To look or not to look?: Wedding day first looks gaining popularity but many couples still opt to waitWritten by Holly Tuey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Years ago, there was little debate over whether or not a couple would see each other on their wedding day before the ceremony. Keeping the couple apart is a tradition that stems from the superstition that it’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding. The tradition arose during the time of arranged marriages when, if the couple saw each other before the wedding, they may have backed out.
These days, any couple planning their wedding is likely to be asked whether they plan to do a “first look” — a moment before the ceremony where they meet privately, with the likely exception of a photographer.
Many couples choose to do a first look because they don’t have much time between their ceremony and reception and don’t want to rush photos or miss their cocktail hour. Seeing each other beforehand means the couple can also participate in wedding party photos without trying to hide from one another. Some believe it even calms any anxiety or fears they may have.
“We are having a nontraditional wedding and our timeline is short,” said Kristen Pratt, who is planning a May wedding. “We want to have most of our pictures done early in the day, so a first look makes sense.”
Pratt and her fiancé, Jeremy Watkins, are also looking forward to an intimate setting for their first glimpse of each other on their wedding day.
“I would really like to see Jeremy’s reaction to me in my dress. I don’t want to be distracted by the other people in the room or trying to walk without falling on my face,” Pratt said. “I want to see his face close up, not an entire aisle away. Isn’t that the best part of picking out the perfect dress?”
Watkins agreed a first look makes sense for their timeline.
“The only downfall is the camera will be right there, ready to capture my reaction, which will probably be some goofy face,” he said.
Mary Wyar, owner of Mary Wyar Photography, chooses to only work with couples who want to do a first look. She has an associate who will work with those wanting to go the traditional route.
“They get to see one another for the first time in an intimate setting.
“Check each other out, kiss, talk about their mornings. The groom can spin his bride around and take in how amazing she looks,” Wyar said. “Something as simple as that does not happen during the ceremony. Couples can’t exchange compliments until after the ceremony, and sometimes they’re so rushed to get family pictures done and head to the reception that they don’t ever get to talk.”
A first look also allows a bride who is being walked down the aisle by a parent to take in that moment instead of dividing her attention between her parent and her groom, Wyar said.
Brooke Lauber-Cobb, founder and owner of local wedding coordinating company Bee for the Day, said she didn’t do a first look at her own wedding and, while she enjoyed the day with her girlfriends, said she would have felt less anxious if she had seen her groom before the ceremony.
“When you do a first look, it gives you comfort,” Lauber-Cobb said. “The only person who can talk me off a cliff is my husband. [He is] my comfort person so if I can’t see him until I walk down that aisle, there’s going to be a sense of anxiety. I think [a first look] adds a lot of comfort and I think brides are more relaxed. They know they’re there, they know they’re showing up, they know he didn’t leave. I think you’re still going to have that feeling of ‘Wow’ when you walk down the aisle.”
Although Bee for the Day wedding coordinator Heather Bertz said she understands all the practical and emotional reasons couples choose to do first looks, she personally plans to wait to see her groom for the first time while walking down the aisle.
“I am very old-school traditional romance,” Bertz said. “When I get married, I want that moment. My favorite moment as a coordinator and even at weddings as a guest is watching the groom’s expression. I love that. He’s still going to have that if they do a first look, but I just think there’s something about not seeing each other until then. It’s just that old-school traditional fairy tale romance for me.”
She’s not alone. Many couples still look forward to that traditional first gaze down the aisle on their big day.
“It’s just the anticipation of waiting to see the one you love waiting for you or walking down the aisle,” said Bekah Smither, who is getting married in September. “That’s when you know it’s real.”
Emily and Brian Bechstein waited until the ceremony to see each other when they were married last year, and both said they do not regret it.
“I like to stick with tradition and the first sight of Brian when I started walking down the aisle was perfect,” Emily said. “We never would have had time for a first look.”
Her husband also said he was happy with the decision.
“If I would have saw her beforehand, I would have tried to talk her into running away and eloping one more time!” he said. “All that I cared about was that we were getting married.”
Everyone agreed the first time a couple sees each other on their wedding day is a special moment no matter how it happens.
“[The first look] doesn’t take away from the moment of walking down the aisle to marry one another. That still holds a special place. If anything, it gives them that romantic, anticipatory feeling twice,” Wyar said.