Today’s couples are all about making their weddings unique and personal, so it’s no surprise that many of them are drawn to the idea of having a first look. This is the time when the bride and groom choose to see each other in private before the ceremony. They select the perfect space in advance and the photographer helps stage the meeting. The groom stands with his back turned as the bride approaches, or vice versa. When they turn to face each other, the photographer is there to capture all of the reactions and emotions as they unfold.
|Kari and Gerry’s Wedding
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Childress Photography
If you’ve never heard of a first look, the concept may sound a bit strange. You’re probably asking yourself why would anyone do that. Why mess with tradition and ruin the special moment when you walk down the aisle?
Let’s start with the tradition. Over the years, it’s been common practice for the bride and groom to avoid seeing each other before the ceremony. You’ve probably heard that doing otherwise is bad luck, but did you know that many people actually attribute that superstition to the days of arranged marriages when the bride and groom never even met before the wedding day? You’ve obviously met your fiance. You might even already own a home together or have a child. Times are changing and traditions that seemed important in the past aren’t always necessary or practical anymore. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with choosing to stay apart the morning of your wedding. It just means you shouldn’t do it simply because tradition says so.
Maybe you’re not concerned with tradition. Maybe you’ve just always dreamed of seeing your fiance for the first time at the ceremony. There are certainly benefits to this approach. A sense of anticipation and excitement will build throughout the day and the reveal itself will be dramatic and special. The doors open, all eyes are on you, and everyone gets to share in the experience.
But it also has its limitations. When you finally see each other, it’s emotional, but you won’t really get to express that emotion. You may exchange a smile, shed a tear or hold hands, but by then, the ceremony has already begun. You’ll be busy listening to the officiant and preparing to say your vows. Soon you’ll be heading back down the aisle and posing for pictures or shaking hands with guests in the receiving line. There just isn’t a way for the two of you to really connect and savor the moment.
When you opt for a first look, you have the chance to create that perfect, intimate moment before the commotion begins. It’s a quiet time to pause and just take it all in. You can laugh or cry together, show off your outfits or calm each other’s nerves. You can even talk about your day so far and what’s still to come. Whatever reactions you have, they’ll be genuine and powerful. You won’t have to worry about holding back because everyone is watching you. You’ll be able to focus on each other and the love and happiness you feel without any distractions.
|Casey and Will’s Wedding
Photos courtesy of 217 Photography
And the walk down the aisle will still be thrilling and meaningful. The day you’ve been planning for months has finally arrived and all of your guests are there to be a part of it. It’s not hard to get caught up in the excitement, even if you’ve already seen each other.
Your photographs will also benefit from a first look. You can choose the perfect setting and your photographer will be able to control the lighting and angles more easily. Photographing the ceremony entrance can be tricky. Some venues have restrictions on where photographers can be positioned, making your emotions during the processional more challenging to capture. And no matter where the photographers stand or how many additional shooters they have, the bride and groom’s faces will never be in the same shot the moment they first lay eyes on each other, because they’ll be at opposite ends of the aisle. The photographer also has the added challenge of maneuvering around guests, but with the the first look, there are no restrictions or people there to get in the way, so everything can be captured perfectly.
|Laura and Jack’s Wedding
Photos courtesy of Wren & Field Photography
First looks can also help your schedule. Wedding days are hectic by nature. There is so much to do and no matter how hard you try, you’ll usually fall a little behind. Choosing a first look will give you extra time to get everything accomplished. Because you’ve already seen each other, all of your formal portraits can be taken before the ceremony. Everyone will be full of energy and ready to go and their hair and makeup will still be fresh. If you find yourself running late at any point, you’ll know that there’s still a chance to take care of any shots you’ve missed after the ceremony. With the photos out of the way, you’ll be able to attend your cocktail hour. You’ll have more time to mingle and celebrate with your family and friends and you’ll actually get to experience every aspect of the reception you worked so hard to plan.
When you wait until the ceremony to see each other, a majority of your portraits will have to be taken afterwards. Unless there is a huge gap between your ceremony and reception, your time to achieve this will be limited. You’ll most likely miss your cocktail hour and you may have to pull your bridal party and important family members away from the festivities as well. By then, everyone will have been in hair and makeup for hours. You’ll all be a bit more tired and a lot more anxious to start celebrating. Depending on the season, you may also have to contend with light that’s fading fast. The whole process can feel rushed and stressful, and no one wants to be stressed on their wedding day.
If there are aspects of the first look that you love, but you’re still undecided, there are some alternatives out there that might be a better fit for you. If you’d like to see your fiance before the ceremony, but you’re eager to share that moment with others, you can stage the first look in front of your bridal party or close family.
If you know spending some time together before the wedding will help you relax, but don’t necessarily want to see each other, have your photographer set you up around a corner or on opposite sides of a door. You can hold hands and even talk, but still save the reveal for later.
|Samantha and Nate’s Wedding
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Childress Photography
And who says your first look has to be with your fiance? Photographing the reactions of your bridal party or parents when they first see you can create equally meaningful images.
|Idit and Jordan’s Wedding
Photo courtesy of 217 Photography
The moment you and your fiance look at each other for the first time on your wedding day is something you’ll always remember, so make sure you consider exactly what you want to get out of that experience. As long as you choose a reveal that feels right for you as a couple, it will be truly unforgettable.