Guest Blogger: G.E. Masana
G.E. Masana's roster of wedding clients have included magazine editors, models, art directors, actors, opera singers, cinematographers, fashion designers, graphic artists and photographers. He's been seen in Bridal Guide, Town & Country, New York Magazine, among many more. He currently writes about weddings for Huffington Post. A sought-after documentary wedding photographer, he's been interviewed by the two leading international professional wedding photography journals and was awarded by the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers.
Sure, it was an ancient superstition that bad luck would soon follow if the groom saw the bride in her gown before the wedding. In today’s modern world, though, even non-superstitious couples still wrangle over the question whether to see each other prior to the ceremony. The main reason couples today seem to keep the tradition alive is because they believe it builds up the mystique before the walk down the aisle. However, other couples recognize the time manage benefits of seeing each other before the ceremony — meeting earlier for photos gets you to your party sooner.
You may not realize that in some cultures and religions around the world, couples see each other before the ceremony as a part of the wedding-day process, meeting for rituals such as tea ceremonies, ketubah signings, and garland ceremonies... and bad luck doesn’t necessarily follow (upon further investigation, it turns out if bad luck does follow, it’s always because of something that happened when the bride and groom saw each other after the wedding, not before. But I digress).
But there’s one even bigger aspect of a first look that makes the biggest difference to the couple. And it’s not about making more time for a cocktail hour or having “that moment" when she walks down the aisle. No, it’s about something bigger than all that — something far more meaningful to the couple. Even though I’ve photographed hundreds of weddings (I stopped counting at about 1,000), I’ve seen this over and over again. At one particular wedding, the bride and groom weren’t going to see each other prior to the ceremony because they wanted to "keep to tradition” and they wanted to make that moment when they first saw each other special.
But at the very last minute, they had a change of heart. They decided the time scheduled for photos after the ceremony was too restrictive — they wanted to have sufficient time to capture great images, but they also wanted to enjoy their cocktail hour. So they went ahead (somewhat reluctantly) with a "first look."
[Sidenote: I’ve often noticed that while couples schedule the portrait session at the same time as the cocktail hour, no other two events of the wedding day are ever simultaneously scheduled. So let me propose we start a new trend where the ceremony and the cocktail hour are scheduled for the same time. I believe guests would enjoy a beverage or two and an appetizer while watching you two get married, don’t you? Let’s get this thing going! Be the first one on your block. Be a trendsetter.]
Anyway, when this couple met up earlier on their wedding day for their first look, they were immersed in that "OMG moment" in a way that they couldn't have experienced if the ceremony was happening at the same time. They enjoyed this time privately, away from the crowd, where they felt free to enjoy sweet sentimental moments together — which, by the way, makes for some great photo opportunities.
See how high their emotions ran right here in the seconds before their first look?
Meeting before the ceremony, when you're free from the often-strict needs of the ceremony itself, gives you more personal moments and experiences together, which adds wonderful memories to your day. Everything that happens during the first look is a unique experience you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t take that opportunity to be with each other.
But even couples who favor the first look worry that, since you already saw each other, you lose some of the shine and magic from your walk down the aisle. I can assure you that that's simply not true. Though this groom had spent an hour with his bride already, here’s the photo I took when she made her appearance at the top of the aisle. Check out the expression on his face:
His eyes are tearing up. His lip is quivering. He’s feeling it. And since I was there taking that photo, I can tell you when she turned the corner and came into view, these two immediately locked eyes on each other. They were beyond riveted with each other.
Now, you may think that the moral of my little story is, “And so, Dear Reader, having a first look doesn’t take away the magic later." But it isn’t. This is:
Through my experience, I realized that spending that quality, personal time together earlier on the wedding day ramps up and fuels the emotions for when the magic moment finally comes and you see each other at your ceremony. It can add more anticipation, electricity, and passion to your ceremony, because it adds it to your heart. The first look doesn't take away the magic; it simply gives you many more unique moments of your day to experience, more emotions for you to bask in, and many more memories for you to cherish.
Tell us: Will you have a first look?