I was never the type of little girl who dreamed about the details of my wedding, but I do remember picturing the romance of locking eyes with my fiancé as I walked down the aisle. His eyes would light up, maybe he’d cry a little—since obviously I looked more beautiful than he could have pictured. This was, of course, a fantasy completely built off of Disney princess videotapes and glimpses of daytime soap operas.
It’s not just me, of course—lots of people believe it’s bad luck for the bride and groom to see one another in their wedding attire before their ceremony. This concept is so embedded that it’s become a pivotal moment in the way we picture traditional wedding ceremonies. But more and more couples are abandoning their superstitions and meeting up before the big moment.
One big reason why modern couples are ditching this specific tradition is because their photographers encourage them to schedule a “first look” before the big moment.
Okay, what the heck is a ‘first look?’
If you’re just beginning to plan your wedding, you may be wondering what I’m going on about. A first look is a 5- or 10-minute event that allows the bride and groom to see each other, dressed up for their wedding, for the first time. Sometimes one of the nearly-newlyweds is blindfolded, or one sneaks up behind the other, or the pair holds hands around a corner first. The iterations are endless—try Pinterest for endless examples.
Why do photographers love first looks?
It’s not just because we want to set up a cute shot (although first looks are adorable). The biggest reason photographers encourage the first look is timing. Most wedding ceremonies take place in mid- to late-afternoon. This naturally means that after the ceremony, you need to feed your guests dinner and get to partying as quickly as you can, especially if your venue closes on the earlier side.
However, if you and your other half have already seen each other before the ceremony, you can save some partying time by scheduling your group photos in advance. As an added bonus, everybody looks best right after they’ve finished getting ready—no time to spill any wine, drip any mascara from teary eyes, or stumble into any other mishap.
As an added bonus, if you are a more introverted couple, a first look can also act as a private way for the two of you to have a moment of peace together before your ceremony. Having already touched base with your sweetheart, you may feel less jittery before and during the ceremony.
Of course, it’s also a very romantic setup, during which your images can be orchestrated to perfection. Unlike your ceremony, where your photographer will sneak around the sidelines, a first look offers free reign. That includes getting in close to your faces, coaching you a bit, and getting exactly the scenery and light that will lead to an unforgettable portrait for your home.
Embracing new traditions
It’s fascinating to see how changes to older traditions can spawn new ones, and the first look has certainly taken on a life of its own. You can plan a first look with anyone for whom you wish to carve out a special moment during the whirlwind of your wedding. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, best friend, or even all your attendants (bridesmaids, groomsmen and the like), they’re bound to remember that you took the time to surprise and connect with them.
I had a first look with my dad, and the photos are some of my favorites—not just from my wedding, but of all time. They are truly genuine and I’ll never forget having that moment together.
What if a first look is still not for me?
Despite having so many positives, it’s possible that the first look just might not be your “thing.” Personally, even though my ideas about romance (and about gender roles) have evolved since those first impressions, I couldn’t let go of the moment I had pictured. It still mattered to me—I just had to wait until I was walking down the aisle to see my husband.
And if that’s how you feel about your other half, more power to you! I love when clients know exactly what they want. But if you’d like to streamline your schedule by planning a romantic wedding-day meeting with your honey, let’s talk about a first look. It might just be the perfect thing.