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If you’re planning a wedding, chances are people have already started asking you if you’re going to see each other before the ceremony during a first look. This, like everything else when it comes to planning your wedding, is something people have some OPINIONS on. But the only two that matter are those belonging to the people actually getting married that day, period. There are so many ways you can design your day! But I’m going to focus on the three options I tend to see the most as a wedding photographer.

Atlanta GA wedding photographer You are Raven discusses if you should have a first look

Seeing each other at the end of the aisle

Also known as the “traditional” choice, this is where both marriers are hidden from each other until the start of the ceremony. This is typically achieved with one person being at the ceremony spot and the other approaching. Usually this tends to come with keeping your entire wedding day look a surprise from the other person during the planning process so that you both are surprised when you see each other.

A lot of people choose this option because it feels traditional or classic. Many of us have grown up seeing most {if not all} weddings undertaking the aisle walk in this way. There’s something to be said for participating in a piece of custom that your parents and grandparents also undertook. If you or your beloved are extroverted people, also, this can be a fantastic option for you. You’ll be surrounded by loved ones for this big and emotional moment, and it can potentially be quite dramatic. Especially if either of you is demonstrative with emotions, resulting in some truly stellar reaction photos.

wedding photographer You are Raven discusses first touches and getting ready options

However, it’s certainly not for everyone. Though we typically see it as traditional, traditions are all made up anyway! They only mean something if they mean something to YOU. Another thing to consider about this tradition, like so many other wedding traditions, is its origin. The beginnings of waiting to see each other until the end of the aisle originated in the practice of arranged marriages. And, while this still exists today and can be found as a respected, consensual approach to marriage all over the world, it may not be relevant to your approach or your family’s customs. 

should you do a first look with wedding photographer You are Raven

Understanding the aspects of weddings we take for granted as traditions and their roots can be helpful in deciding what resonates most with your relationship and values!

This option makes for a slightly trickier timeline, as well. Which is something that your planner and your photographer are happy to help you arrange, but it means fewer images and less time with your new spouse, since you’ll be shooting all the photos of the two of you either right after the ceremony or during the reception. It doesn’t tend to allow for a lot of cocktail hour mingling or guest-visiting for the two of you. {Although this is a great argument for a post-wedding photo shoot for more shots together in your wedding gear!}

Lastly, and most importantly, most of my couples are introverted and don’t care for showing lots of emotion in front of people, so the idea of all eyes being on them with the added pressure of being expected to react and emote in a huge and specific way is hugely unappealing. Also, as a photographer, I can promise you that the photos of huge reactions are so few and far between; most people just don’t emote that way! So if you’re at all shy, introverted, or averse to showing emotion in front of a crowd, I’d skip this one.

couple poses with goat mask photographed by You are Raven

First look

What’s now known as a “first look,” this is where the marriers get ready separately and then, as soon as they’re ready, they are revealed to each other in a private moment long before the ceremony with just the two of them and the moment-capturers {photographer & videographer}. You’ve likely seen images of marriers standing back-to-back or one approaching the other from behind or both being blindfolded, etc. Sometimes both parties have seen various aspects of the other’s’ wedding look, but sometimes it’s a complete surprise. Afterwards, some couples choose to hang out together with the wedding party or to run off for some alone time {something that is at a premium on wedding day!}.

There are a ton of great reasons this works well for so many couples, like the fact that seeing each other as soon as you’re dressed and ready means you’re freshly scrubbed and pressed for your pictures together. For most couples who already live together and are used to seeing each other constantly, not seeing your beloved all morning {and potentially not even the night before} can feel incredibly strange, maybe even adding to the stress of the day. So I’d recommend this method for helping soothe nerves, especially because I’ve heard first-hand from my couples have told me that seeing each other before the ceremony calmed them tremendously!

first look in the woods of Georgia by wedding photographer You are Raven

should you do a first look by wedding photographer You are Raven

This private time allows you a much smaller audience {or potentially even no audience, if you don’t want it captured, which is totally a thing you can do!}. It also offers way less pressure to react demonstratively, and the space to be with your beloved and get HYPED for the upcoming ceremony! With this higher-stress moment out of the way, the walk to the altar can feel less pressured.

A logistical reason for a first look is timing, as well. With this time added into the schedule, you have plenty of time for photos of the two of you! Not to mention, time to capture family and wedding party photos… PLUS you’ll still have buffer time worked into the post-ceremony cocktail hour and the reception. This means either more time for awesome photos or more time for hanging out with loved ones, either being a stellar option.

If the tradition of seeing each other for the first time while walking to the altar is incredibly important to you, however, then skip this option. At the end of the day, it’s your wedding! What’s important to the two of you is all that matters! Go with your gut whenever you can.

why you should do a first look by GA wedding photographer You are Raven

first look options by wedding photographer You are Raven

Getting ready together

Getting ready together is exactly as it sounds. No separate rooms, no hiding from each other or keeping surprises hidden away. Just straightforward prepping in the same space. This option tends to be very lowkey, low maintenance, and laidback. You can help each other get ready or just exist in the same space. Whatever your preference!

Getting ready with each other or around each other has the added benefit of calming nerves since you’ve been together the whole time. There’s no trying to keep hidden or away from each other!  And you can get some of the cutest getting ready photos helping each other get into wedding clothes or doing each others’ hair.

If a first look or an aisle walk feel like too much pressure or feel too contrived for you, this is likely a fantastic option. No reveal, no surprise, just a calm and lovely morning before the ceremony. You still get the benefit of a more relaxed timeline, as well!

The only potential downsides to this would be that there’s no dramatic reveal {if this is a downside or an upside depends on the couple}. Additionally, then you won’t have private time with your side of the wedding party while getting ready, if this is something that’s important to you.

couple prepares for wedding day together photographed by Georgia wedding photographer You are Raven

A combination of all three or something completely different!

I’ve seen any number of combinations of these three options! And, yet, I know there are so many other ideas I haven’t even come across yet!

You could do a “first touch,” where you hold hands for a quick second before the ceremony. Maybe you meet with a door between you to exchange letters or gifts or words of love without seeing each other.

You could get ready together until the final touches of putting on wedding clothes. Then have a first look or aisle walk, so there’s a calm morning and then a tiny surprise.

Or maybe you could have a first look but keep it super informal. Just let your moment-capturers know that you don’t want a big dramatic moment. Instead, you want something more relaxed and natural. I’ve had weddings where the couple just met up when their sides of the wedding party did. I was in the background taking photos, but there was no big moment with just the two of them. We had the bonus of lots of reactions at once! Plus there was no pressure on either marrier to respond any way.

wedding photographer You are Raven discusses getting ready options for couples

Maybe there’s something I haven’t thought of, so what speaks to you?

Regardless of what you choose, try to schedule a little time for the two of you to be alone. Especially between the ceremony and reception. It’s a big day that can be overwhelming at times! As much as we all adore the visitors, well-wishers, and distant relations, it’s important to get away for a minute. While it’s just the two of you, take a few breaths together! Soak in the gloriousness that is your new marriage! Grab some water and a snack, hit the restroom, and fill each other in on the stories of the day.

Atlanta GA first look with You are Raven

brides kiss during first look during SC wedding day photographed by wedding photographer You are Raven

Raven is an Atlanta Wedding Photographer who captures real people on their totally unique and completely awesome wedding day. She travels throughout Georgia, including Athens, North Georgia, Dahlonega and beyond, documenting love. Get in touch to plan your wedding day!

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