Long before Mark and I got married on June 20, 2015, we decided to see each other before the wedding ceremony. The photographer put Mark in place under a stone arch in a grassy area and took his last bachelor portraits before I arrived. He summoned me from the bridal suite and led me outside, where Mark was waiting with his back turned. I approached my soon-to-be-husband, my eyes welling with tears, and reached out to tap his shoulder. As he turned around, we were both flooded with emotion. I remember weeping and smiling a lot, and he stared at me as if he were memorizing every detail of my appearance. We spent a couple minutes alone, and those moments together were precious.
From my own experience as a bride having done a “first look”—that is, I saw my husband before the ceremony—I can you give my recommendation to see your fiancé before the ceremony. However, now I can analyze this increasingly popular trend from the perspective of a wedding photographer, and there is much more to consider regarding how a first look can influence the rest of your day.
We have photographed weddings when the bride and groom chose not to see each other before the ceremony, and we have had many more when the bride and groom did a first look. Having witnessed both scenarios, we can confidently say that there are many advantages to doing a first look, some that you may not have considered.
Here are some reasons why you may want to do a first look on your wedding day:
1. The first look is intimate.
The first look allows partners to see one another before the ceremony without all of the wedding guests looking on. In either case, you and your partner will only be looking at each other, but if you choose to see each other from either side of the aisle, remember that you are including everybody in that moment when you first see each other. In this case, you may not experience a genuine outpouring of emotions since you have an audience; whether it’s intended or not, you or your partner may suppress emotions or react differently with others watching. Because the first look involves only you and your fiancé, you will feel free to react in whatever way feels natural, whether you weep, sob, laugh, or just hold each other.
2. The first look makes great photos.
Your natural reaction to seeing your partner for the first time on your wedding day will make for beautiful candid photos.
3. The first look eases nerves.
Many brides and grooms are nervous before their wedding ceremony. Once we shot a wedding when both the bride and groom were getting sick before the ceremony, and the wedding party had to coordinate their trips to the bathrooms so that they didn’t accidentally cross paths in the hallway. This is a case where a first look may have been a good addition to the itinerary. Seeing each other before the wedding will take away some of your anxiety.
4. The first look makes your wedding day timeline more flexible.
If you and your fiancé decide on a first look, your schedule for the day will be more leisurely than if you first see each other down the aisle. After the big reveal, you have options to take bridal portraits, photos of the whole wedding party, and family photos with both you and your partner. Typically, brides and grooms who do a first look take their bridal portraits and formal poses with the bridal party before the ceremony. This frees up time after the service for family photos, which is helpful especially if you have even one big family. If you choose not to do a first look and have bridal, wedding party, and family portraits following the ceremony, you may feel rushed, which can affect your mood and show in your photos.
This is our feedback, which obviously points to our preference for a first look. However, it is ultimately up to you and your fiancé to decide what feels right.