Need advice on how to finish a cedar pergola please. : HomeImprovement

We recently had a pergola built with cedar (almost completed) in central Illinois. We were planning to stain it with a semi-transparent stain/sealant when it’s done but I don’t know much about these things. Based on some online “research” it seems like I should be able to apply the stain pretty much right away (at least I don’t think this is pressure treated wood). What would you recommend on product, when to apply, and the biggest question I have now is should I sand it first? It looks like quite a job to sand but I’m willing if that will yield better results. Here are some pics of the nearly complete pergola. cedar pergola

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