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To Look or Not to Look: 2 Brides’ Perspectives on a First Look

February 19, 2024

Traditionally, the groom never saw the bride before the ceremony on their wedding day, and many people consider it to even be bad luck. More recently, many couples have opted to have some private time before the ceremony to enjoy each other’s company before the energy of the celebration picks up. Is a first look right for you and your person? Keep reading to find out as we chat with two 2023 brides about their choice to have a romantic first look or build the anticipation and wait to see each other at the altar. Gloria and her husband chose to have a romantic moment before the ceremony, and loved their first look! While Stephanie and her husband opted to wait for the altar for the big reveal, and were so glad that they did!

– How did you decide as a couple if a first look was right for you? –

Gloria: Having worked in the wedding industry as an assistant to a few different photographers and coordinators over the years, I’ve seen weddings with timelines that included first looks, first touches, and a traditional walk down the aisle reveal as well. While I love the magic that each of these options provides, my fiancé and I knew that a first look was the right choice for us. We both wanted to have a private moment to ourselves before the merrymaking of the evening began. We chose a first look to have some private time and to calm our nerves before stepping out in front of our family and friends to say our vows.

Stephanie: My husband and I had a lot of discussions about whether or not to have a first look. We both recognized the charm of that magical moment when the groom sees the bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle. We decided to stick with tradition because we wanted that emotional impact and the surprise element when I walked down the aisle. We also felt it was a way to make the ceremony itself more special.

– How did the pacing of your wedding day feel with and without your first look? –

Gloria: Including a first look in our timeline made for an absolutely fabulous flow of the day. Everything from getting ready and having time to relax as a couple before the ceremony, to the extended time we had with our guests during the reception was so much enjoyed. Our ceremony was in the early evening, so even including a first look we didn’t have to start the day too early. We were able to wake up and have breakfast together before going our separate ways to get all dolled up for the big reveal. Following the first look, we took our family portraits and bridal party portraits while everyone was fresh and ready to go. Because we had taken so many of the formal photos before the ceremony, we were able to get straight to our cocktail cruise and enjoy the reception with our guests without missing a moment. I expected the first look addition to the timeline to make us feel rushed by being ready earlier in the day, but I found that it was actually the opposite. The entire morning was so relaxed, we had so much fun taking pictures with our families knowing that there was no rush, and then we got to enjoy a glass of champagne and some music before the ceremony as a couple as well.

Stephanie: The pacing of our wedding day without a first look was more traditional and felt like it had a sense of anticipation. We spent the morning separately with our respective wedding parties, and it was thrilling knowing that we would soon see each other at the ceremony. There was a sense of nervous excitement and genuine surprise when we finally laid eyes on each other during the ceremony. It added an extra layer of emotion to that moment.

– Did you consider any first look alternatives, such as a first touch or other private moment? –

Gloria: We thought about doing a first touch, and we did have private vows that were more intimate and personal than those we shared during the ceremony, but we decided we definitely wanted to see each other before the ceremony to have time just for ourselves.

Stephanie: Yes, we did consider alternatives like a first touch or reading letters to each other without seeing one another. We ultimately decided against those options too, as we felt that maintaining the anticipation of seeing each other for the first time as I walked down the aisle was the right choice for us.

– Now that you’ve had your wedding day,
would you make the same choice regarding the first look if you were to do it again? –

Gloria: I will always be in favor of a first look. Being able to see my almost husband for the first time, and only be focused on the two of us together was one of the most special moments of the entire day. Because we decided to do the first look, we were ready for the ceremony before guests arrived. We got to watch our family and friends arrive, see the venue for the first time, and find their seats. We even had a pre-ceremony dance party with our bridesmaids and groomsmen while were waiting for the ceremony to start. It was one of our favorite parts of the day for sure!

Stephanie: Looking back, I wouldn’t change our decision. The moment I walked down the aisle, and we locked eyes, was incredibly emotional and unforgettable. It felt like the culmination of months of planning and anticipation. We cherished that experience, and it was worth the wait.

– What advice would you give to newly engaged couples who are trying to decide
if a first look is right for them? –

Gloria: I loved our first look and the extended private moments that we had because we chose to go in that direction, but every couple is different. Do what feels right and authentic for you as partners, and the day will be enchanting and magical regardless of a first look or not.

Stephanie: My advice to newly engaged couples would be to think about what matters most to you and your partner. Consider your personal preferences, the atmosphere you want to create on your wedding day, and the kind of emotions you want to experience. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer; every couple is different. If you value tradition, surprise, and that unique moment when you lock eyes at the altar, then skipping the first look might be the right choice for you. However, if you’re more inclined to have a private, intimate moment before the ceremony, a first look or an alternative might be a better fit. The key is to communicate openly and make a decision that aligns with your values and what will make your wedding day feel most special to you both.

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