To Have a First Look, or to Not Have a First Look | Milwaukee, WI

Do you want to have a first look or don’t you? In the end, the answer is completely up to you and what you want your wedding day to look like!

In my personal opinion, which should not be a surprise, you can never have too much time for photographs. With that being said let’s look at two different wedding timelines to help you weigh out the pros and cons of having a first look!


A timeline without a first look is also called a golden hour timeline. For this type of schedule, the couple does not see each other before the ceremony. The first time you see one another will be at the ceremony just before you are joined together as one. All of your loved ones will be there to witness this truly emotional and epic moment. 

The reason we call it the Golden Hour timeline is because the majority of your portraits together will likely be taken place later in the day when the sun is lower in the sky providing the most beautiful, golden light for your photographs. 

The Golden Hour schedule is pretty common but has some issues that will need to be addressed. Prior to the ceremony, only photos of the bridesmaids and groomsmen will be taken. 

After the ceremony, family formals will immediately take place, we then try to gather the entire bridal party for a couple of group shots, and then the couple has their Portrait Session. In most situations, this is happening during the cocktail hour. We then head directly into the reception. 

There are some pros & cons of doing the Golden Hour timeline. 


  1. It’s the classic route. You may be that person that has always envisioned coming down the aisle to your fiance seeing you for the first time!
  2. That light! The ideal time for photographs is 1-2 hours before sunset. The sun is lower and the light is softer. Doing the Golden Hour route allows for shooting later in the day. Winter weddings be aware that the timeline may need to be adjusted due to the sun setting much earlier. Here is a huge tip! Simply Google, “sunset dd/mm/yyyy” and the exact sunset time for your wedding date will pop up. 
  3. No more stress! The wedding is over; the hard part is finished. Let’s go enjoy our time together and take some portraits. Couples love the idea of the “anticipation” being over and are able to fully relax!


  1. The biggest con is scheduling. Some weddings only allow for an hour between ceremony and reception. That means that family formals, bridal party, and your portrait session all happen in one hour. This is very doable as long as you are okay staying in one location and understand that you won’t have gobs and gobs of portraits of the two of you.
  2. If cocktail hour is something you value and you only have one hour, chances are that you won’t be able to attend much of it if you are going with a Golden Hour timeline. However, if you have more time in between the ceremony and the reception you will be a-ok to enjoy the merriment!
  3. I would suggest not to do a receiving line with the Golden Hour timeline. Receiving lines takes upwards of an hour dependent on guest lists. Again, you will need as much time as you can get after the ceremony to take all the photographs you need. 


For a First Look timeline, the couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony. You are able to preplan the perfect location so that I can best capture both of your reactions to seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day. You will be alone for this amazing and emotional moment.

With the First Look timeline, the majority of your portraits will be taken before your ceremony. Couples portraits, bridal party and even family formals can all be taken before the ceremony even beings. 

After the ceremony, you can choose to travel to more locations for additional couples and bridal party portraits or go party with your family and friends at cocktail hour.   

There are some pros & cons to doing the First Look timeline. 


  1. It allows you an intimate and private moment together to celebrate your wedding day and how amazing you both look 😉
  2. One of the biggest pros is scheduling. With some or all of your essential portraits out of the way, you are able to have a more relaxed time after your ceremony and don’t need to feel rushed to get it all done. Plus we can easily get extra couples portraits this way. I highly recommend we plan a few more photos during that gorgeous golden hour light. 
  3. You are easily able to have a receiving line and attend your cocktail hour. Which is fantastic if it is super important to you to be able to chat with each of your guests. 


  1. It’s a little non-traditional. While First Looks are becoming extremely common, they do break the “traditional” mold, even if it is only the tiniest bit. 
  2. The lighting during your first look can be very harsh because it is not during the golden hour of the day. This is why first looks are often planned in an area that has shade so that the sun’s rays aren’t causing weird shadows on your face and making you squint.

What Works Best for You

The choice is up to you! Talk it over with your fiance and decide what schedule style will work the best for you and your wedding 🙂 Each couple and wedding is different. It is all about finding a schedule that will best allow you to enjoy your big day. 



Hi! I am Ali Bergen, a wedding and portrait photographer specializing in timeless and joy-filled imagery. I photograph weddings and portraits in Milwaukee, Hartford and all around the great state of Wisconsin.

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