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3 Reasons Why I Hated First Looks (and Why I Was So Wrong)

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It’s taken me a lot of convincing to realize why First Looks are so beneficial and memorable on a wedding day. I used to be a complete skeptic, but now I’m a huge fan! I’m going to break down the 3 convincing arguments that completely flipped my perspective about sharing a First Look. My hope is that it will do the same for you, so you can have a wedding day that is purposeful, meaningful, and memorable.

I will give the three reasons most brides and grooms (even myself included) are not a fan of First Looks. See if you resonate with one or more of them. Then I will then share what helped me see these arguments differently, and ultimately change my perspective entirely.

(These reasons are in no particular order.)

Reason #1

“I want my groom to cry when he first sees me walking down the aisle. First Looks steal that magical moment away.”

Bride and groom cry during their ceremony.

This was my number one reason why I didn’t think I’d ever be in favor of sharing a First Look. I have never planned a wedding. But I have believed for years that couples who have First Looks don’t have emotional walks down the aisle. Somehow, seeing each other before the ceremony steals that overwhelming moment of “Oh my gosh, we’re doing the thing!”

In my past relationships, somehow I often found myself dating guys who were hard nuts to crack emotionally. They saw themselves as more serious or manly types, and I was definitely the more sensitive one in the relationship. This solidified my resolve even more not to have a First Look one day.

If I were to end up walking down the aisle to a man less in touch with his emotions, I wanted to give him the best shot I had to get tears out of him — a swift, fatal blow, if you will. That meant building up all the anticipation until I stood with my father, floating down the aisle in a heap of white, fluffy, tulle.

Reality Check:

There are actually a few counters to this mindset.

  1. First Look or no First Look, some grooms just don’t cry. I’ve photographed enough weddings to know that brides are often surprised by their groom’s reaction. Some grooms come across as such cool, calm, and collected guys… yet they break down in sobs the moment they see their bride walking toward them. Other grooms are complete nervous wrecks before the ceremony, but they maintain composure flawlessly once they’re at the altar.

    It’s important not to have too many expectations of your man on the wedding day. It will only rob both of you of the joy you deserve to experience. Enjoy each moment as it comes, and let yourself become surprised by the meaningful and emotional memories that pass.
  2. First Looks are extremely groom friendly. It is one of the best ways you can serve your soon-to-be husband on the wedding day.

    Stop and think with me for a moment… Before the ceremony, you’re with your girls laughing and drinking mimosas while you get your hair and makeup picture perfect. It takes hours to get ready. You have all these little moments that feel just as much part of the experience as the actual wedding. Moments like getting in your dress with mom’s help, your bridesmaids’ reactions, your Dad’s First Look, etc.

    Meanwhile, let’s peer into the groom’s morning-of activities. He’s with his groomsmen, maybe playing billiards at the hotel or having a beer and lunch. Getting dressed is MAYBE a 20 minute ordeal (and only because the photographer and videographer ask him to take his jacket off and put it back on over and over again). Meanwhile, he has hours of waiting and anticipation.

    He watches the clock, willing it to tick faster. Yet also willing it to slow down. His palms maybe begin to feel a little sweaty, and everyone he sees is asking him “How are you feeling? Are you ready to see your bride? There’s still time to run!”

    It’s a much less celebratory scene. And I know because I’ve been in both rooms at a wedding. The bridal suite rapidly fills with cheese plates, popped champaign bottles, and perfectly curated Spotify playlists. But the groom’s suite fills with mismatched socks thrown about, missing bowties, and LOTS of time to kill.

    Next, FINALLY, someone comes knocking on the groom’s door and says, “It’s time!” He takes one more deep breath and glance in the mirror as he adjusts his tie (a little looser to help him breathe), then marches toward the ceremony.

    When he is finally standing at the altar, the music starts. And everyone — his college friends, his coworkers, his soon-to-be in-laws, and Great Aunt Barb who has a critical tongue about everything — is staring straight at HIM. Everyone is waiting to see if he cries.

    When he finally sees his bride, one of two things could happen. Either he clams up and everything seems like a blur in a final act of emotional survival to get past his nerves, or the overwhelming anticipation sends streams of salted tears to his face when he can finally let out a breath, knowing at least half of the eyes have fixed on someone else for a change.

    All that is mixed with genuine emotion that he is about to marry the love of his life. Don’t think he’s forgotten that. But now his day has been filled with lots of other pressures and emotions as well.
Groom cries after seeing his bride walk down the aisle on their wedding day. They shared a first look before the ceremony.

Reason #2

“We want that first time seeing each other to feel special. First Looks are not very special.”

Again, I agreed with this reasoning. The wedding day is so full of memories that we want to preserve in our minds forever. That magical moment of stepping out onto the aisle for the first time, seeing your groom so handsomely dressed in the tux you picked, your entire family and friends all there to support you… it’s overwhelmingly special. You’ve waited for that moment since you were a little girl clunking around the kitchen in mom’s shoes with a pillowcase hanging off your head as a veil.

Reality Check:

That moment is still special for couples who share a First Look. Despite having already seen each other, that moment still feels the same. The bride is still stepping onto the aisle for the first time. She is still seeing her groom standing handsomely in his tux. She is still surrounded by loving friends and family. It is still a HUGE moment.

But now everyone is a little more at ease and able to take the moment in more fully. The pressure is off, the adrenaline is not at a dangerous high (though still may be present to some degree).

And First Looks can be incredibly special too. You can have TWO special moments of being presented to your groom on the wedding day!! Don’t believe me? Here are a few ways to make the First Look just as special as the walk down the aisle:

  • Have your First Look with Dad, then ask him to escort you to your First Look with your groom, mirroring how he will soon walk you down the aisle. I love this option, because now Dad doesn’t have to feel as though his moment of “giving you away” is stolen or reduced to an empty gesture at the ceremony. He gets to truly keep his role as your caregiver until the final moment. You get to have your First Look with Dad’s blessing.
  • Every photographer has their own preference of how to direct a First Look. But the one I prefer to teach my couples is built to make it a very special and emotional experience.

    I guide my groom to a place he will stand with his eyes closed and hands folded in front of him. Then I leave him to fetch his bride, likely leaving my second shooter behind with him to ease his nerves.

    Then I bring the bride into the scene, but keep her far enough away so he doesn’t hear me talking to her. I tell her to walk toward her groom, and then stop at a point I’ve marked for her. Once she stops, she says his name. The spot I mark for her is far enough away that when the groom turns at the sound of his name, he sees his bride from head to toe, in all her beauty. She is not up close tapping on his shoulder, because then he’d have to back up so she can show him her dress. Once he sees her, he will naturally draw a few steps closer and pull her in. Take in the sight, then take in the emotion.

    They get to spend time admiring one another, saying how beautiful or how handsome one another look. He can tell her how excited he is, and she can compliment on how well he did tying his bowtie. Which, by the way, doesn’t happen without a First Look. Once you’re at the altar, you can’t say a word to one another. Everything you’re anxiously wanting to gush out to one another has to wait until the height of the moment is pretty much over — after the ceremony.

    Meanwhile, my second shooter and I are standing far enough away to respect their intimate moment while also capturing the emotion. We don’t interrupt until both the bride and groom look at us ready to move on to posed portraits.

Reason #3

First Looks are not traditional!! It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding.

Tim and Rachel share a First Look on their wedding day in front of their bridal party and closest friends.

Now to discuss the biggest argument I hear from most brides-to-be. Whether it’s the bride who truly believes this, or her mother, or grandmother, this has been a huge boundary drawn between couples for decades.

I remember my mom and I often retorting how nontraditional it is to see the bride before the wedding or allow the bride and groom to share a private moment in a First Look. I have always said I wanted to keep my wedding pure with tradition. Until…

Reality Check:

Traditions always come from somewhere, and it’s important to realize their roots before drawing an opinion. Do you know why it’s “bad luck” to see the bride before the wedding?

Because back in medieval times, it was more common to be wed for business deals rather than for love. Your dad might have worked his butt off working out a deal with the rich father down the street to have his son marry your daughter in exchange for the prize cow or a plot of land. In arranged marriages, the groom may have never even met his bride until she lifted her veil at the first kiss of the ceremony. It certainly would be bad luck for the bride if the groom saw her before the wedding and… well… wasn’t very excited about his half of the bargain after laying eyes on her. So romantic, right?

Gladly, times have changed a lot since then. Now we date to evaluate one another before marriage, and by the time the wedding day arrives, we are certain this is the love of our lives. Nothing will change your mind, and you are absolutely delighted to see each other. So where is the “bad luck” in that? (To be honest, I don’t even believe in luck at all. So I’m not sure why this one had me so wrapped up for so long.)

To Wrap It Up

Your wedding day is a one-time shot, and a very momentous occasion for you and your groom. Ultimately, you need to decide as a couple what is best for you and your big day. I highly recommend First Looks, for all the reasons above. Plus, I know that couples who share First Looks get to take their portraits early on in the day, which means they can go enjoy cocktail hour with their guests post-ceremony! More time = more portraits, which = more value in your photography investment!

If I convinced you by this blog post to share a First Look on your wedding day, be sure to get in touch with your photographer ASAP to fit it into your timeline! Or, if you don’t have a wedding photographer just yet, I’d love to talk to you more. Contact me!

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  1. Great blog post!

    We did a first look at our wedding and my husband cried (he never cries!!) … and then during the ceremony I almost passed out from nerves coming down the aisle and don’t remember seeing anyone but him … so definitely still magical 🙂

    • Emily Schneider says:

      That is just so sweet!!! And a little concerning… haha Glad you didn’t actually pass out! But all goes to show that the moment you walk down the aisle is so special that nothing can steal that magic away. Thanks for sharing, Kate!!

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