Though many brides and grooms stick to the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony -- getting their first look at each other during the processional -- it's become a big trend for brides and grooms to put that ritual aside and plan to see each other before guests arrive. They get to decide how and when they'll first appear before each other, the bride revealing her gorgeous wedding day look and the groom telling her how beautiful she looks.
Couples may arrange to have this big reveal staged at a flower-filled garden location or on the beach or on a staircase in a grand estate, with their photographers in perfect positions to capture this big moment from several angles -- from behind the bride to capture the groom's facial reaction when he first sees his bride, from behind the groom to capture the bride's bright smile and equal adoration of her groom and then from right in front of the couple, in a series of posed photos taken without rushing and without the circus of bridal party members, child attendants, parents and guests swirling about.
Professional photographers say it's become a big problem at ceremonies when guests step into the aisle to snap their own photos of the couple, often blocking the professional photographer's and videographer's clear views of that magical moment. So by planning this advance meeting, it's just the couple and their photographer and videographer, with no risks of missing out on priceless first-look photos.
Katrina McCullum, event planner at Made of Honor Weddings, says, "When couples choose to see each other before the ceremony, it gives them the chance to share a very intimate, emotional time with one another." Bride and groom may shed tears of joy, and most importantly, they get to speak freely to each other from the heart -- as opposed to only getting the chance to whisper a quick sentiment as the officiant begins performing the ceremony. They get to have a real conversation, express their feelings and embrace this moment as their own.
They might arrange to be served Champagne in their monogrammed flutes, enjoying a private toast all on their own, giving them a precious private moment that is also captured by a photographer.
Pre-wedding nerves can disappear at this first meeting, allowing the couple to appreciate and enjoy their ceremony more, and both bride and groom look their best earlier in the day. The bride's hair and makeup are flawless; her flowers are fresh; and the groom is not soaked in sweat. Seeing each other before the ceremony lets them make a more perfect first impression.
And seeing as the couple look so perfect in this moment, now is when they can pose for the long series of wedding portraits, smiling for those hundreds of photos that give them a great selection of album and frame images. The process isn't rushed, and multiple locations are more easily used without the parade of bridal party members following and getting situated. The bride and groom get a more relaxed time for photos, which shows in their expressions. And getting all of these photos taken before the ceremony makes the post-ceremony photos go faster, so the couple can enjoy more of their cocktail hour mingling with their guests.
One of the biggest reasons a growing number of brides and grooms wish to see each other before the ceremony is that they get to express the deeper meaning -- it's all about their love for each other -- of the wedding day. Having alone time to walk hand in hand through the wedding gardens, speaking sweet sentiments to each other, could be the highlight of their day.
Once the guests arrive and the ceremony begins, they share the rest of their dream wedding day with all the people they love, as well. Once that excitement begins, they may not get another completely private time together. And they won't have to step out of their reception, missing the great songs they requested, to take photos.
Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.