The choice whether or not to have a first look is always up to my clients, but I wanted to share a few reasons that I usually recommend a first look to most of my bride and groom.
I think a first look is the best way to utilize time on the wedding day. Post-ceremony photo time is a delicate balance between making the guests wait and trying to get all the pictures the bride and groom want. And often after the ceremony, the bride and groom just want to party! Or eat. Or the bride wants to take her shoes off. Those gorgeous shoes never last long. When the bride and groom don't want to see each other before the wedding, we can only get separate bridal party shots out of the way. That leaves the combined bridal party photos, the family portraits, and the bride and groom portraits. And that's a lot of pictures to fit into cocktail hour. Some couples really want to do it that way and that's fine. But brides who choose a first look will have more romantic portraits and will get to the reception sooner, because we usually build the timeline to include everything but family portraits before the wedding.
I also think a first look helps with the stress of the day. I've heard many nervous brides say "Once I see him, I'll be ok." If she waits to see him until the end of the aisle, she's still all nervous because the ceremony is going on. But couples that do a first look have a moment to breath and just be together before the events of the day really get going.
First looks don't take away the emotion of the ceremony. Grooms who cry at the first look usually cry again during the ceremony. And even though the couple has already seen each other, when she's walking down the aisle, they get that moment of "it's really happening!" I already shared why a first look was really important to me, but I think a lot of brides want the same thing that I did. She wants him to admire her dress. To tell her how beautiful she looks. To whisper in her ear how excited he is to marry her and how much he loves her. He can't really do that in the middle of the ceremony. The first look allows a bride and groom to share their true emotions with each other and then when the ceremony comes they can soak that in as well.
But like I said, the decision is completely up to my brides. It's her big day and I don't want her to have any regrets.