First Look


To see or not to see, that is the question...

There certainly are varying views on whether a bride and groom should share a "first look" before the ceremony.

Some cite that a reason to not see each other first is that it is “bad luck” for the groom to view the bride in her dress beforehand, while some merely believe that it is “tradition” and if not adhered to, it will somehow spoil the moment when the groom lays eyes upon his bride walking down the aisle in her beautiful white gown.

The facts are that this practice dates back to when most marriages were arranged and were first and foremost a means to create alliances between families and not entered into for romantic love. Not only did the bride and groom not see each other before the ceremony on the wedding day, they very likely had never seen each other at all. Of course, daughters really had no say or ability to exert their own will. What ever the father said, the daughter did. Of course, a father would hope to marry his daughter off to a groom from a wealthy family. The fear however was that if the groom found his bride to be less-than-fetching, he might turn on this heals and head for the hills - thus the extra insurance of the veil.

Today, it would be very rare for the betrothed to not know each other so of course they already have a very good idea of what the other looks like. In the 21st century, many couples are already living together when they get married.

Of the many hundreds of Santa Barbara weddings that we have photographed, most couples have chosen to see each other before the ceremony. Never has a couple expressed any regret in having done so, nor has it ever taken away from the emotion that is felt when the bride comes down the aisle. Lips are still quivering and eyes are tearing up. In fact, having spent some time together earlier in the day just seems to fuel the emotional impact.

From a purely practical standpoint, seeing each other beforehand allows the romantic and family portraits to be done in a much more relaxed and enjoyable manner and presents much more opportunity for the photographer to get nice candids along with posed photos. It also lets the newly married couple enjoy the cocktail party (at what other time during the wedding day would one consider scheduling two events at the same time? Maybe simultaneous ceremony and cocktails?). And last, but certainly not least, both the bride and groom will look their best earlier in the day before they have been squished and squeezed by their adoring fans.

I suppose my bias is hard to deny but I can also say that whether to see each other before the ceremony is a very personal decision and is also very dependent upon the scheduling of events themselves (as in the timing of the ceremony and sunset). Ultimately it is the photographer’s job to merely make suggestions based on his/her experience and to respect his client’s wishes.