My husband-to-be was standing in my parents front garden under the big tree, his back turned away from the house where I was hiding. It was a very hot and sunny day (30º) and our photographer helped pick the right location, in the shade. While I had been relaxed all morning, I was starting to have a knot in my stomach at the thought of him finally seeing me and my dress after all those months of planning. What if he didn’t like the colour?

I couldn’t wait for him to see me, and me to see his eyes when he did.

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I got the “ok”, took a big breath, came down the stairs and out the door. My family was around and I hardly heard their exclamations and compliments, I was so focused on his back in the garden. I walked up to five meters behind him. He heard my steps on the gravel. “Can I turn around?” Impatient and scared at the same time, I whispered “Yes”. He turned and looked at me. I saw his eyes were very very blue (which they do when he cries) and I felt loved and beautiful. He kissed me, gave me a hug, held my hands (he was shaking a bit), asked me to turn around. “Do you like my dress?” I asked. “It’s my favourite colour.” he said.

Johanna First Look

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During those few minutes, we were in our bubble. I was hardly aware of the photographer moving around us capturing this special moment. He had been very tense beforehand too but we were now both relaxed and smiling from ear to ear, happy to be with each other and looking forward to the beautiful day ahead of us.

In France a lot of couples now choose to do a “first look” and so did we. In Ireland, it doesn’t seem as popular, but traditions are constantly evolving in the wedding world so I can see it becoming more common in the next few years.

The first look was the way to go for us for different reasons (the tiny town hall didn’t even have an aisle!) and it was one of the most important moment of our wedding day and definitely one of the most emotional. After the first look, we took 45 minutes to 1 hour for couple portraits. It was a very nice time. We chatted a lot and he told me that he rescued a bird on the road that morning (true story!). It might sound silly, but I might have never heard that story if we only saw each other for the first time at the ceremony.

Johanna First Look

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We got to spend 2 more hours together than we would have otherwise. I got to spend some quality time with him before the day really started and then got to spend more time with our guests at the cocktail (which felt like it lasted only a few minutes it was so great). It also meant I wasn’t stressed anymore when I got to the ceremony but still got my load of emotions when I saw our guests waiting for me outside the town hall (Yep, I cried. No, I won’t show the pictures).

We did the group shots right before the cocktail hour and took a few minutes while the guests were sitting for dinner to do a few more couple portraits as the sun was setting.

If we had to do it again, we would do it exactly the same (except I would make sure to declutter the garden and ask my uncle to park his car somewhere else, but there are so many details a bride can think about) and I definitely would recommend you consider having a first look on your wedding day.

What is a first look?

The first look is when the groom sees the bride for the first time before the ceremony.

Declan and Muireann

Benefits of a first look

1. You can savour this intimate moment (without 100 guests watching) and talk, hug, kiss.

2. Your photographer can capture this special moment more easily (it’s harder to photograph the bride coming down the aisle AND the groom looking at her).

3. You will get (very precious) time to yourself, to enjoy each other, chat, laugh, relax between the first look and the ceremony.

4. You will get more time for your couple portraits to be creative and explore different locations.

5. You will get more time to enjoy your guests during your cocktail/reception.

6. You will extend your wedding day by a few hours. It all goes so fast, every minute counts!

7. You will be able to enjoy your cocktail hour (have a drink, mingle on nice food).

8. You will be more relaxed when you get to the ceremony while not taking away any emotions from walking down the aisle (your guests will also see you for the first time!)

9. You can take care of all (or some of) your formal portraits before the ceremony (wedding party, close family) and not worry about it afterwards.

10. If you are getting married in the winter, it’s best to capitalise on the little day light we have for your couple portraits before it gets too dark.


Obviously, a first look might not be the right option for you and that’s fine too! If you really want that first look to happen while you walk down the aisle in front of your loved ones, then go for it! It is YOUR wedding day and you have to follow your heart and do what is important for you.


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