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Should You Take First Look Wedding Photos? | Big Day Q&A

by Wedding Shoppe Blogger: Hannah Arkelin May 11, 2015 @ 10:30 am

Wedding Planning

The ‘first look’ has become a popular trend. This new, intimate photo-op conflicts with one of the most notable superstitions: The groom must not see the bride before the wedding. It’s no wonder this topic was pitched for our Big Day Q&A series! Before you pick a tradition to take on, it may help to know the pros and cons of first look wedding photos—it’s not as simple as breaking with tradition or not. There’s lighting, location, and time to consider, not to mention the different ways you can reveal your beauty to your beau. By the end of this blog, you should have a better idea if this photo-op is right for you.


Purrington Photography

First Look Wedding Photos: The Pros & Cons

Before I jump into the pros and cons, let’s discuss why superstition surrounds the first look in the first place.

When arranged marriages were commonplace, the ceremony was basically a business deal—one that could fall through if the groom-to-be opted out. In other words, if he decided his fiancé wasn’t pretty enough, he could bail. To prevent this from happening, it was decided that a groom couldn’t see the bride before the ceremony. This is also why veils exist! They were originally designed to cover a woman’s face until both parties said, “I do.”

How nice.

So seeing the bride before the nuptials doesn’t exactly lead to bad luck—but it could lead to a runaway groom.

Now that we’ve taken the superstition card off the table, here are the real pros and cons of having a pre-wedding reveal:


Brian Bossany Photography


-You have more time to take pictures. Waiting until after the ceremony for photography means your guests have to wait too. It also means you miss more of the reception.

-You may lose the light. Depending on the time of year and the start of your ceremony, if you wait to take pictures until after the nuptials, you may lose ideal lighting. Make sure your photographer has your wedding day timeline on-hand to prevent this from happening.

-You can calm each other down. I expect you’ll be a bit nervous as you get ready for the big day. Who better to calm you down than the one going through it with you? Take a moment to breathe, reflect, and prepare for that walk down the aisle.

-The photos are unmatched. If you stage it right, the pictures you’ll get from a first look are unbeatable. Your fresh bridal style, his nerves, your smile, his tears…

groom-sees-bride-for-the-first-time first-look-outside

One:One Photography


-More sleep! If you cut a pre-ceremony photo-session, you have more time for beauty rest.

-More time to get ready. We all know that hair never cooperates when you need it to, makeup can smudge, and last-minute slip-ups happen. If you forgo the photos, you have more time to perfect your look.

-Sunset, anyone? If you time it right, you could be taking your newlywed shots at sunset instead of in the morning. Both are beautiful, but there’s nothing like a setting sun to enhance a bridal glow.

-Your guests will be a part of the big moment. Sharing the first sighting one-on-one is intimate, but sharing it with your friends and family is quite special.

-You’ll be married! How much fun will it be to pose as man and wife? That just-married feeling will make the images even more magical.


Anita Martin Photography

Tips for this pre-wedding photoshoot.

If you’ve decided to go for it, there are a few things to keep in mind before the big day.

-What do you want to do during this special moment? Many couples simply take it all in! It’s an opportunity to fully embrace the day ahead and the promise you’re making. It’s also a good opportunity to calm each other down—you’re going through the same thing after all. If you’re religious, take a moment to say a prayer. You can say one as a couple and gather your bridal party for another.

-Where will this moment take place? Since time is a factor, I recommend choosing a special spot near where you’re taking the rest of your pics. Things to keep in mind are weather (have a back-up option) and lighting. Choose this spot prior to the big day and let your photographer know the details!

-When will this moment take place? Give yourselves enough time! I recommend 30 minutes to an hour.

-Who should walk? Another common question is whether the bride should walk to her fiancé or the other way around. It really depends on the location and your attire. If you’re outside, nervous to dirty your dress before it floats down the aisle, the groom should come to you. If you get to float down a staircase and see his eyes light up, you should go to him. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Who wants to tap whose shoulder? You could also do a reveal with dad and have him walk you to your fiancé!

bride-and-groom-with-balloons bride-and-groom-releasing-balloons

One:One Photography

Need-to-Know Idea: One of my favorite twists on this tradition includes balloons! The bride and groom each carry a bunch of balloons in front of them, covering their look. The photographer counts to three, and the couple lets go of the balloons, revealing their style and surprised faces. It’s whimsical, adorable, and easy to do!

Unique first look ideas.

If you’ve decided to pass on this modern tradition, you can still enjoy the intimate experience in different ways. Some don’t even include the groom!

1. Blindfold the groom. You’re not going to ruin his makeup with this trick, and it allows you to share a moment before you take that walk down the aisle. You can embrace, share a kiss, or simply hold hands and ease each other’s nerves. The photos will be pretty funny, too!

2. Read your letters. Many couples write letters to each other which can be read before the nuptials—another reason why waterproof makeup is a must. Instead of reading them alone, stand on either side of a wall or open door—holding hands—and read them together! A little squeeze of the fingers or a sniffle caused by happy tears will make them even more meaningful.


Rebekah Hoyt Photography

3. Share a reveal with your ‘maids! They may be there while you’re getting ready, but towards the end of your hair and makeup, and before you put on your dream gown, go in a separate room. Then reveal your bridal style to your best friends! You know the looks on their faces will be worth capturing.

dad-seeing-bride-for-the-first-time bride-with-mom

One:One Photography & Studio 220 Photography

4. This one gets me every time—I’m actually tearing up while writing this. If you don’t try this tradition with your fiancé, share it with dad. His little girl has found a new leading man, so give him a special, one-on-one moment to see her off. He thinks you’re beautiful every moment of every day, but this day is different. You’ll treasure the memory forever! The same memory can be shared with mom, too!

Will you take on this trend?

The pros and cons of first look wedding photos are even. The images could be incredible and you’d have them forever. But there’s nothing like that moment you appear at the end of the aisle, he sees you, perhaps he sheds a tear, and the whole room gasps at your beauty.

Will you do a reveal before the vows? What are your tips and ideas? Share them in a comment below!

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Quite simply, I love everything wedding-related! My goal is to help couples plan their dream day with unique tips and tricks. I've been a wedding blogger for 2 years, and a writer for many more. I enjoy exploring the Twin Cities, traveling, and going on long walks with my curious dog, Watson. Is there a topic you'd like me to cover? Email me at!

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  • Comments

  • Maureen

    Thank you for writing this article!! It’s the first one I have come across that really breaks it all down for this trend. I’ve been struggling with this idea ever since he proposed and I’m still not sure! I heard of the one with Dad just last week from a girlfriend and I love that. I am for sure doing that one if I don’t do the first look with my fiancé or I’ll just have 2 on the big day!

  • Rachel P.

    My husband was very adamant he did NOT want to do a first-look at our wedding – and I am SO glad we didn’t!! We blindfolded him so we could talk to each other and pray together before the ceremony, which was very emotional and special. And when he saw me walking down the aisle for the first time, it was the most beautiful moment. I’ve never seen him cry much other than that moment, and bless his heart he was bawling! We did miss out on some of our reception by doing pictures later, but we had plenty of games and activities available for our guests so it wasn’t really an issue. I’d say if you’re hesitant about doing a first look at all, you will regret doing it. Either way though, the first time you see each other will be a moment you will never forget.

  • WeddingShoppeInc

    Wonderful advice! Thanks for sharing it, Rachel!

  • Brandi

    Love the article, but PLEASE PLEASE don’t encourage people to release balloons into the environment. They end up as trash somewhere,and often times animals end up mistaking them for food or get tangled in the strings. Balloons don’t float indefinitely – they pop and fall back to the ground. Encouraging someone to release balloons is the same as encouraging someone to throw their trash out of a moving vehicle on the highway.

  • Arwen

    Great article for the most part, but I completly agree with Brandi. Not only is it irresponsible to promote the environmentally destuctive behavior of releasing balloons, but in many states it’s illegal. Nobody wants to spend their honeymoon fund on environmental fines. Instead, how about making them hide behind umbrellas instead? They come in so many fun colors and shapes, and they can be used after the wedding. No need to kill sea turtles and shore birds to get a great first look.

  • Glenn

    Ugh – balloon release? Seriously? Why not just photograph the bride and groom dumping McDonalds wrappers all over a park and in rivers?

    And if you’re doing a first look, also look into heading out for 10 minutes at sunset for photos as well – that way you get to escape the reception for a little bit and spend some quiet time AND get the best light.

  • Kayleigh

    I was all for this article until I saw the balloon release photos…trashy.

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