This is an excerpt from our “Bridal Guide”—a magazine created for M&G brides with a mind towards planning for the wedding day with creativity and photographs in mind.

A “First Look” is a term that’s been thrown around in our industry gaining popularity only recently. Basically, it’s a planned moment before the ceremony on the wedding day where the bride and groom get a “first look” at each other in a secluded place. There are some people that upon mentioning this idea, say “WHAT, why would we do that?!” And that’s not to paint them in a poor light, it’s just a relatively new idea that goes against conventional wedding tradition. See, historically, it’s often been called bad luck for the groom to see his bride before the ceremony. I read somewhere that the reason for this is because long ago, weddings were more of an arranged business deal than a romantic event planned for months. Fathers spent years searching for a “well-to-do” suitor for their daughters, however, they were always afraid that if the groom was able to meet the bride before the wedding, he would find her unattractive and call off the wedding, casting shame on her family. Now, how much of that do I believe? I’m sure that this is partially true, but fast forward to today and the tradition still holds, and there’s some solid reasoning behind it. So what is this crazy idea? What is a “First Look”? 

Instead of the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony, the groom waits in a secluded place (a field, park, church, place special to the couple). You approach to tap him on the shoulder or uncover his eyes or whisper into his ear, allowing him to turn and see you for the first time. What follows is ALWAYS different. He marvels at your beauty. Makes comments about your dress. There are hugs involved. Maybe you’ve planned to read something to each other. Maybe he cries. Maybe you cry. It never fails to be a beautiful, sensitive, sweet moment.

A couple ideas that we’ll steal from our wonderful couples (DEFINITELY not an obligation):

  • Exchange letters with each other, reading them back-to-back before the reveal.
  • After the reveal, head to a private area and exchange your vows. Potentially, vows that won’t even be shared before your friends and family.
  • Share some moments in prayer.
  • Gifts can be exchanged.
  • After the reveal, take a walk. Sit. Collect yourselves.

The only people present are Gary and I, you guys, videographers (if applicable) and potentially a bridesmaid or two to help you with your dress. Unless you want your family or bridal party involved, we try to shield you from people trying to snag an Instagram pic or scream “Awww” when you see each other for the first time. Our goal is for this to be a private time and your groom feels open to be candid/natural with you. 

We let this be a completely candid moment. We don’t instruct either of you to “smile at the camera” or exhaust you with fake poses, primarily because we don’t need to. Really, I hope that you’re not even mindful that we’re there. During this first moment, we capture the first couple minutes of you interacting with each other, allowing you to talk, kiss, hug, cry, and be yourselves. Then, we leave you alone for 5-15 minutes, time permitting, let you relieve some of your jitters and relax with your soon-to-be spouse. We usually use the momentum of the moment to go straight into bride and groom portraits, but we could go ahead and knock out the bridal party or family. 

Why should you do this on your wedding day?

There are many reasons to do a first look, but first, let’s talk a bit about why you don’t want to do one. It’s no secret that every bride dreams of the moment that her groom locks eyes with her and watches her walk down the aisle. You’ve planned this moment for months! You’re in a beautiful dress, the suspense has built from not seeing each other all day, he might even cry in front of all of your family and friends! It’s easily a moment that you will never forget and a moment that you should have, right? Correct. In my opinion and from what we’ve seen, the first look doesn’t take away from your ceremony. The first look relieves some of the jitters and allows you to focus more on prayer, the sermon, the songs, and the words within your vows. 

Let’s get one thing clear because I’ve heard it before: you should not refrain from doing a first look because you want him to cry when you walk down the aisle. That’s a lot of pressure to put on your groom. It sounds as if your ceremony hinges upon whether the groom shows what’s in his heart for you through his tears and if he doesn’t cry, you won’t be happy. It’s not irrational if you feel this way, but not all men show emotion like that and it could cause him to feel pressure to fake it. In the end, he might cry, he might not, and either way, your ceremony will be beautiful. It will still portray the love of God and your love for each other. With the first look, you get that first moment all to yourself. 

From any planners’ perspective, first looks are advantageous because the timeline is extended by hours. Without a first look, no matter how hard we try, we always have to rush. Cramming family, bridal party, and couples’ portraits into 1-2 hours after the ceremony while your guests wait for you is hard enough, but with the goal always being to get to the reception ASAP, the couples’ portraits always get cut short! With the first look, we can get started a few hours before the ceremony and get literally everything done before the ceremony starts, leaving more time for you to spend with your guests and your spouse. If there’s still a cocktail hour, you will be able to enjoy it and mingle as well. Sunset pictures would just be icing on the cake! 

Gary and I didn’t do a first look (primarily because it wasn’t presented as a better option) and we regret it completely. We would’ve had more daylight to work with, been able to spend more time together, had more couples portraits, and been more relaxed in the moments leading up to the wedding. Most of all, the moment would’ve been private, special, and conducive to sharing encouraging words for each other before our “I do’s.”