First look or hide the bride?

Weddings are full of traditions. Something old, something blue. Ribbons turned into a bouquet. Daddy daughter dances. Throwing the bouquet. One of the oldest and most commonly practiced traditions, however, is that the bride and groom cannot see each other before they walk down the aisle. It can be a fun tradition, amping up the excitement of the ceremony, but modern brides are more frequently opting in for a first look, where they get to see each other early on in the day. Many brides come to me and ask "Should we do a first look or no?" While I believe strongly that it is up to the preference of the couple, here are some thoughts to consider when you are deciding whether on not to have a first look. 

What is a first look?

In most cases, the couple will select a private spot where they can see each other for the first time. Usually, the groom will get there first and be turned around so he can't see the bride. Once she is behind him, he will turn around and they will see one another. Most times, it is a very emotional moment, and the couple will take some time together. They cry, hug, and talk. They will usually spend around 5 minutes together before they are ready to get back to the photos. Usually photographers will take pictures of the first look, but they are off the the side and not directing anything. They just capture the moment as it unfolds.


First look Pros:

The biggest pro for having a first look is that you get a lot of the photos done earlier in the day. For instance, if the ceremony is at 3:00 pm, you could have a first look at 12:00 and have 2 hours of photos done before the wedding even happens. Usually after the ceremony the couple and bridal party are ready to kick back and enjoy the party with their guests, and having to drag them through 2 hours of photos after the biggest moment of their lives can be a bit of a bummer, depending on the couple. If they are already done, they get to go straight into cocktail hour and just be with the people they love. Doing a first look also allows for the photos to be taken in the most time effective manner possible, using everyone's time very wisely. 

First look Cons:

The biggest push back against the first look is that is it ruins the moment of seeing each other for the first time during the aisle. Here I have to personally disagree. Both as a bride myself and as a wedding photographer, it has been my experience that this is not the case. On the contrary, you get two awesome experiences- one in private and one walking down the aisle. Many couples have pre-wedding anxiety/adrenaline, and seeing each other provides immense relief and relaxes them. Plus they have a private moment away from everyone and all the stress and get to center themselves and remember what the day is really about. 


Hiding the Bride Pros:

Despite the modern trend of doing a first look, many brides still opt to stay hidden until they walk down the aisle. While this way takes much more coordinating, it adds fun to the day and allows her appearance to be a grand reveal. The groom often cries upon seeing his bride walking towards him, which in turn seems to make everyone else cry. Even though photos with the bride and groom together cannot be taken beforehand, pictures of the groomsmen and bridesmaids separately can be done, leaving just a few joined pictures left after the ceremony. This is a good method if you are a very traditional couple or if you are okay with having a bigger gap between your ceremony and reception.

Hiding the Bride Cons:

As fun as hiding the bride is, the biggest issue is that there are still a lot of photos to get done after the ceremony. Depending on how important having a bunch of wedding photos is, it could take upwards of 3 hours to complete after the ceremony, which means your guests are waiting for a very long time. If you have a ceremony and reception venue that are in different places, you might be able to justify this, as people can either go out and get a drink or head to cocktail hour. But if it is all in one tiny location, people tend to get a little restless after a while. 


My opinion?

If a bride and groom hire me and want to know what my recommendation is, I always suggest a first look. It doesn't detract from anything and it allows the photos to get done early in the day while everyone is energetic and fresh. Then we do the ceremony, take about 30 minutes to finish any family photos we didn't get done, and then send the couple to cocktail hour. The wedding days I've done with first looks are the ones with the least amount of stress and the ones that flow seamlessly. 

What are your thoughts on a first look? Did you have one or no? Which one is better? Leave a comment below to let me know what you think!