An Innocent Look at "First Look Photos"

The first time I heard of a “first look” photo was when my brother was getting married two years ago. My sister-in-law described to me that the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony in a secluded area with just the photographer quietly snapping away. Aside from the sweet, romantic mental image, I was appalled.


As a hopeful-future bride, seeing the groom before I started my sashay down the aisle was akin to reading the last page of a book before the first. Sipping scalding hot tea before it’s cooled off. In essence, jumping the gun. To me, seeing my fiancé for the first time as he waits at the altar (or beachfront or vineyard) is The Moment, brimming with excitement and devotion and butterflies.


I admit, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to relationships. My version of a perfect future is: engagement, wedding, moving in and baby, in that order and without any overlap. That doesn’t mean I expect other people to stay inside that box, though. I don’t think in terms of “should” - I simply know what feels natural to me, and checking out my man ahead of schedule wasn’t it.


That is, until I gave into my almost-sister’s gentle prompts to “please just Google ‘first look photos’” and take a sneak peek of the sneak peeks. I have to admit, it is a good idea, even if it’s not a time-honored one. Couples get a few stolen moments together before the hours upon hours wedding whirlwind begins. “Why hasn’t this been the tradition all along?” I thought.


Plus - and this is a biggie - not everyone enjoys that bubbling over of emotion when it’s in front of 200 people. Yes, I may be imagining it as a natural high, rife with delight and passion. But to my brother, the “excitement, devotion and butterflies” I talked about just sounds overwhelming and like a good segue into an infamous wedding day faint. His bride-to-be knew this about him. She realized that a clandestine meeting beforehand would relax him enough to not wobble in front of all their guests.


Even if your guy is as cool as a cucumber on your wedding day, there are still a few perks to having first look photos taken. Getting to see each other ahead of time will ease even the slightest anxiety. Instead of feeling tense during the ceremony, you’ll be more relaxed, which means you can pay better attention to the words being said. Since you won’t be flooded with the emotions that come from seeing each other for the very first time, you’ll be able to recite your vows clearly and slowly.


From an efficiency standpoint, you can take your formal wedding portraits after the first look and before the ceremony. You’ll be able to sip champagne and nosh on appetizers with your bridal party, guests and new spouse during cocktail hour instead of hurriedly squeezing in photos before the reception.

Lastly, the real appeal of seeing each other for the first time during the ceremony has less to do with the aisle and more to do with the apple of your eye. It’s the “seeing each other” part that’s truly important. You won’t lose the romance. You may even heighten it because you can react to each other in private and without an itinerary to stick to.

Image courtesy of Bella Sera Photography