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Should You Do a First Look? The Pros and Cons

The first look is a relatively recent addition to the wedding ritual arsenal, but it's quickly become a popular choice for some couples.

bride with finger to lips

bride with finger to lips


Ah, the first look. It’s a relatively recent addition to the wedding ritual arsenal, but the practice of staging a semi-private meeting of the fiancés to check each other out before the wedding ceremony begins has quickly become a popular choice for some couples. Chances are, you you’ve seen some of the gorgeous images of couples meeting on their wedding day, sometimes with their backs to each other or appearing from opposite ends of a field.

Before you decide whether to try or nix the first look, consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of embracing this new tradition.

Pro: Get your tears out of the way before the ceremony

We’re not guaranteeing that your wedding ceremony won’t feature more than a few weepy moments, but by meeting in advance of the ceremony, you’ll be chopping those moments down by at least one. Since many couples elect not to see each other the night before the wedding and decide to prepare for the wedding in separate rooms, the first look, whether it happens before the ceremony or as one is walking down the aisle, is often an emotional exchange full of sweet tears. By conducting this emotional moment away from your guests, you’ll still have the memory and photos, but it might save a more self-conscious groom or bride from tearing up in public.

Con: A first look might water down the experience of walking down the aisle

Memorialized in songs, films, TV shows and even in our memories of others’ weddings, walking down the aisle to greet an emotional partner is something many an engaged person has looked forward to for years. While a pre-ceremony first loook certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t walk down the aisle, it might make the moment a bit less emotional, as you’ve seen your bride or groom already. And, for lots of engaged couples, there’s a lot to be said of a wedding ceremony that closely mirrors that of their parents and grandparents.

Pro: Enjoy a private moment before wedding frenzy commences

While your wedding is certainly an occasion you want to share with your closest friends and family, some might also want to take all the moments of quiet with your love the day might offer. A first look is definitely one of those moments. Beyond being a time to simply see your beloved, it’s an opportunity to say a few words, share a hug or exchange gifts. It can also be a minute to reflect on the day and the impending marriage without the well-meaning gaze or words of your guests.

first look couple bride cry

Photo: Story & Rhythm

Con: Missing out on making the first look a part of the wedding ceremony

For some couples, the ritual of entering the wedding ceremony space and greeting your partner—whether that’s walking down the aisle or some other procession—is as important a part of the ceremony as any other reading or symbolic activity that happens during the wedding. By opting out of a private, pre-ceremony first look, the moment when the couple meets for the first time on their wedding day becomes a part of the record, so to speak, and the carefully selected guests bear witness to it, along with the rest of the ceremony.

Pro: Get the most of your planned photos out of the way before the ceremony

It’s not uncommon for the guests of honor at a wedding to ultimately miss an hour or so of their wedding reception or cocktail hour. Photos of the couple, their wedding party and family often suck up a ton of time in the space between the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception, which is one of the benefits of choosing a first look—you can grab these uber-important shots before the ceremony even begins. This way, you’re refreshed and excited for your wedding photos, as well as having the opportunity to actually enjoy cocktail hour, stress-free.

Con: You’ll have to be up and at ‘em much earlier on your wedding day

Since a first look essentially pushes your wedding timeline up a few hours, those who choose a first look will need to be completely finished with any pre-wedding grooming or set up much earlier. If you or your partner aren’t early risers or have a tendency to run super-late, this could pose a serious problem. Bypassing a first look could mean that you, your partner and your wedding squad get to sleep in a little and observe a more traditional wedding-day schedule.