Wedding first looks can be a polarizing topic. Tradition says it’s good luck to wait to see each other until the bride walks down the aisle, but wedding vendors often lobby for couples to plan a private moment to see each other earlier in the day. While there are some definitely timeline benefits to seeing each other before your ceremony, we typically have about 60% of our couples choose a first look on their wedding day and 40% go the more traditional route. So know that either option will work just fine in most scenarios! Our heart is to help you make the best decision for YOUR wedding day based on what matters most to you two.
If you don’t know what a “first look” is, it simply means setting an intentional time for the bride and groom to see each other prior to the ceremony. In contrast, the more traditional approach is for the couple to avoid seeing each other until the moment the bride walks down the aisle to her groom. Here are some of the big things we encourage couples who are planning a wedding to consider before deciding when to see each other for the first time on your wedding day:
1. What time is your ceremony?
This is the very first question we ask when couples tell us they want to wait to see each other until the ceremony. If you have your ceremony set early enough that there will be 90 minutes of sunlight available once you’re officially married, waiting to see each other can work out beautifully! This will give you time to squeeze in formal family pictures, pictures of you and your new spouse, and a few snaps of your whole bridal party together. If you are getting married right at sunset or close to it, consider whether or not you will be OK with having all of the pictures of you two together on your wedding day taken inside or with artificial lighting. Are those the types of images you are drawn to? Or will you be disappointed to miss out on that golden hour glow and the life that natural light brings to photos? If you have your heart set on waiting to see each other but don’t want all of your portraits as husband and wife taken after dark, consider that when setting times with your venue and schedule your ceremony early enough to have time for photos outdoors before sunset!
2. Are you a morning person?
Having a first look will require you to start your day earlier. You’ll need to have hair and make up completed soon enough to give you time to be fully ready a few hours prior to your ceremony time. If you want to sleep in and start your day a little slower, a first look on your wedding day may not be for you.
3. Will you hate to miss your party?
If it’s important to you to maximize the time you have to mingle with your guests and get on the dance floor, we would recommend opting for a first look. When you see each other before the ceremony it enables your photographer to knock out the vast majority of your pictures in advance so you can get to your party as soon as possible. (It also makes it a lot more likely we can sneak away for a few minutes to capture your empty reception space all set up before your guests arrive, if that’s important to you.). Plus, as a bonus, you get to see lots more of your new husband or wife on your wedding day!
4. Do you anticipate lots of nerves on your big day?
For couples who expect to feel anxious or don’t like being the center of attention, a first look can really ease their nerves. Having a private moment just the two of you before the day officially “starts” can calm any anxiety and refocus you on what the day is all about… getting married to the love of your life! It also allows you to have a more intimate reaction without the pressure of everyone watching. If it’s important to you to share the joy and emotion of the “first look” with everyone at your wedding as part of the ceremony, you may want to wait to see each other! Especially if you opt to wait until the wedding ceremony, we highly encourage exchanging letters earlier in the day to give you a chance to say something special to your fiancé without actually seeing each other.
5. How important are wedding photographs to you?
The simple reality is when you share a first look, the result is a less rushed and less condensed timeline. This means you will maximize the time you have with your photographer and get more pictures back from your big day. Not to mention a timeline with a bit of wiggle room gives you a LOT more flexibility to get important pictures in if you have a day with less than cooperative weather (or in the event any aspect of your wedding day is running behind schedule). Often our couples who do a first look are able to get portraits done prior to the ceremony and also sneak out for a few pictures at sunset, which enables them to get a wider variety of backdrops and more pictures overall.
6. Does one of you feel strongly about a first look already?
Whether your partner is passionate about honoring tradition and waiting to see each other during the ceremony or they are set on having a first look on your wedding day, this is one of the most important factors to consider. Even though a first look gives you more time for pictures and more time together, sometimes it’s still the right call to wait if only for the simple reason that it’s important to your future spouse. Your wedding day is about celebrating your love, and that looks a little different for each couple’s unique story!
In the end, this is such a personal decision. If you are on the fence, hopefully determining the answers to these five questions will clarify the best choice for your unique wedding day!
Decisions, decisions, decisions. From wondering if you should have a first look to trying to decide where to get ready on your big day, wedding planning requires you to consider a million tiny details. The months leading up to saying “I do” should be spent making memories with your best friend and enjoying the process, not Googling for hours on end. If this post was helpful, check out our best tips on how to choose your wedding venue or even grab a list of our favorite Cincinnati wedding venues here!
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