That is the question! And truly a question worth finding the right answer for you and your wedding day. As we come into wedding season with our clients, we realize more and more how so much of the day’s plans hinge on this decision. We’re here to help!
The First Look trend is no longer a trend, it’s now a common way of doing wedding days. For those of you new to the phrase, the “first look” is a time set aside for the bride and groom to privately see each other for the first time on their wedding day prior to the ceremony. The incorporation of this style changes the flow of your wedding day timeline, which has come to benefit many brides and grooms, among other perks. But it’s not for everyone.
Some, when hearing about the First Look, might react with “isn’t it bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony?!” Personally, I’m not one who’s dictated by superstition, especially one that comes from antiquated arranged marriages! Once upon a time, marriages were mostly all arranged. And usually arranged between families whose children might never have met. These arranged marriages were meant to be more like a business deal between families (with the hope of the brides family to marry into equal or improved status, and preferably marrying their daughter to a land-owning groom!) Well, the very worst and shameful thing that could happen would be that the groom would call off the arrangement if he didn’t like the looks of his intended. (Insert snarky comment here!) So to keep him from calling it all off, the bride was concealed until the ceremony time and she usually wore a veil or blusher in front of her face down the aisle, so by the time the groom saw her face it was too late to run!
I would strongly suggest not basing you decision on the origin of this tradition! There are beautiful benefits to a first look, AND beautiful benefits to seeing each other for the first time at the aisle. Here’s my honest answer about it, both as a planner and being married to a photographer, and then we’ll let you decide!
What a First Look can’t do for you
I’m usually not a start-with-the-negative type person, but since there really are very few cons to doing a First Look, I thought I would start you off with the biggest/best reason not to do a First Look. What I tell all my couples is simple, and I’ll tell it to you:
If you have been dreaming all your life of the moment you first see your intended at the ceremony, doing a First Look will never compare.
In my experience, it’s about 50/50 whether the bride or the groom has been dreaming of this moment more! Take a second to think about it… When you think about your wedding, if the moment when the music begins, all rise, and you experience the entrance of your bride, or you float towards your groom, all the emotions swelling, all the drama and anticipation… and that’s the first eyes you’ve laid on each other that day- and you’d not want it any other way- do not compromise it.
As beautifully and dramatically as a First Look can be orchestrated, it is different than seeing each other for the first time at the aisle. They are two very different moments, and if there is a love-loss in letting go of your dream of seeing each other at the aisle, remind yourself that it’s a moment you’ll never be able to redo or replicate, and it might not be worth the trade.
Why First Looks are wonderful
First Looks are wonderful, for a handful of reasons, some that can be so beneficial that they effect areas of your day that immediately exponentially more beneficial.
Gives you a very exclusive and intimate experience:
This is truly a time set aside for each other. I’ve had spectators like the bridal party or family witnessing the First Look, and that’s up to you and the journey you want to have. I personally think the moment should be just for you two. It makes the emotions more authentic and less forced when there isn’t an audience. It’s a time to express your awe of just how amazing the other looks, to embrace the day that’s about to unfold and have some fun with the camera!
Helps eliminate the jitters:
Many couples feel like there’s too much pressure surrounding the processional, and if they could see each other first, they would feel more grounded and less jittery. Some couples find extra support and calm being near their better half, and that can help ease and center them to enjoy the day more. For those who are uncomfortable with all-eyes-on-you for your entrance into the ceremony, you might be very distracted by getting through the moment, and miss the magic that happens between a bride and groom upon entering the ceremony– by doing a First Look, you get the chance to focus on each other without the distractions of your guests and the nerves of the moment.
Eases your timeline & ups quality photo time:
By placing the bulk of the portrait photo time prior to the ceremony it does a couple things: 1.) Gets it “out of the way,” so for you social butterflies you’ll have more time to spend with guests once the day gets going. 2.) Family & Wedding Party can gather early to do the photos as well, that keeps from having to wrangle everyone after the ceremony when they just want to catch up with their long lost best friends. 3.) It allows you to go from ceremony to reception without a gap (or much of one). With so many weddings taking place on the same site as the reception, putting the First Look prior to the ceremony, gives a certain fluidity to the timeline that is favorable in that context.
Joining the cocktail party
So many couples look forward to their cocktail party! It’s a portion of the day that’s just plain old fun, and it’s fun if you’d like to join it too! The is one thing most couple’s miss on their wedding day to give enough time for photos between ceremony and reception if they see each other at the aisle– especially if ceremony and reception are on the same property. So if cocktails are a big priority to you, a First Look will help you get there!
A First Look is right for you if….
+ You are going to have more fun, enjoy your day more, and be closer to your future-spouse than if you waited until the aisle. On the other side of the coin, make sure no big dream or vision is compromised by choosing a First Look, or no negative/regretful result happens by not seeing each other at the aisle first.
+ If your timeline and flow of your day better reflects the wedding day you dream of having.
+ If it’s either high on your priority list or if the high priorities on your list are positively effected by you having a First Look, then you should choose it.
+ Photography is paramount to you (or you’ve spent a small fortune on it) as it allows you to have more quality time with your photographer and your intended, resulting in more of the photos you’d want to have.
I used to have a big gripe with First Looks. The way they started was cute, gal taps guy on the shoulder and he turns around and viola. Cute. But it soon became THE way of doing them, and I found it very cheesy, canned, forced, disappointing.
As I worked with my couples, I realized, “we’re designing every aspect of this day, the First Look should be designed too!” Ever since applying that thought, together with the photographer, we’ve created some very magical moments, authentic reactions and a time that is more reflective of our couples and the day they want to have. This is just how we do things here at LoveWell.
I think my distaste boiled down to the groom’s positioning. All this effort, money and time has been spent grooming and perfecting oneself for the day, especially for the bride. All that to turn around and see a close up of just the prettied face seemed to be a disservice to the whole vision– and it forced the guy, who is not usually the more expressive of the two, to have some over-the-top reaction to his girl in makeup. Then of course he can see the whole vision, and then the moments became more natural, but that very first impression, well, I wasn’t impressed. One of the best parts of seeing each other down the aisle is that you see the full vision of your bride and as she approaches you see her more in detail. In this first look featured here, the groom turned around when his bride was near, but not too close. And he got the full effect of her glory! Obviously!
My challenge to you is to think about it. If the “classic” way of the First Look is totally what you’re envisioning, do it! But if it’s causing hesitation, get creative with your photographer. Think about location, what you love about the moment and what you don’t, what would make you feel amazing or how you can better express your love in that moment. We’ve done grand entrances with the bride, we’ve had epic staircase moments or tree-lined hidden paths where they’ve faced each other and come together, old amphitheaters or vast fields where the bride walks to her groom and times the bride has been positioned perfectly for her groom to enter and walk to her! Have fun, be creative and find something that speaks to you and that amazing moment!
With all that being said, it’s not so tough of a question any more is it?
A couple more pieces of unsolicited parting advise:
If you do a First Look, I encourage you to still take time after the ceremony for a few photos just married. There’s an apparent difference in these photos, the intimacy and the state of being after you’re married is noticeable. I mean, now you’re married, so of course they are! Even if you got quality time earlier in the day, the light is different now, you are different now, it’s worth catching it all before you’re swept away into the party!
If you choose to see each other first at the aisle, remember, weddings have been done this way for decades! There are creative ways to minimize missing out on anything, but in all these choices, there is a bit of a trade. Ty & I missed our cocktail party, to get in all the amazing photo time we needed after our ceremony and loved that time together just married. That fresh moment at the aisle coming toward the mate of our dreams could not be traded for us. While many people who choose a First Look, still have an incredible moment as they experience the processional and coming into their marriage ceremony. I just depends on who you are as a couple and the moments you want to remember from your day.
I’m so happy we knew that about ourselves, and I hope you know yourselves well enough to make the decision that gives you the most peace and excitement for your big day. Which ever is right for you, you should commit to it without reservation so you can embrace these fleeting and memorable moments as they unfold before you.
Love Always, Love Well.