There are many decisions couples have to make for their wedding day, and perhaps one of the most difficult decisions to make involves the “first look.” Tradition dictates the groom should not see the bride on the day of the wedding until the moment she walks down the aisle. Some say it’s considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride in her wedding gown before the ceremony. Many brides consider the moment the groom sees her walking down the as one of the most romantic of the entire day. But I wondered where this tradition came from, since most wedding traditions are completely antiquated and outdated by today’s standards. I learned this tradition is no exception.
The reason behind the tradition of the bride and groom not seeing each other before the actually ceremony goes back to the days of arranged marriages. Brides were kept hidden from the groom, lest he catch a glimpse of his soon-to-be beloved, decide she might not be his type, and call off the wedding (resulting in the bride’s father loosing out on his money and land – so romantic). It turns out that this may also be a reason brides wore veils to cover their faces right up until after the vows were recited, but that’s a topic for another post on another day. (Source: Snopes, Bridal Guide)
Since your marriage is probably not arranged, and you probably don’t have any fears about your partner running away when they see you at the alter, it’s probably safe to skip this tradition if you want. Some couples still think that first glimpse as you’re walking down the aisle is super important. But we did a first look, and I’m really glad we did.
Here are the upsides to doing a first look:
Time – By seeing each other before the ceremony, you have extra time to take pictures instead of trying to rush through all your pictures during the cocktail hour between ceremony and reception. This is especially important if you’re getting married at Disneyland and you have a list of a million photo locations. If you only have an hour for wedding portraits between ceremony and reception, I guarantee you are not going to get all the couple photos you want. Bonus – you might even get to enjoy mingling with your guests during cocktail hour, something that was important to us since, you know, we were paying for it and all.
Relax – If you can spend some time together before the ceremony, you might be less anxious and more relaxed during your ceremony and reception since that anticipation is over. I loved being able to hug and laugh with my husband prior to our ceremony. It would have been painful for me to see him at the alter for the first time that day and NOT give him a big ole hug and kiss.
Get to know your photographers – Spending some extra time if your photographers prior to the ceremony can only work in your favor. Not only will you be more relaxed around them for the rest of the day, but they can get to know your personalities which may lead to better photos during the ceremony and reception.
You actually get TWO first looks – Just because we did a first look doesn’t mean our first glimpses of each other during our actual ceremony wasn’t special! I loved seeing my husband smile back at me as I walked down the aisle. When surrounded by family and friends, and the music is swelling and you’re about to pledge your love and lives to each other, the moment will still be special no matter what transpired beforehand.
This article was originally published in January 2013 and was updated in January 2017.