30-45 minutes). If you’ve had an engagement session with me, it will be a lot like that but in your wedding clothes.

So based on that, do I, Madison Yen, think first looks are a good idea? Straight up, yes – I do.

Do not get me wrong. I totally understand WHY you want to have a traditional look. Because you want the photos of your groom crying as he sees you walking down the aisle. Don’t even play. I KNOW that’s why!

 First Look

It’s my job as your photographer to educate you on the pros and cons of each so you can make the most informed decision based on your end goal of photos.

maddie moree acre wedding photography 10

Here’s why I think first looks are ideal.

From a photographer’s standpoint:

The timeline is so much EASIER.

Which means less stressed, which means less rushed, which means MORE time for FUN! 🙂

Why do I say that? When you have a first look, not only do we get those super cute pictures of y’all seeing each other for the first time, we also get all of your couple pictures out of the way AND all of your family formals out of the way! Wooohooo for family formals!

wedding party

The hardest part about a traditional wedding day timeline is squeezing in the family formals with both bride and groom afterwards and then cute husband-wife shots before the reception. If there is no cocktail hour, you have a very limited time to get those rock-star pictures…say 15 minutes before your guests start freaking out because no one is there to host them (needy things, they are). I also have to remind brides…family formals take a hot minute. You got some old people in your group, and inevitably some wanderers. You have to track them down, “Oh shoot, we lost Aunt Sue. Sally, go find her.” “Oh yay, here’s Aunt Sue! Wait, where’s Sally??” “She went to look for Aunt Sue!!” And the cycle continues.

With a traditional look, we also have to be careful of running late. If we are running late, we have nowhere to make up the time because after the ceremony is already sooooo packed with other photos we have to get!

Huge wedding party

Which leads me to this point. Creating the timeline.

You have to be realistic when creating your timeline.

All those things add up. Family formals, Bride – Groom shots, travel time. Ugh travel time…the thing people forget to factor in. If your ceremony is in East Memphis, and the reception is downtown…factor in AT LEAST 20 minutes for travel time alone! You do not magically make it there in 5 minutes because you are in a limo.


A new point to the “creating your timeline” section that I wanted to add in. I’ve had quite a few couples lately insist on doing a traditional look, but didn’t really factor in how hot/humid it would be. (Imagine a 50 lb dress in 95 degree weather with 85% humidity.) We live in Memphis, people.

So, with the first look, here’s how the timeline goes:

1. Getting Ready

2. First look / Bride and groom portraits

3. All the other stuff.

Aka: You put on your dress and he his tux and then y’all would see each other. MEANING, you both would see each other at your VERY BEST (20 min after putting on your dress)! MEANING, your couples’ portraits are when you look the freshest. Super ideal for anyone with a large dress getting married in a hot time of the year…(cough April-October cough).

For the traditional timeline, it’s not like you will be putting on your dress and then hopping off to your ceremony. No. The schedule will go like this:

1. Getting Ready

2. Wedding party (Bride and bridesmaids) (Groom and Groomsmen)

3. Partial family formals (all of your family pics without your new spouse)

4. Ceremony

5. The REST of family formals

6. Full wedding party photos

7. Bride and groom portraits

Meaning your portraits will not occur until 3.5 to 4 hours AFTER putting on your dress. If you decide to do a traditional look, I’m going to insist we factor in a 15 minute break every now and then to give yourself time and permission to go inside, cool down, and freshen up. It’s worth it.

Questions I know you want to ask:

Why does family get to go before us??????????? And how are we #7 on the list?? 

The reason why we do this is because family complains if they have to sit around too long waiting to have their photo taken. Well, “They will just have to wait.” Or “They’re here for us.” But, when you see them there, sweating and waiting (fanning themselves with your ceremony program), you want them to just hurry on up and get their picture taken so they can go to the reception and have a drink. If they are a part of the partial family formals, that is at least a solid hour before the ceremony! So if you factor this in, an hour before + ceremony + however long until it’s their turn, they end up sitting around waiting for about 2 hours. And, if you think about it, 2 hours is LONG time for someone to just chill out when they aren’t even in the wedding.

How long does all of that stuff after the ceremony take???

That depends. How many pictures do you want? Family formals are family formals. I say, give them 20 minutes depending on how attentive everyone is and how large your family is. Wedding party shots can be as simple as ONE photo of everyone in a line and then it’s done! Do you want that or do you want more creative groupings? If you want more creative groupings, then that takes time. Do you have a shot list that you want of your wedding party being goofy and doing x? It’s something to think about. Then whatever time we have left of your 45 min -1 hour cocktail hour (or whatever you have planned for your guest) is bride and groom time. Maybe 15 minutes….

Now, yes. We can absolutely make changes to this, and there are always exceptions to the rule. I had one wedding where the ceremony was in the morning and the reception was in the evening. That gave us AMPLE time to get couples portraits before the reception. If family pictures are not priority for you, then there are more options to shorten this. 1. Cut out the extended family shots. 2. We can cut out the partial family pics as well and only get full groupings with you two as a couple. 3. We can also photograph you and your husband first, send everyone off to the reception, and then just have someone round everyone back up when we are ready for photos. (I realllllllllly do not recommend this just for time (rounding everyone up) and appearance (the tie usually comes off, and drinks have been had at this point)).

Ok, so we get it. A first look is definitely my vote…but what are the drawbacks? In my opinion, first looks can be cheesy or feel set up. And depending on the couple, they can be really “whatever” in terms of reaction. You might think that your groom is going to cry a lot, but then he doesn’t….The pictures are definitely going to be sweet and more relaxed, but I do agree that the groom reaction when the bride is walking down the aisle is really genuine. There is also this point right after the ceremony where you just have this smile. It’s the sweetest smile ever! Before the wedding, you are all nervous, but after the ceremony, you just have a look of elation! It’s beautiful, and it’s something that we kinda miss in the first look portion of the day because you’re not married yet. In an ideal world, I would love to do a first look for about 30 min and schedule another 15 minutes of portraits after the ceremony to get those really amazing “We’re married. This is real. Forever starts now.” photos.

Also, in terms of scheduling time, a first look timeline takes more time on the front end, meaning the longer your photography coverage will be. I might start 4 hours before the ceremony to get the first look and everything else in, but only 2.5ish hours before the ceremony for a traditional look. Because there are more hours with the first look, you can guarantee that there will also be more photos, which I would consider to be a plus. But if you decide you want an exit to be photographed, that may add on extra hours than your original package includes.

So for short, I made a summary list:


1. Easier timeline

2. Photos when you are the freshest

3. Less wait time for family and wedding party

4. More photos


1. Set up feeling. Can have bleh reactions.

2. More photography coverage (Longer wedding day timeline).

In short, I just want to quickly summarize and clarify some of the points you will need to consider with a traditional look.

1. You will have LESS photos in general. Less photos of you two as a couple. Less of wedding party together. Less to none of the cocktail hour photos because your photographer will be taking all of the after ceremony pics.

hillwood reception

Example of cocktail hour photos

2. I will suggest adding on a second shooter to your package. They will be able to grab some cocktail hour shots of your guests, and they will be able to add additional angles of any portraits we do afterwards which will give you more of a selection. Additionally, they will be able to get a second angle of your first look at the ceremony.

3. You will need to add in breaks to cool off and freshen up, but also have the mindset of “I feel better. Let’s get back out there!” NOT “I’m fresh, but now I’m kinda done taking photos.” You will pat yourself on the back later when you have more photos and still look fresh.

4. I HIGHLY recommend a cocktail hour or letting your guests go ahead and eat dinner so they have something to do for about 45 minutes while we are finishing up photos.

First Look Maddie MoreeFirst Look Maddie Moree

From a bride’s standpoint:

Ok, ladies, truth time. I did have a first look, but I have to tell you, it was a tad anti-climactic. I can’t really explain why. I think society builds it up SO much. And you see these adorable pictures on Pinterest, and you want that. Sure, my first look was sweet! And my husband cried. And I cried. And the pictures were cute. But it wasn’t what everyone built it up to be. Maybe because it was so set up. That’s a personal opinion.

But then, when I actually walked down the aisle, everyone was smiling and waving. It totally distracted me from looking at my groom. I’m still glad I had a first look because had I just done a traditional look, I would have missed his reaction completely.

For the ladies who get distracted (like me), a first look may be a stellar option for you (it’s kinda like a back-up)! If you miss one, at least you have the other.

Pro/Con from a bride:


  1. Timeline was not rushed/stressed

  2. I missed the first look at the ceremony, so I’m soooo glad I saw him before hand.

  3. Plus, it was very intimate, so that was nice.

  4. Also very practical


  1. It was anticlimactic


As I wrap this up, I also want to add this in here. Do not think I am against a traditional look. I am totally happy with whatever you choose! This is YOUR wedding, and I’m just happy to be a part of it. I only want you to know what to expect and how to prioritize so there are NO surprises on the wedding day. Like I said, every wedding is different, but this is a good baseline to start when deciding on if a first look will work for you!


Now that I’ve made my points, what do you think? Feel free to comment if you had a First Look already, or you are thinking about having one! Stay tuned for other wedding/engagement tips. And hey – be a friend and share this with your peeps, AND don’t forget to “like” me on Facebook. What else could validate the love other than a like on Facebook? Maybe you could follow me on instagram too! JK…but not really.