Thinking about doing a first look on your wedding day, but not sure if it’s right for you? Today’s blog will help! I’m sharing everything you need to know about wedding first looks so you can make the best decision for your wedding. I’ll explore the pros & cons, the history of the first look, and some personal insights that I realized AFTER my own wedding last summer.
First and most importantly, the decision to see each other before the ceremony is personal. Do not let anyone else make this decision for you. In fact, we tell couples that if one of you wants to do a first look, but the other doesn’t, then just skip it. It’s not a big deal and we’ll make sure you get gorgeous photos either way. We’ve heard so many couples say that a photographer, planner, or videographer insisted they do a first look when it went against their own wedding day vision. Remember, it’s your wedding, do what makes you happy.
Let’s start out with the basics:
What is a first look?
The first look is a time set aside on wedding day where you and your fiancé see each other for the first time before your ceremony. It’s normally facilitated by your photographer or videographer. There are many reasons couples choose to see each other prior to walking down the aisle, I’ll go over the most popular ones here.
When Andy and I set up a first look, we make sure it’s private and intimate for our couples. We even stand back and photograph from a distance so you have time to really connect without feeling like you’re in the spotlight. We ensure family and the bridal party are away, so it’s just the two of you. For some couples, this is the ONLY time they have alone on wedding day (which was true for us!) Keep in mind, not all photographers set up first looks this way. So check with your photographer to be sure you’re not surprised on wedding day.
The pro’s and con’s having a first look before your ceremony
- Hair and makeup will be fresh and you’ll be looking your absolute best! This is especially true if you’re getting married on a hot day, or a day when it’s raining or snowing. The day we got married it was 103 degrees, so within a few hours I was a hot mess! By doing a first look before stepping out into the elements, you’ll be sure that your partner will see you at your very best on wedding day.
- Seeing each other will settle your nerves. If you’re a bride or groom who knows that you’re going to be nervous on wedding day, then we highly suggest doing a first look. There’s just something about seeing your love for the first time that makes nerves flush away.
- Timing. Getting photos done prior to the ceremony means more time in your cocktail hour to visit with guests. This is especially true if you have a large bridal party or are getting married later on in the day. For instance, if you’re having a 6pm ceremony and wait to see each other until you walk down the isle, then you’re essentially spending the entire wedding day apart from your spouse. Wedding day will go so quickly! You’ll end up feeling more connected to each other if you take the time to see each other prior to the ceremony. However, with that said- Andy and I work very hard to ensure our couples make it to their cocktail hour regardless of whether they choose to do a first look or not.
- He’s more likely to cry! Many brides think they’ll get greater emotional reaction by skipping the first look. The truth is, we’ve seen the opposite. We’ve found that grooms are more likely to shed tears and have large emotional reactions when the first look is private. My theory behind this- when you’re walking down the aisle, there’s a lot going on (people staring, cameras, nerves). However, the first look is private so the ONLY thing to focus on is seeing each other. He can twirl you around and look at how beautiful you are from every angle.
- Childhood dreams . If you’re a bride or groom who has dreamt your entire life about seeing your spouse as you walk down the aisle, then just go with it! There’s no reason why you HAVE to do a first look.
- Religion or family tradition. Many times religion or family tradition will urge a couple to wait until walking down the aisle to see each other.
Will you regret doing a first look?
Now that we’ve gone through the pros and cons, I want to share my personal experience as a bride who went back and forth about having a first look.
Andy and I got married last summer on July 16. We actually had a 5-day wedding (YES, FIVE DAYS!) Although we don’t recommend that to anyone, we were very happy with our choice to have a first look.
The funny thing is that we didn’t decide about a first look until the day BEFORE our wedding. We kept going back and forth because Andy’s pretty traditional and kept saying that he didn’t want to see me until I walked down the aisle. I, however am not traditional at all so I was on the fence about it. Part of me wanted to see him, part of me wanted to wait. Ultimately, our decision was fueled by our puppies. As you might know our puppies are very important to us, yet since they’re so crazy we couldn’t bring them to our ceremony. To include them, we decided to do a first look at our home where we could get portraits with our puppies (below) before heading to the ceremony.
Something very important that I didn’t consider or even think about until a couple of weeks AFTER our wedding:
When I walked down the aisle, there was SO MUCH to focus on. I don’t like being the center of attention, and yet everyone was staring at me! I was trying not to fall, was full of nerves and excitement as I saw the faces of so many friends. Then when I finally got to Andy, we didn’t have an opportunity to talk freely because we had a 45-minute ceremony. Right after the ceremony, we were swept up in family portraits followed by the reception. It wasn’t until we crawled in bed (exhausted) on wedding night that we finally had a moment to chat alone.
I later realized that by doing a first look, we had a chance to really connect on our wedding day. We drove to the ceremony together which was one of my favorite memories about the day because we were both SO excited! Looking back, we’re both very happy with our choice to do a first look. Although Andy feared that it would “ruin” the moment of seeing me as I walked down the aisle, it actually gave us two very special moments on wedding day. We would do it again in a heartbeat (minus the 5-day wedding).
The history of NOT seeing each other before the ceremony
So is it really bad luck to see each other before the ceremony? Well as luck would have it, this tradition dates back to arranged marriages when the bride would be completely veiled until after the ceremony. This prevented the groom from running away and shaming the family if the bride was (how do I say this nicely)…. not to his liking. You can read more about this and other bridal superstitions in this article written by the Bridal Guide.
I hope this helped answer any questions you had about first looks. In the end, remember: it’s your day, do what makes you happy!
His reaction to seeing her for the first time was priceless!
Our own first look, taken at home. Special thanks to @Natalie Franke Photography
The two little naughty dogs that made us decide to do a first look, just so we could get photos with them… Photo thanks to @Natalie Franke Photography
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