Should I do a first look? Blog graphic

The first time you see your spouse-to-be on your wedding day is probably the most anticipated part of your wedding day. 

If you're like most, you probably fit one of these three descriptions:

  • You don't want your groom to see you until you walk down the aisle

  • You want to see each other before your ceremony

  • OR...You didn't know there was an alternative to your groom seeing you when you first come down the aisle and/or you have no idea why you should do it one way or the other

If any of those is you, this “first look vs down the aisle” post is for you!

Reasons to Do a Modern First Look

Bride with bouquet and groom laugh during first look

Although there's not a lot of formally cataloged history as to where/when/what/and why regarding the introduction of the modern first look, it probably came about as a way to make the wedding-day schedule flow more smoothly while providing a more low-key way for bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony.

Today, it's practiced by an increasing number of couples, and here are a few reasons why:

1. It can be more personal and more intimate

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Do you and/or your soon-to-be spouse struggle with the thought of having hundreds of eyeballs fixed on your emotional reaction?

A modern first look may be your new best friend.

Not only can you decide who (if anyone) will be watching when you two see each other the first time during your wedding day, but you can have a moment to yourselves to connect and relax. 

Image at a historic wedding venue in Louisville, Kentucky of bride approaching the anticipating groom during first look

Now, maybe you really want your soon to be spouse to cry as you come down the aisle. But, the truth is, some men (especially men) don't feel comfortable expressing emotion in public. The modern first look is a great way to limit it to a small group of family and friends.

And, it's not uncommon for brides and grooms to still cry when she walks down the aisle--even if there was a modern first look!

2. You two spend more time together throughout the entire day

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Since you get to see each other (instead of avoiding each other), that means you don't just get to spend the ceremony and reception together. You get to spend possibly hours of more time together. 

3. Wedding party spends more time together=party

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Since you two get to see each other, that means that the whole wedding party comes together earlier in the day, also! That means more time for the wedding party to,!

4. Ceremony and then party some more!

All or most of the formal photos can be done before your ceremony. Or another example is to do immediate family before the ceremony. then, do photos with the elderly and/or larger group(s) involving extended family that couldn't all make it early in the day and/or who didn't want to be there super early.

Either way, having a first look and then formals before the ceremony limits the amount of time taken up right after the ceremony and before the reception so people don't get too antsy as everyone else heads to party. It also allows your photographer(s) to have more time to get reception area shots, if you’d like to have that photographed before guests enter!

Cons to Doing a Modern First Look

  1. Your ceremony may need to begin a little later, since you’ll need to make time for your first look and formal photos of wedding party and family (if you’re also doing those before the ceremony).

  2. If you and/or your soon-to-be-spouse really want to do a traditional first look, then settling wouldn’t be a good idea.

The Traditional First Look

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The traditional first look, when the groom wouldn't see the bride until she walks down the aisle, actually originated from the history of arranged marriage.  Fearing that the soon-to-be couple might try to back-out of the family affair, they were prevented from seeing each other until the knot was tied!

Removed from arranged marriages, this continued as a tradition of "supposed bad luck". If the bride and groom saw each other before the ceremony, it was a sign of bad "juju". 

To read more on all that, see this article on where the traditional first look originated! And don't worry, there's plenty of other weird wedding traditions that we still practice regularly!

Regardless, many couples still practice the traditional first look as a highly emotional, public part of their wedding ceremonies. And here are some of the main reasons why:

1. Doesn't frontload the day

The Olmsted Wedding Photography for Blog-48.jpg
The Olmsted Wedding Photography for Blog-47.jpg

The first half of your wedding day will be the busiest and the easiest part of the day to get behind schedule. Once the ceremony is concluded, the day is much more relaxed, generally speaking. By not doing a modern first look before the ceremony, you’ll have less going on before the ceremony, which means you’re schedule will be a little less crammed and mission-critical, pre-ceremony.

2. Maybe you've dreamt of that "first time he sees you walking down the aisle" reaction

It's totally legit if you want to do the traditional first look. If it's your preference, and you like the anticipation, then go for it! There's nothing wrong with that!

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Adam & Sami Whitehall Wedding 2017-313.jpg

Cons To Doing a Traditional First Look

  1. More social pressure (for some)

  2. More time apart from each other

  3. More time the wedding party is apart

  4. Instead of ceremony and then celebration, it's ceremony...and then up to an hour of formals.

The Professional Perspective | First Look vs Down the Aisle

Most photographers would suggest a modern first look, because it helps to reduce the post-ceremony rush of family formals and it helps allow the day go more smoothly.  We think that it your schedule can run super smoothly either way and that it really comes down to your preference and what works with your schedule.

Talk with a Professional Wedding Photographer

We’re Jeff and Michele, a husband and wife wedding photographer team based in Louisville, Kentucky. Your engagement and wedding photography experience is our top priority — we want you to cherish it forever!

We’d love the opportunity to be your photographers. So, reach out to us online! We look forward to hearing from you!

Learn more about Louisville Wedding Photographers and Lexington Wedding Photographers, Jeff & Michele.