To See or Not to See? Wedding Day First Look Pros and Cons.

Weddings are full of traditions. The old, strange traditions, like wearing something blue and a sixpence in your shoe. The relatively newer traditions, like ring warming ceremonies and thumbprint guest books. One common new tradition is the couple’s first look. I have a lot of couples ask my opinion on whether or not they should see each other before the ceremony, so I thought I’d lay out the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for your big day.

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First Look Pros:

  • Lessens the stress of the day. Some of the stress incurred on a wedding day is due to the big build up of getting ready and heading to the ceremony. The person you are most likely to want to be around to help calm you down is the one person you can’t see! When you have your first look before the ceremony it allows you to slow down and be present during the ceremony itself.
  • More time for photos without losing time with your guests. When you do a first look it means you can do wedding party photos, family photos and couple’s portraits earlier in the day. Then, after the ceremony, you can actually attend the cocktail hour, enjoy the hors d’oeuvres and catch up with your family and friends.
  • Allows for better photos of the moment. What I mean by that is the ceremony aisle is not always the ideal location for great images. There are lots of guests trying to capture you walking down the aisle with their cell phones, the lighting may not be great due to dark churches or bright mid-day sun, the space may be too tight for your photographer to get a good angle without getting in the way or if you only have one photographer they are working double time to try to get both of your reactions. By doing a first look your photographer can control the environment and is able to better capture the moment.
  • If you’re shy or nervous having this moment in a more private setting can feel more natural. Most of us don’t go around professing our love or crying in front of everyone you know. Walking down the aisle can feel overwhelming to some people, especially if you’re introverted. Let yourself enjoy the experience of seeing one another for the first time without the big audience.

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First Look Cons:

  • Breaking tradition. Many families put pressure on the couple to stick to more traditional weddings. While I always recommend doing what feels right to you, not your parents or siblings, sometimes there are arguments not worth having. If a first look isn’t a top priority to you and you know your mom would be crushed, maybe this is one thing you concede.
  • Feeling like the moment is too staged. Sure, a first look is a set up. The location, the way it happens (usually one person walking up behind the other and tapping them on the shoulder, because you do that on a daily basis, right?!) and having the moment paparazzi’d. If it seems silly to you, it will feel silly and not authentic and that will show in the images as well.
  • Having to be ready earlier in the day. Doing a first look means moving the rest of the timeline up to allow for this extra pre-ceremony event and photo time. If you’re already getting up at 6 am to have time for hair and make-up or to get in an early morning run then adding on another hour to your timeline might actually add stress to your day or make you too tired by the reception to fully enjoy it.

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If you decide not to do the couples first look there are some other options. Some people choose to do a “first touch” where they hold hands around a corner or doorway. This option gets around a lot of the cons, but doesn’t really help with most of the pros. Other people do a first look with other people, such as the bride with her father, the groom with his mother, the bride with her flower girl, etc. This is a fun new tradition that allows for great photos of a special moment yet keeps the traditional aspect of your wedding day alive.

Whatever you decide, there is no right or wrong answer. Talk with your fiancé, your photographer, your wedding planner. Weigh your options. Then stick to your decision and make it work. I have often heard vendors trying to convince their clients to do it one way or the other. I go back to my earlier statement that a couple should do what feels right to them! All of your wedding day choices should reflect on you as a couple and what makes you happy. If you follow that motto throughout the planning process then you should have no regrets and be able to enjoy your day to the fullest!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the first look. Feel free to comment with your stories or ideas!

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