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Should I Do A First Look On My Wedding Day?

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

In most traditional weddings that take place in the United States today, couples say goodbye to one another the day or night before the wedding. The next time they see each other would be at the other end of the aisle.

As couples continue to challenge wedding day traditions for a more customized experience, they may begin to weigh the pros and cons of doing a first look before the ceremony.

Only you can answer this question, but we would like to help explain why couples choose to do a first look. You can absorb the reasoning before you see if it feels like a good fit for you and your fiancé.

Before you answer the question “Should I do a first look on my wedding day?”, start to envision what it might look like. A first look can be done in a few different ways:

Bride taps groom on shoulder for first look on their wedding day
  • Most commonly, the groom stands with his back towards the bride. The bride will walk towards him and tap him on the shoulder. He will then turn around to see her. Then, cue the water works!

  • If you would like it to be more direct, the bride and groom can simply walk towards each other. Depending on the event space, one of you could move down a staircase or hallway or walk through a doorway.

  • Want some dramatic flair with a little bit of mystery? Add a blindfold that gets removed when you get close to each other (after the anticipation is built.)

  • Now, for a wild card! The last way to do a first look would be to turn it into a prank. This won’t work for most of our couples, but if it feels true to who you are then make this moment your own. Dress in a mascot costume of a favorite team, or have a groomsman show up on the bride’s behalf. This could help lighten the mood and get you both laughing before the wedding starts.

In most instances, it would just be the couple and the photography/videography team. You could also invite your bridal party or groomsmen if their presence during this moment is important to you---but keep it small!

Here are five key reasons that couples can benefit from a first look, along with a few considerations to keep in mind.

1. Experience a few moments of solitude.

Reasons to consider a first look before the wedding ceremony

With the hustle and bustle that comes from planning your wedding, and experiencing the actual day-of events, it can become easy to lose sight of why you’re getting married.

A first look will allow for the two of you to spend quiet and intentional time with one another. It will also put you at ease since you will quickly be reminded of why you’re committing to forever.

These few minutes focused minutes will allow you to be in each other’s presence and share kind words.

Even if you plan to still exchange your own vows, these moments can be incredibly meaningful.

2. Take in their full wedding day look.

Groom reacts to bride during their emotional first look on their wedding day

In most cases, one or both outfits selected for the wedding day are kept under wraps. A first look will give you a few moments to absorb the look that your significant other has selected, along with the details that bring it to life (like hair and makeup.)

This isn’t about having a ‘fashnionista moment’, but moreso to recognize that the reality of your shared vision is coming together. So much thought and preparation will go into the tuxedo/suit or bridal gown (or wedding alternative), that the details may get lost without having this dedicated time with one another.

In a more traditional setting, you will be see one another at the same time as your guests. It’s likely in this scenario that details could be missed or underappreciated.

3. Get more time for photos.

Bride and groom on wedding day in Dallas, Texas in photo by Joy Photo and Video

A first look will guarantee some time for extra photos because your photographer can get some of the couples-only shots before the ceremony. If you have a tight wedding day timeline, especially with a smaller window of time between the program and reception, adding time to the beginning of the day for these photos can be helpful.

Plus, taking the photos now instead of later will mean that your hair and makeup is at its best.

Tip: set aside 15-20 minutes for a first look before the ceremony. While this does allow more time for photos in the full flow of the wedding agenda, it may push your timeline earlier in the day. This might be hard for earlier ceremonies or those who consider yourselves to be Night Owls! Make sure to rest the night before and allow for ample time to get ready.

Outdoor wedding photo of bride and groom kissing

4. Be more present during your wedding ceremony. While the ceremony is often the highlight of the big day, it can also come with a lot of pressure and multiple distractions. (Especially if you aren’t someone who likes to be the center of attention.) Since your guests from all walks of life staring at you, you may feel the need to respond emotionally in a certain way. And if you’re trying to take it all in at the same time, you may miss some of the important words shared by the officiant or other special moments set on your program.

While this may take away from the butterflies from the anticipation of seeing each other for the first time at the end of the aisle, the emotions will still likely be heightened. And because you won’t be as distracted, you may find that you are able to be more present.

5. Enjoy more time with your guests. Since you will get some of your photos together prior to the ceremony, you will be able to spend more time with your guests. Since you hand-select the individuals that you invite to your wedding, having the ability to truly celebrate with them is important. Many times, couples say that they don’t feel like they had a chance to see their wedding guests. This will allow for some extra time since the photos don’t have to begin right after you say ‘I Do.’

“Should I do a first look on my wedding day?” is an important question to consider and to align on in advance with your partner. In our experience, many Joy couples who have chosen to do first looks are pleased with this decision. And we’re big fans because of the priceless moments it helps to create for the photo album or wedding video!

If you like the idea of creating a moment of connection prior to the wedding ceremony, there are some alternative ways that you can accomplish this without seeing each other.

  • First (Near-Final) Look: See each other in your getting ready outfit, before the tuxedo, gown, or alternative style are put on, so that the final look can still be a surprise

  • First Touch: Hold hands back-to-back, or from around the corner so that you can feel each other without the visual

  • First Sound: One or both of you can have your eyes covered so that you can still hear one another

  • First {Fill in the blank}: We’ve seen couples exchange a song, poem, letter, prayer, phone call, or gift, where a special moment can still be created without actual face time

  • First Look-With Someone Else: Consider a first look with someone other than your significant other---parents, grandparents, bridal party etc.

Get some more details on a few of these alternative approaches from Junebug Weddings.

We hope this helped you get some wedding planning tips as you consider the answer to this important question: “Should I do a first look on my wedding day?”

[Photoshoot in the spotlight: Rahma and Suleyman in Fort Worth, Texas by Jillian.]

Choose Joy,

The Joy Team


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