All wedding decisions are personal, so I want to say two important things, before we start talking about the first look:
- If you don’t want to do a first look, then don’t. Embrace that choice. It’s yours and it’s awesome!
- You can skip this whole first-look, see-each-other, don’t-see-each-other decision by getting ready together. It’s your wedding and if you want to spend the whole day with your partner, by all means do it! (It won’t rob you of any of the big emotions of the day. I promise.)
Why didn’t I do a first look?
Back in 2011 when I got married, I wasn’t yet spending every weekend at weddings, so I didn’t have a strong opinion about the “first look.” My husband is a little more traditional and he didn’t want to see me before the wedding, so we went with that. Our first glimpse of each other was when I walked down the aisle.
Our wedding day was magical and I don’t have regrets. But knowing what I know now, I know that I should have done a first look. It was the right decision for me. And I’ll happily tell you why.
What is a first look?
In short, a first look is a set time for the couple to see each other before the wedding. Before the aisle, before the guests, before the crowd, we find a private moment, a beautiful spot for you to see each other looking really pretty in your fancy duds.
You will laugh, maybe cry, whisper a few soft words to each other, then (usually) separate again before your ceremony. (Unless you want to keep hanging out together, which is a wonderful choice too.)
The moment has emotional depth and anticipation – my favorite wedding emotion – but it’s also peaceful and private and sweet.
What (anti-feminist) history is at play here?
The “don’t see each other before the wedding” superstition stems back to arranged marriages, when marriage was essentially a business deal between two families. At that time, the betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see or meet each other for fear that they wouldn’t like each other. (Or, let’s be real – for fear that the man wouldn’t find the woman attractive). If that happened, the business arrangement would be called off and the woman and her family would be shamed.
Side note: That’s also why a women traditionally wears a veil – to cover her face so the groom can’t see her until the last minute in case he finds her displeasing and backs out. Pretty gross, right?
This superstition obviously doesn’t apply to you, since you’ve already decided that you do in fact like each other. So you can choose to take it or leave it.
Why have a first look?
If you’re not able to see each other before the wedding, you’ll need to wait until after the ceremony to take pictures together. This will most likely happen during the cocktail hour.
During that time, you’ll have to squeeze in photos of the two of you together, the two of you with your families, and the bridal party/wedding team all together. Depending on the size of your families and your wedding crew, that could be a lot to do!
Seeing each other before the ceremony frees you up to take most of those portraits in advance, which gives you more time to enjoy your guests after the ceremony. I so want that for you. I want you to savor every minute of this day, surrounded by the people who love you.
These days, if people choose not to see each other before the wedding, it’s usually for emotional reasons. It’s because you’re building anticipation. You’re excited about that climactic, public, “big reveal” moment.
If you’re not excited about having that big moment in front of a crowd – maybe you describe yourself as “low key” or “introverted” – you might prefer a first look.
It simplifies things. (No need to hide from each other all day!) It gives you that moment to breathe each other in together, without the distraction of a (loving) crowd. Or, in my case, without the distraction of trying not to trip over your own feet.
Why I wish I had done a first look
I don’t love being the center of attention. When all eyes are on me, I tend to clam up. I also have a lot of feels. I am an emotional human and I’m tapped into the energy around me. But I try to hide it. So on my wedding day, I was completely cool and collected right up til the moment they said, “It’s time.”
That moment hit me. Hard. I suddenly started sobbing.
(Thank goodness for waterproof mascara.)
My sister (and fabulous maid of honor) held my arm and told everyone “She just needs a minute,” and I did. But who do you think I wanted to be with in that minute of overwhelm? My partner of course.
Knowing who I am and how I feel things, seeing him before the ceremony would have helped me to move through those emotions a little more gracefully. It would have rooted me in us. I wouldn’t have lost the anticipation, the feeling, but I would have walked down the aisle a little more present. Instead of overwhelmed, I would have been just the right amount of whelmed.
On the practical side, we missed our entire cocktail hour. Between family portraits, couple portraits, bridal party portraits, and a quick last minute rehearsal with the band for our first dance, we were kept hopping right up to the minute the guests began to filter in to the reception room.
Like I said, it wasn’t a bad choice and I don’t regret it. But knowing what I know now, I would have been more relaxed and present if I had chosen to do a first look.
What do you think about all this? Are you planning to have a first look? Why or why not?