It's a good question.
Should you stick with the time honored tradition of waiting until the very beginning of the wedding ceremony to see each other dressed in your best to get married or should you eschew the tradition and do a first look.
I get the question a lot when meeting with my couples and in my opinion it depends on a few factors.
First off - what do YOU want to do?
Shooting weddings I have seen and heard a lot of things. One thing that always stands out to me is the fact that a lot of the time couples choose to do "traditional" things on their wedding day because..., well - because it is tradition! Throwing the bouquet, having the bride's father walk her down the aisle to "give her away", the first look - they all have sentimental and/or romantic explanations that in the modern day have evolved from their original derivations. Some of these reasons without their "evolutions" are down right archaic!
Growing up I was told that the wedding couple should not see each other before the wedding because it was bad luck. But, where did this idea come from? Knowing where it came from may give a little perspective...
The original reason was because back in the day arranged marriages were the norm. Fathers or the brides-to-be would want to arrange a marriage with the son of a wealthy family so that it would cement a connection between the two groups that could be useful for business or politicking. With so much riding on the line for the bride's family, the father of the bride would keep the groom-to-be from seeing or meeting their fiancé because that could "spoil the deal" as it were - if the groom wasn't happy with the way the bride looked it would be possible for him (or his family) to call the wedding off. It was normal for the two betrothed to never meet until the actual ceremony! (And, think about the tradition of having a veil - the obscuring cloth that hangs over the bride's face - and what it was meant to do. Basically it was to try and get the groom as close as possible so that the first time he saw his bride was when the kiss was happening - too late to back out of the arrangement!!!)
How well would that original reason go over these days? (I'll answer that - probably not very well at all.) These days, the idea has evolved into a much more romantic and acceptable reason. For many it actually marks the exact moment that they start their new life not as a couple but a MARRIED couple!
Does doing a first look make your day more or less hectic?
Many people now opt to do a first look for convenience. By doing a first look it allows you to fully build out your timeline and streamline some parts that would have to wait on because of the fear of the couple seeing each other. Depending on variables like where everyone is getting ready, what time the ceremony starts, even the fact that hair, makeup or wedding party can run late it adds an additional job of "air traffic controller" to your already busy day.
Having a first look can also help to take the pressure off. I have had numerous couples take part in a first look, do ALL of the Wedding Party and family pictures beforehand and then head off to their waiting areas to enjoy their friends, family... and maybe a drink or two and some snacks... and just basically relax before setting off to start the ceremony.
I have also seen some AMAZING wedding ceremonies where the couple wait to see each other and to see all of the planning and emotions pay off for that first moment where the couple see each other is very moving as well. With all of the family and friends there as they embark on their new journey starting right at that moment is something very powerful.
You may wonder, with me being the photographer, which route I prefer when shooting a wedding. It's a hard choice because there are very good positives with both ways.
I love the idea of getting as much of the photography done as early as possible so that I can spend more time just shooting the couple after the ceremony, and the extra time allows me to finesse lighting, shoot additional pictures and do things that we perhaps just couldn't do otherwise because of time constraints.
However - going the more "traditional" route also allows to have a less manufactured and true "first look" that can be very emotional.
My choice (and I SWEAR this isn't a cop out) is for the couple to sit down and discuss what is important to them and that makes their day the easiest and most memorable. Sometimes this is one of the last things that couples talk about for their weddings and they find that they are on completely different pages. By sitting down and examining the pros and cons of each and allows to find what works for you both.
Remember - there is no right or wrong choice - only the choice that works the BEST for you as a couple and your vision of the day!
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