Are first looks on a wedding day a good idea?

Are first looks on a wedding day a good idea?


To See or Not to See: The First Look Dilemma in Wedding Photography

The anticipation builds, hearts race, and tears of joy often flow. The moment a couple first lays eyes on each other on their wedding day, whether during a traditional aisle walk or a pre-ceremony “first look,” is a pivotal, emotional highlight. The debate about whether or not couples should see each other before the ceremony is a time-honored one. Let’s delve into the pros and cons, complete with real photographer anecdotes, to help you make this crucial decision.

Dilemma Established in History and Superstition.

The tradition of the bride and groom not seeing each other before the wedding ceremony is a custom steeped in history and superstition. This practice, often referred to as the “no-see” rule, has its roots in the days of arranged marriages. Historically, marriages were more about business and social alliances than love. The belief was that if the couple saw each other before the ceremony and didn’t like what they saw, they might back out of the wedding, jeopardizing these important alliances. In these early times, it was common for the couple to meet for the first time at the wedding ceremony. The bride’s veil also played a crucial role in this tradition. Not only did it add an element of mystery and beauty, but it also served to keep the groom from seeing the bride’s face until the last possible moment, often not until after the marriage was officially solemnized. This was thought to help prevent cold feet or a change of heart based on physical appearance. As time went on, and love matches became more common, the tradition evolved but didn’t disappear. It transformed into a symbol of good luck. Many couples believe that it’s bad luck to see each other on the wedding day before the ceremony. This superstition has become a romantic notion, adding to the excitement and emotional impact of the moment when they first lay eyes on each other at the altar. In modern weddings, the no-see rule is more a matter of personal choice than strict adherence to tradition. Some couples choose to disregard it altogether, opting for a “first look” photo session before the ceremony. This moment, often captured by photographers, can provide a private, intimate space for the couple to see each other and share a quiet moment before the public celebration begins.

To See Each Other:

  1. Capturing Genuine Emotion: One compelling reason for a “first look” is the opportunity for photographers to capture genuine, unscripted moments of emotion. Wedding photographers often attest that couples who choose to see each other before the ceremony tend to be more relaxed and emotionally expressive, resulting in breathtaking, authentic photos. I once had a couple who opted for a ‘first look.’ The groom was so moved by seeing his bride that he teared up. The images captured that raw, heartfelt moment, and it became one of their favorite shots.” First Look groom crying
  2. Maximizing Daylight: Light is a photographer’s best friend, and daylight hours are precious. A “first look” allows couples to make the most of natural light, resulting in brighter, more vibrant photos. Cincinnati Wedding photographers often find that this extra time during daylight hours is invaluable.
  3. Reducing Nerves: Wedding day jitters are common, but they can impact how couples appear in photos. Seeing each other before the ceremony can help calm nerves, allowing couples to be more themselves in front of the camera.
  4. Creating Intimate Moments: A “first look” is a private, intimate moment between the couple before the whirlwind of the ceremony and reception. It offers a chance to exchange personal vows or simply enjoy a few quiet moments together.
  5. Extended Celebration: With a “first look,” couples can attend their cocktail hour and mingle with guests earlier, maximizing the time spent celebrating with loved ones. This option provides more flexibility in scheduling the day’s events.

Not to See Each Other:

  1. Tradition and Symbolism: One of the most enduring reasons for not seeing each other before the ceremony is steeped in tradition. Historically, it’s believed that brides and grooms shouldn’t see each other before the wedding as a superstition. The idea was that if they did, it would bring bad luck. While not as commonly believed today, many couples choose to honor this tradition for sentimental reasons.
  2. Heightening Anticipation: Some couples opt for the traditional approach to heighten the sense of anticipation and make that walk down the aisle even more magical. The emotional crescendo that builds as the bride walks toward her waiting groom can be a powerful moment. I photographed a wedding where the couple decided to keep the tradition alive. The groom’s expression as he saw his bride walking toward him was pure, unfiltered emotion. It’s a moment they still talk about years later.
First Look wedding day bride groom crying 3. Maintaining Tradition for Guests: Sometimes, couples choose not to see each other before the ceremony because they want to uphold the tradition for the sake of their guests. It can create a more traditional and formal atmosphere for the ceremony. 4. Embracing the Surprise: There’s something undeniably magical about the element of surprise when the bride and groom first lay eyes on each other during the ceremony. It adds an element of unpredictability and raw emotion that can’t be replicated in a “first look.” 5. A Chance to Reflect: The hours leading up to the ceremony can be a whirlwind of activity. For some couples, the moments before the ceremony serve as a chance to reflect, meditate, or simply gather their thoughts in preparation for the significant commitment they’re about to make.

The decision to see or not to see each other before the ceremony is a personal one for each couple. Whether for reasons steeped in tradition, for luck, or simply for the emotional impact, the choice adds a layer of personalization and meaning to the wedding day.

About Maxim Photo Studio

Authentic |  Modern  |  Unique

Maxim Photo Studio is an award-winning Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio wedding photography studio focusing on providing a great wedding photography. The studio also provides Nashville wedding photography services. This allows us to offer local wedding coverage in two significant markets while still being able to travel all over the world for our clients.

Since 2005, the Studio has specialized in candid and on-location documentary wedding photography. We focus on capturing distinctive and authentic images in a non-intrusive way.