One topic that comes up the most during the initial wedding consultation with me is the timeline of the day. I can’t help myself, I’m a Virgo and I like to talk about details and organization! The elephant in the room for venue ceremonies is sometimes the question of “Are we doing a first look or not?”
The first look is when the bride and groom arrange to privately see each other before the ceremony. It has become very popular in recent years. Many couples are opting to hold their ceremony at the venue instead of at a church. This means not having a larger gap of time for portraits. Having a first look allows us the time before the ceremony to capture tons of beautiful images. Most importantly, it allows photos around the venue of the bride and groom, the bridal party and the immediate family.
I like to have this discussion early on because the decision to have the first look (or not) will greatly impact the flow of the wedding day. It will determine what kinds of photos we’ll realistically be able to get. It breaks my heart to hear of couples who have tirelessly searched for a gorgeous venue only to not get the photos they envisioned of it because not enough time was allotted.
It’s during the time of the initial consultation that brides (and often grooms as well) tell me they don’t want to have a first look. They want to see each other for the first time when she walks down the aisle. When I dig a little deeper to discover why they feel this way, these are the concerns I most often hear and my typical thoughts about each one.
“It’s bad luck”
There are many superstitions surrounding weddings. It’s also said to be “bad luck” for the bride to see herself in a mirror before the groom. Ladies, are you really not going to do a hair and makeup check?! Meanwhile, the English believe a spider found in a wedding dress means good luck. Most importantly, decide what is truly important to you.
“Walking down the aisle won’t be meaningful”
Having all your family and friends at your side will offer a completely new experience, sure to merit a few tears!
“My dress will get dirty”
We will be sure to select a location where you dress is not in danger of any mud, red wine, or spaghetti sauce. Plus the bridesmaids will be on dress duty so we’ll put them to work. I’ve found most of my brides realize once we’re out during portraits that it’s a “one-day” dress. The dress was crafted to live for today only.
But really beneath it all, what it almost always comes down to is:
“I’ve always envisioned my wedding this way”
Our culture has largely shaped us to place great emphasis on the moment a bride walks down an aisle. We can thank Disney and Hollywood for painting this picture of how weddings “should” play out. Can you think of a movie or show that features a first look at a wedding? As a result, we simply didn’t grow up envisioning first looks.
On the flip side, some couples tell me about how when their friends got married, the bride and groom were taking photos and consequently missed the entire cocktail hour, and they do not want that for their day. They want to enjoy their cocktail hour and not be rushed for photos or be forced to slim down their photo list. These are the couples who are usually all about the first look. It loosens up the timeline of the day and allows the newlyweds to enjoy more of their already quick day. And let’s be honest, the food during cocktail hour is always the really good stuff. Plus, you’ll have 5 hours to enjoy the company of about 125 people. I don’t want to have to take you away from one minute of that!
While the most obvious reason in favor of a first look is the timeline, figuring out the logistics of the day that gives you the opportunity for the most photos. If I’m being entirely honest, the other benefits are perhaps even more appealing.
It certainly opens up the opportunity to create a really beautiful and authentic moment – in private. If you identify as someone who doesn’t love being the center of attention, I promise you’ll be a whole heck of a lot less nervous seeing each other for the first time if it’s just the two of you.
You can share more intimate vows with each other that you might not want to say during your ceremony in front of everyone you know.
It takes some pressure off walking down the aisle (ladies, the guys are JUST as nervous about this one!).
Your hair and makeup is fresher for photos. I’d rather have you looking your best for those close-up photos before the humidity gets you. I may be biased.
The photos are packed with real excitement and emotion. I can’t help but feel the happy jitters from the groom as he anxiously awaits his bride.
The guys are usually much more emotional when they have an audience of one (the bride!). Some don’t want the entire guest list waiting to see their reaction as the bride walks down the aisle. Many guys don’t want to cry in front of a crowd. But when he’s with the one person in the world he’s most at home with, he’s much more likely to be emotionally present.
It helps calm the nerves. Once the bride sees the groom, her mood immediately goes from nervous butterflies to excitement. I remember my bride, Megan, who initially was hesitant about the first look. The day of the wedding, just after she saw her groom, she said to me, “Thank god we had the first look, I can’t imagine feeling this nervous anxiousness any longer!”
I prefer the first look to be a moment shared only by the bride and groom but that’s entirely your call. It’s likely to be the only moment you’ll have ‘alone time’. It allows me to get some really beautiful, intimate shots of genuine emotion (can you tell I’m all about that?!). I’ll set up the bride & groom up in a location with flattering lighting and a beautiful background but other than that, I’m not orchestrating the moment, posing or directing during this time.
Now having said all this…the first look is not for everyone. In short, it is up to you. I just ask couples to weigh the pros and cons before nixing the idea all together. If it’s been your dream since you were 5 to see your husband for the first time waiting for you at the end of the aisle I’d never ask you to throw that away. Above all, it is your day.