Planning Tips

Many couples are on the fence about doing a first look during their wedding day. We definitely agree that there is a traditional element of surprise to seeing your soon-to-be spouse for the first time as you walk down the aisle. However, there are a ton of benefits to doing a first look that you might not even consider at first! We spoke with Brent Looyenga of Looyenga Photography, who breaks down the benefits to doing a first look and shared some of his favorite shots he's taken.

So often I talk with people who don't want to do a first look (or reveal) on their wedding day. This is the traditional way, but we shouldn't do what we've always done just because we've always done it. Oftentimes people choose to do a ceremony reveal because that's the way they always thought it would happen or because they think the experience of it will be so much more emotional. These are legitimate thoughts. Knowing what you've been expecting is important, and to deviate from that you need to have a good reason for doing so. Then there is the experience aspect of it. We want to ask ourselves, is that expectation true? And if it is, how is it different when we do a reveal?

All photos courtesy Looyenga Photography

As a photographer, I love first looks. They are amazing, and not always because of what you'd think. In fact, there are three really great reasons to do a reveal, one of which you've probably heard before (the least important reason) and some of which you probably haven't heard. But it's important for me to be able to talk a couple through the benefits of each. It affects the wedding day, and ultimately affects the delivered product.

Three Great Reasons To Do a Reveal


The reason why most people tell you to do a reveal is the logistical reason. The flow of the wedding day is smoother if you do a reveal. By seeing each other ahead of the ceremony, a bride and groom can do all of the photos ahead of time: couple photos, bridal party photos, all the family photos, etc. This means that after the ceremony, the guests are not waiting on the couple to finish up photos. There is less stress, no pressure on time, and overall the reception is more enjoyable. Once the ceremony is over, there's plenty of time to mingle with guests and so forth. If a couple opts for the traditional route, we will have a significant list of photos to do between the ceremony and the reception. Full bridal party photos (we can do bridesmaids and groomsmen ahead of time), all the family photos (as the couple is in them together), and of course the all-important couple photos. This is the worst reason to do a reveal, but still a good one.

The second reason is what I call the photographic reason. When we do a reveal, I can control the environment that surrounds the moment. I can control the lighting, the background, the angles. I can make sure Aunt Betty's pink iPad isn't in the way, or that the sun isn't directly in the groom's face. When the bride is coming down the aisle, I will take the best possible photo in that moment, but there are a lot of factors out of my control. Getting both faces in the same photo is impossible. There's no guarantee of good light. The background could be something beautiful, or it could be a row of parked cars. When we set up a first look, we can make sure all of those factors are as good as they can be, and it looks great.

The best reason to do a reveal, though, is for the experience. The experience of a first look is just better. As the bride, when you're coming down the aisle for the first time, and the groom sees you, what can he do about that? He can smile -- and stand there. He can't hold you, spin you, or look you up and down and tell you how beautiful you are. He can't give you a kiss or comment on your dress. No. He can just stand there. So a first look allows the groom to do that. It allows him to see his bride, hold her, and interact with her. (It also means they aren't avoiding each other all day, which is kind of ironic in its own way.) It means a couple gets to talk and hang out. It's just more fun.

Now, all that said, I don't think it diminishes the ceremony's first look. I think that's different. At a reveal, it's about the bride and groom. It's more intimate seeing each other for the first time and having that moment. At the ceremony, that's a different experience, and a different emotion. That's "Oh my gosh. I'm getting married! This is real." At the reveal, it's "Woah. That is my WIFE." I find that if a groom cries at the first look, he will at the ceremony. If he doesn't at one, he won't at the other just the same. So the experience is much better.

All photos courtesy Looyenga Photography

There aren't a lot of positives to doing things the traditional way, beyond the fact it's what most people have always expected. It's what they always imagined. And there is something to be said for staying with expectations, which is also why I write this all out. Expectations are important, and if there isn't a first look, there shouldn't be expectations of first look photos (seems obvious, but it's something I always make a point to say).


That is why doing a reveal on the wedding day is an excellent idea -- not only for logistics, but because the day is better for it.