Do Weddings Smarter: First Look vs. Aisle Look?

…And the debate continues to roar about whether couples should see each other or not PRIOR to the ceremony.  This subject has been on my mind somewhat after our seeing how the choice to do a First Look or an Aisle Look affected some of our recent weddings.
ORIGIN: According to, “During the time when arranged marriages were custom, the betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see each other before the wedding at all. The wedding symbolized a business deal between two families (romantic, huh?), and a father would have been pleased for his daughter to marry a man from a rich, land-owning family. But he also feared that if the groom met the bride before the wedding and thought she wasn’t attractive, he’d call off the wedding, casting shame onto the bride and her family. Therefore, it became tradition that the bride and groom were only allowed to meet at the wedding ceremony so that the groom did not have the opportunity to change his mind. And that veil the bride wears? Its original purpose was also to keep the groom from finding out what the bride looked like until the last possible minute, when it was too late to back out of the transaction.”
Choosing not to have a first look is completely fine, however you will need to adjust your expectations to accommodate not seeing each other before the wedding and to determine if the consequences are what you are desiring for your day.  First of all, determine what your priorities for the day are.  Is seeing family and friends most important to you?  Is having pictures of the bride & groom most important to you?  Once, you’ve determined what your priorities are, then it’s time to arrange your day accordingly.
This is an actual email that I recently sent to a bride regarding how to adjust expectations for a first look vs. an aisle look.  I think it explains the concept pretty well and hopefully it will help you determine what the best course is for you!
“As far as the issue of a seeing each other for the first time down the aisle, I completely understand the good mystery of that tradition.  I fear that sometimes there is a misconception that having a First Look is not nearly as romantic or exciting, although it is actually possibly more so than doing the traditional way.  Whatever you guys decide together, we will honor your desires and flow with that.  I do have to take this moment though to adjust some expectations if ya’ll opt for seeing each other first at the aisle.  You see, the images that you see on our portfolio are created because of a magic element called “time.”  When we are photographing you, it takes time for you to get comfortable in front of the camera and time for us to get to know you, what angles work best for your bone structure, etc.  When we are photographing, we hardly ever use anything shot within the first 15-20 minutes because it takes that long for most people (and us) to settle into the rhythm.  With that in mind, I feel that it’s only fair to be completely honest about how seeing each other at the aisle first will affect your day and how your expectations should be realistically adjusted for that option.
1)   You should expect less images of the groom’s natural reaction to seeing you for the first time.  Coming down the aisle, I will be at the back with you and your dad and Damion will be photographing you coming down the aisle with a long lens and trying to get the groom’s reaction.  You will see each other and then proceed quickly with the ceremony, not having the opportunity to soak in the moment and enjoy his reaction.  With the first look, it’s just the four of us, and we have one camera focused on each of you to capture your entire reaction.  We will set you up in a very romantic and special way, get ready and when he turns around to see you, we will capture his real reaction, not a restrained one.  You will have 10-15 minutes to enjoy and adore each other in just the First Look portion of your portrait session.
2)   You should expect that your family and bridal party will need to be ready earlier and available longer than with a First Look.  For example, all of the groomsmen and the groom’s family will need to be ready 2 hours and 45 minutes prior to the ceremony and be available for about 30 minutes afterwards.  With a first Look, everyone (except for you and him) would need to be ready 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to the ceremony and would be finished about 10-15 minutes after the ceremony.
3)   You should expect less pictures of the two of you, the most important pictures of the day!  These are the images that you will want to hang on your walls and will be the most important to you.  When seeing each other down the aisle first, after the ceremony, we will do the family and bridal party pictures (prob 25-30 minutes) and then whatever time is left over before the end of the cocktail hour is the only time that we will have to do the bride & groom portraits and that includes any travel time to a semi-secluded location.  That means that we will probably only have 20 minutes or less to capture images of the two of you. Honestly, in the only wedding this year that did not do a First Look, we literally did their only portraits in a space of 11 minutes of portrait time.  They came out ok, but we’re not after OK.  We’re after magical!  This is the only time that you will have alone during the day and you will want to enjoy it.  With a First Look, we like to spend an hour from First Look to ending your portrait session and you will get about 200% more images of the two of you.
4)  You should expect to spend less time with your guests.  With an aisle look, you will spend the entire cocktail hour taking pictures while your guests wait and enjoy.  With the First Look, the entire bridal party and most family pictures with bride & groom, and bride and groom portraits are done beforehand, so you are free to mingle with your guests and enjoy them before sitting down to dinner.
As I said before, we will honor your choice.  We know it’s your wedding of course! But, I am just sharing some thoughts that we’ve gathered from our years of photographing and observing many weddings. If you do decide on the aisle, these are just a few of the points that you will want to keep in mind.  Please always feel free to ask any questions.  I hope you’ve heard my heart in this, just to inform, not to push!”
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