Today we’re talking about first looks! I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’m in uncharted territory here. Chances are, you’ve gotten 15 different opinions already from well-meaning family members, friends, and the lady at the grocery store who offered her unsolicited advice on whether or not you should see your fiancé before you walk down the aisle. But I’m here to help you make YOUR decision a little easier.
First, I should probably say that I don’t care! Insofar as I honestly think all the options are great and it’s hard to go wrong. This decision really is best made between you and your fiancé and so I want to offer as unbiased assistance as possible. Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
How do you decide when to do the big reveal?
Here are some criteria that may help narrow down your decision!
1. Does either of you have a strong preference one way or the other? If you both feel pulled to look or not to look before the wedding, then that’s basically your answer! Easy peasy. Go find another blog ;)
2. Do you each have conflicting feelings? Meaning, does one of you want to do a first look but the other does not? Move down to “creative alternatives” and explore those options. Talk through what it means to you both and try to come to a central point that makes sense for your wedding day. If at all possible, don’t involve family or friends who may be biased. It may be an emotional conversation but try and look at it from the other’s perspective.
3. If neither of you feels strongly in either direction, now is the time to involve other vendors. Ask your coordinator if one way or the other would help the day go more smoothly. Consider the timeline of the wedding and how either option may affect guests, family, and your bridal party. Call your photographer and see if they have input. (More often than not, they will, because daylight and your schedule go hand in hand!)
4. Are people you care for are pressuring you into a choice you don't prefer? While it may be difficult, this is usually worth standing your ground for. Whether you can’t wait for the magical aisle moment or you can’t imagine seeing the love of your life a minute later than your first look, you’ve probably made this decision with care. Explain your reasoning but if they don’t understand, you may need to be okay with not seeing eye to eye.
5. Are your vendors pressuring you into a choice you don't prefer? This is a tricky one. I would strongly recommend listening to your vendor's thoughts and really considering the case they make. They really may have the best interest of you and your guests in mind. Try to have an open mind if other options are presented and jump down to “creative alternatives” for more thoughts on how to have it all ;)
Now, onto the options!
Seeing your fiancé on the aisle is most traditional in western ceremonies but it’s not necessarily the most common anymore.
-That storybook moment with sweeping music and everyone standing really is magical every time!
-Have the extra wait can create the best kind of joyful anticipation
-You can rest assured that you’ll be looking your best since it’s likely that one of the last things you’ll do before walking down the aisle is getting dressed so it’s highly unlikely your clothes will get dusty or dirty if that’s a concern.
-You may be making your guests wait between the ceremony and reception while you take family, bridal party, and newlywed photos.
-If butterflies and fainting are a concern for you, waiting for the aisle may make you a little anxious
-Starting the day at the ceremony can set your timeline to a very late start point
The First Look-
While they may not be conventional, first looks are becoming a preferred choice of many couples in the US for good reason.
-No one can calm your anxieties like the person you’re marrying (or at least in theory!) If you’re a little stressed about your wedding day/standing in front of everyone you know/a whole day all about you, this may be a good option to help you chill out and refocus on what matters before the ceremony.
-Seeing the love of your life in a more intimate setting at the beginning of a new chapter is a really unique and special moment
-Having a first look may smooth out any wrinkles in your timeline like an early sunset so you can take photos before the ceremony and allows you to transition right from the ceremony to the reception. Guests won’t be waiting around and you can get right to partying instead of spending your first hours as a married couple taking pictures!
-Some people may feel it isn’t as special. It’s absolutely worth considering whether you would feel that way. This is totally valid and is something only you can know!
-You may need to start getting ready VERY early. For example, if you have a brunch reception with a 10:30 ceremony, you may be at your hair appointment at 4:30am.. I’ve seen it.. you’ve got to be a morning person. Even if it’s only a reasonable 2:00/3:00 ceremony, you’ll still be starting your day earlier than if you were to wait for the aisle.
-It may add to the pressure. There is a certain amount of emotion that’s often expected by both people and if you’re not an emotive person, you may be feeling a lot of pressure to react dramatically.
-Lighting usually is rough. First looks tend to be during the middle of the day when the light is high and harsh during the spring/summer/fall months. While your photographer definitely should be able to work with that, you and/or your photographer may still want a few more photos later when the light is softer.
Man do I love having my cake and eating it too. This section is basically that!
These are a handful of other options that let you get exactly what you want. Really think about what it is you’re hoping to achieve with either option and then embrace the unique! Take inspiration from these ideas or create your own
First hug/touch- This is probably the very best compromise in the books! So easy to do and it usually makes everyone happy. Whether you opt for blindfolds, hold hands around a corner, or some other way to hold tight without seeing each other, it can make for an incredibly sweet moment that calms nerves and still allows you to have that “aisle moment”
Exchange letters or gifts- Some people may just need affirmation in the form of loving words or sweet tokens of affection. This can be combined with any of the ideas and it makes for the best heirloom. Just make sure both parties are on board with the plan and are reminded because there’s nothing more awkward than receiving a letter and realizing that you forgot to write yours.
One room over- Honestly, this one absolutely gets me every time. Whether your bride/groom to be is singing to/with you, reading a letter, praying with you, or just sitting one room over talking about the day ahead, there’s something to be said about just sharing a little part of your pre-wedding excitement.
First look with family/friends/bridal party- Maybe you just need a little excitement in your life to kick the jitters to the curb and get prepped for the big moment! If that’s the case, make a plan to have a mini-reveal with special people in your life. Whether it’s grandparents, parents, siblings, or friends. Everyone WANTS to be excited for you so take advantage of it! (Bonus Points- for extra cuteness and ALL the affirmation, throw some kids in the mix. They will boost your confidence like no one else!)
Call each other- Just because you aren’t seeing each other doesn’t mean you can’t talk. Call your fiancé! No one is stopping you!
Take photos separately before the ceremony- I HIGHLY recommend to my couples to take photos with your bridal party and family separately before the wedding if you do not choose a first look. There will still need to be time schedule between the ceremony and reception for photos with your combined family and bridal party and the two of you but that time will be exponentially shorter because we got the bulk of the photos (bride with bridesmaids, bride with her parents, etc.) done beforehand.
Just see each other anyway!- Honestly, if you’re feeling anxious and you just can’t shake it on your wedding day, give your love a quick call, see if they want to break the rules, and then just go see them! You can rewrite your schedule a little bit and it may make all the difference.
Whether or not to plan on a first look may feel like a daunting question, but at the end of the day, trust your gut and enjoy the moment you’re creating!