My couples often ask me what I think about doing a first look. They are often undecided, which makes total sense. Do they want to stick with the tradition of waiting until their ceremony to see each other for the first time from opposite ends of the aisle? Or do they forego tradition and do things their own way? I do have a preference! And I’m happy to give my opinion…. But ultimately it has to come down to what the couple wants.
If this were my decision to make, there’s a few things I’d like to know. Like… where did this tradition of staying apart come from anyway? What are the benefits of having a first look? If I didn’t do a first look, what are some other things I can do to still have a private moment with my bride or groom? So let’s talk about it!!!
First of all, the origins…. I’m sure we have all heard that it’s bad luck to see each other before the ceremony. But there’s definitely more to it than just superstition. I did a little bit of research and it looks like the primary reason for a couple not seeing each other before their ceremony comes from the practice of arranged marriages. Sometimes brides and grooms didn’t even see each other until the wedding day!! The way I understand it is that the bride’s father had to worry that the groom would see the bride’s face, not be attracted to her, and call the whole thing off. This is actually where the veil comes in handy!! If the groom can’t see the bride until he lifts the veil for the first kiss… it’s too late!!! You’re locked in buddy!!!
Okay, so that doesn’t exactly apply to modern day. Thank goodness, right? So why Should a couple choose to save their first time laying eyes on one another for the ceremony? Because it’s so romantic!!!! The buildup and anticipation can be so exciting!! How are they doing, how do they look, what are they feeling? All of that culminating to the moment you see each other in that moment that so many people dream of experiencing on their wedding day. Your partner is at the altar, beaming ear to ear, maybe crying, in absolute awe of how amazing you look. And all of your closest friends and loved ones get to be there to witness that beautiful moment. Like, that‘s THE MOMENT, right? As a photographer, I know one of my most important tasks is to capture that exact moment. In fact, that’s why I sometimes hire a second shooter… so I’m certain to have a camera on both people.
So how about the first look? First, let’s talk about what the first look usually, well, looks like. For this scenario, we’re going to assume there’s a bride and a groom. First, I would find a private area around the venue that has nice lifhting and would be good for photos. I would place the groom with his back turned so he cannot see the bride when she comes out. When the bride is in place, she taps the groom on the shoulder, he turns around and there’s his stunning bride in front of him. It’s usually pretty emotional. Sometimes there are tears, usually lots of hugs and kisses and laughter. The emotions that come with the moment of seeing one another are all there, whether it’s in private at a first look, or at your ceremony. And something I have noticed every single time is how the energy from the couple goes from nervous, maybe even anxious and frazzled, to completely at ease once they are together. Sometimes the couples use this private moment to exchange vows. This is especially appealing if you or your partner is shy about expressing themself in front of your guests.
There are a few other benefits of having a first look, too. Soon after you see each other and have your private moments, we will capture a few beautiful portrait shots of the two of you, and then we can bring out your bridal party!! We can take your bridal party photos and get those taken care of early. This is fantastic because typically we will be in a time crunch after the ceremony to get all the family photos and golden hour portraits done. Usually there’s even a little bit of time left before the ceremony for everyone to take a breather after all the activity around getting ready!
If you still don’t think a first look is for you but you still would like the opportunity for a moment with your partner, that is an option too! We can find a private place where the two of you can reach around the corner and hold hands for a first touch. Or maybe one of you could keep your back turned while the other comes up from behind for just a hug, but you’re never face to face. This could also be a perfect opportunity to read a poem, exchange love letters or gifts, and say a prayer together.
So what’s my vote when it comes to a first look? Well…. I vote that you choose. Close your eyes and imagine that moment…. The very first time you see your soul mate on the day you are getting married…. Are they standing at the alter in front of friends and family, wiping tears and grinning ear to ear? Or are they standing right in front of you, just the two of you (and your amazing photographer OF COURSE) beaming and laughing with joy and excitement over how incredible you both look for your amazing day together? What do you see? It’s up to you.