Colorado Wedding Photography | Should A Couple See Each Other Before The Wedding Ceremony?

January 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Denver Front Range Wedding Photographers Tom and Lucy Miles, Milestone Imaging - Traditional vs. First Look

So when it comes to planning the timeline and logistics for your wedding day photography, your photographer will ask you if your wedding will be “Traditional” or will you be doing a “First Look”.   Let’s define these options so we are all on the same page:

Traditional – the bride and groom do not see each other until their eyes meet as the bride is walking down the aisle.

Photographed by Denver Colorado wedding photographers Milestone ImagingNana and Jared - Traditional Wedding CeremonyJared sees Nana for the first time on their wedding day. Wedgewood at Ken Caryl, Littleton, Colorado.

The anticipation in both Jared and Nana's faces is genuine and so emotional.  It was an amazing moment!


First Look – when the bride and groom are dressed and ready in their full wedding attire, they see each other for the first time before the ceremony and the intimate meeting is photographed.

Wedding photography by Colorado Mountain  wedding photographers Milestone ImagingKirsten and Michael - approaching first lookMichael waits as Kirsten approaches. Breckenridge, Colorado

Photographed by Rocky Mountain wedding photographers Milestone ImagingKirsten and Michael First LookWe like to shoot a first look with the bride approaching the groom from behind. This works best with two photographers. Breckenridge, Colorado

First looks are a cherished moment and images like this end up in the couple's wedding album!

Wedding photography by Colorado Mountain wedding photographers Milestone ImagingMichael sees Kirsten for the first time!Immediately after their first look, Kirsten and Michael exchanged private vows.

After their First Look, Kirsten and Michael exchanged private personal vows to each other.  


So let’s dig into the pros and cons:  Traditional

First the pros:

  • Oh my gosh; so romantic!
  • It’s traditional and what most people will expect, such as parents, friends etc.  I have seen some parents really get upset when the B&G decide not to do it this way but remember, the decision is yours!
  • It’s exciting and builds anticipation.
  • It can make the wedding ceremony more emotional and genuine. 
  • As a bride, you will get that photograph of your groom’s face as you walk down the aisle and he sees you for the first time.
  • If you have a venue that does not give you access several hours before the ceremony, it’s the logical choice unless you want to do a first look at a different location. 

Wedding images by Colorado Mountain  wedding photographers Milestone ImagingShanelle and Joey traditional ceremonyJoey is completely focused on Shanelle as she walks down the aisle. Silverthorne, Colorado.

Above, there's no doubt, Shanelle and Joey are completely focused on each other!  And below, the groom's face as the bride walks down he aisle is a must have photograph for the bride during a traditional ceremony.

Wedding photography by Denver wedding photographer Milestone ImagingStacey and Jade traditional ceremony After hours of nervous anticipation, Stacey and Jade see each other for the first time on their wedding day. Baldoria on the Water, Lakewood, Colorado


 Now the cons:

  • You will have less photography time of just the two of you (called your “creatives”).  The traditional approach usually leaves one hour or so during cocktails for pictures of your families, bridal party and creatives.

Photographed by Colorado Mountain Wedding Photographers Milestone ImagingMelissa and Dan creativesThese shots of Melissa and Dan were taken after their first look and still a couple of hours before the ceremony. Winding River Ranch, Grand Lake, Colorado

We call the pictures of just the bride and groom their "creatives".


  • The risk is higher that you won’t get all the wedding images you are hoping for especially if anything else happens to run late.
  • You may miss the cocktail hour with your guests.
  • Your guests may have to wait longer for dinner if the wedding photos run late.
  • Traveling to another location for your wedding images may not be feasible due to time constraints.
  • If your wedding party is big, you may lose even more time; the bigger the wedding party, the more time is involved in getting the bridal party shots. 

So if you go this route, here are some things that will help you get as much photography time as possible to get epic wedding images. 

  • Consider a later reception start rather than immediately after the ceremony.  Now this will depend on the venue and logistics; but sometimes a wedding ceremony at a church can be at 2:00 pm and the reception starts at 5:00 pm for example.  This gives you worry free photography time and more time with your guests later.

Wedding photography by Denver Wedding Photographer Tom Miles, Milestone ImagingFrank and Jessica with bridal party Jessica and Frank at Union Station, Denver, Colorado with their bridal party.

Because of a gap between the ceremony end time and start of the reception, we were able to go downtown to take Jessica and Frank's bridal party shots and creatives.

  • Get absolutely super organized on your family photos.  Something we see often is the couple doesn’t plan for what family shots they want after the ceremony and people are not ready.  This can waste precious time.  Give your photographer the following two things:
    • A detailed list of who you want in each of the family shots.  List the names of the individuals so they can be called out.
    • A designated “wrangler” (person who can work with your photographer and knows most of the family members and can round up people and call out names using the list).   
  • Give a heads up to the folks who you want to be in the pictures and where they need to be after the ceremony.  Your officiant can help by announcing this after the ceremony.
  • Don’t go overboard.  Do you really need the bride with each sibling separately?  If not, just focus on a great group shot of all the siblings.  Figure out what is important.     

Photographed by Colorado Mountain wedding photographers Milestone Imaging.  Family ShotA cold January wedding at Devil's Thumb Ranch, Tabernash, CO.

This photo was taken at 4 degrees below zero at Devil's Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, CO!!  Talk about having to work quickly.  Everyone was ready to go when called.  I had a designated family member acting as a "wrangler" helping to call out names from the shot list.  


  • Get the following shots done before the ceremony and it will save a ton of time afterwards.  Make sure you allow at least 30 minutes each for the girls and guys.  Tell everyone involved what time he or she needs to be ready.
    • Details: dress, rings, shoes, flowers etc.
    • Bride’s portrait alone (this will be a must for a well rounded wedding album)
    • Bride with bridesmaids (and groomsmen if you wish), candid shots of course but also formal

Photographed by Denver Wedding photographer Milestone Imaging.Carly and Ryan bridal party bar shots.Bride with Groomsmen and Groom with Bridesmaids taken before the ceremony. Lionsgate Event Center, Lafayette, Colorado.

Carly had a vision for bar shots.  These bridal party images were all taken before the traditional wedding ceremony.


  • Bride with each bridesmaid
  • First look with Dad and bride with parents
  • Groom’s portrait alone
  • Groom with groomsmen (and bridesmaids if you wish) candid shots and formal
  • Groom with parents
  • Groom with each groomsman
  • For the bridal party shots, everyone is going to want to get a cocktail once the ceremony is done.  Please tell your bridal party to stay in one designated location until the family shots are done.  If they disperse, it can be like herding cats to regroup.  They are there for you; make sure they give you this courtesy.  


Photographed by Denver Colorado wedding photographers Milestone Imaging.  Carly and Ryan's large bridal party shot taken during the cocktail hour. Beautiful fall wedding at the Gatehouse at Lionsgate Event Center, Lafayette, Colorado. Make sure the bridal party is standing by and ready to go.  This will save time and stress for the bride and groom.  Communication is key!

  • Think outside the box to get more photography time.  After you and your groom finish eating (which will most likely be before your guests are done) take another 15-20 minutes with your photographer with just the two of you.  This is something Tom and I try to do even it we have taken great pictures during cocktails. 

Wedding photography by Denver Wedding Photographers Milestone ImagingAdditional creatives during dinner, Brookside Gardens Event Center, Berthoud, ColoradoAfter Chuks and McKenzie were finished eating, we went outside for some additional shots as their guests finished dinner.

These images were taken during dinner after the couple had finished but the guests were still eating.


  • Do a “no look first look” (see below).   This is Milestone Imaging’s name for a shot of you and your bride/groom unable to see each other but touching hands or exchanging a note.  Get creative with this shot and share your ideas with your photographer beforehand.    You can also talk a bit which can relieve stress (but no peeking).  We guarantee this will be a very special moment!  This image usually turns into a favorite for our couples and ends up in the album or on the wall!

Wedding photography by Denver wedding photographers Milestone ImagingStacey and Jade, no look first lookBaldoria on the Water, Lakewood, Colorado, has amazing light coming in from the windows onto the fireplace wall. Stacey and Jade's officiant prays over them during the no look first look.

Above, as they did their "no look first look" Stacey and Jade's officiant prayed over them.   

Denver Wedding photographer Milestone ImagingKatie and Gabe, no look first lookWe used the door of the bridal suite at The Barn at Raccoon Creek, Littleton, Colorado for Katie and Gabe's no look first look.

Katie and Gabe's "no look first look" followed by the groomsmen version!  

Photographed by Denver Front Range and Mountain Wedding Photographer, Milestone ImagingNo Look First Look - Jill and BradThis is one of our favorite "no look first looks" with Jill and Brad taken at Valley Country Club, Centennial, CO

Get creative with your "no look first look".  Jill and Brad at Valley Country Club in Littleton, CO.  


First Look

The pros:

  • You will have a head start and get more planned photos.
  • This keeps dinner on time and you get to attend the cocktail hour and party.  Usually just family photos are left but we have even done those before the ceremony as well.  You also have the option to keep shooting during the cocktail hour.
  • If photography is your priority, this will give you the best chance for more great images.  We have done weddings where we shot for two hours before the ceremony and continued during the cocktail hour.  If you want great photography most of all, build it into the planning timeline.    
  • A first look gives you an opportunity to be alone with your spouse without all the guests around.  You can enjoy a glass of wine and just take it all in.
  • It will make the ceremony more relaxed and you won’t be as nervous. 
  • A first look is very romantic, emotional and is a moment dedicated to the two of you alone.  We have cried at many!!
  • This creates a whole version of shots that you won’t get with a traditional ceremony as you can see below.

Devil's Thumb Ranch wedding photographer Milestone Imaging, Tabernash, ColoradoFirst look, Stephanie and ChrisThe perfect winter first look at the stables at Devil's Thumb Ranch, Tabernash, Colorado

Photographed by Loveland and Front Range wedding photographers, Milestone ImagingEli and Mallory, Ellis Ranch, Loveland, COA great example of the emotion of a "First Look"!!

This First Look was filled with joy!  Don't underestimate how emotional a First Look can be!

Here are some cons:

  • Believe it or not, I have seen this become very tiring for some brides.  If you have planned for a first look followed by 90 minutes of bridal party and creatives, you are in your dress for a long time.  If the weather is hot and you are constantly moving from one place to another, it’s easy to feel like you have run a marathon before the ceremony even begins.    
  • If you want to tackle the bridal party shots before the ceremony, everyone needs to be ready sooner.   This is easier said than done.  If anything runs late which is certainly a possibility, the bridal party shots could be toast.  This has happened to us several times. 
  • Guests may show up while you are out and about taking pictures.  Are you OK with them seeing you before as well?  You will also be a magnet to anyone who sees you, so prepare for hugs and greetings in the middle of pictures. 
  • Be prepared to bustle and un-bustle the dress, as it may be necessary to move around for the creatives.  Also, there could be some wear and tear and a bit of dirt on the dress and shoes.  This will happen eventually but I wanted to mention it for the perfectionists out there.  

Wedding photography by Colorado Mountain wedding photographer Milestone ImagingMelissa and Dan creatives.After the first look we proceeded with this image of Melissa and Dan. Winding River Ranch, Grand Lake, Colorado.

This is a cherished image from Melissa and Dan's wedding taken after the first look.

If you decide on a first look, here are some tips to make it go smoothly:

  • As I mentioned earlier, guests will start to arrive the closer you get to ceremony time.  If possible, plan on stopping photos 30 minutes before the ceremony so you can retreat to the bridal suite and freshen up while the guests arrive. 
  • You don’t need to get all the shots done before the wedding ceremony and you can save the bridal party and family for afterwards if you wish.  Even allowing 30 minutes with just you and your spouse for creatives will give you a big head start and piece of mind that those shots are done. 
  • When it’s time for the first look, politely tell everyone to stay back (or we can).  This is a time for the two of you alone and we will be photographing very important shots.  Bridal party members and family hanging around can be a distraction.

Wedding photography by Rocky Mountain Wedding Photographers, Milestone ImagingJen and Anthony First LookOutside the Timber House at Devil's Thumb Ranch, Tabernash, Colorado, Jen and Anthony are about to see each other for the first time on their wedding day.

Having bridal party and family members watch from a distance keeps the First Look private and intimate.


  • Have a plan B; just in case things fall behind.  Tom or I will usually gently tell a bride how we are doing with the planned timeline and make suggestions if things are running late.  

Remember that there are no right or wrong answers; only what feels right to you.  Set your priorities beforehand and remember that nothing ever goes perfectly so keep a light hearted approach and trust your photographer.  A good professional wedding photographer is going to be able to work quickly, keep things moving and get the shots.

                                                                                                                                 ~ Lucy Miles     

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Milestone Imaging is a husband and wife team who strives to provide their clients with the best wedding photography, engagement photography, and high school senior photography, in the Denver, Colorado metro area.  We consider anywhere in Colorado, to be home, and have proudly photographed clients in Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Steamboat Springs, Winter Park, as well as the front range cities of Fort Collins, Loveland, Lyons, Boulder, Evergreen, Pine, Conifer, Larkspur, Colorado Springs and downtown Denver.   

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