Weddings celebrate rich, time-honored tradition. Regardless of which culture, religious affiliation or country of origin the couple represents, traditional elements make their way into the wedding to one degree or another. With so many personal decisions involved in wedding planning, the results are never run of the mill, but oftentimes they’re idiosyncratic, intimate and, hopefully, incomparable.
One such decision that you may agonize over is whether to see your partner before the ceremony, or to wait for your eyes to meet on the aisle. It can put you in a conundrum.
Many consider the superstitious take on the matter—that seeing one another before the wedding bodes poorly for the marriage, and (depending on how superstitious you are) can even ruin it! No one wants that.
So, where does the photographer stand on the topic? How do the pictures vary in either scenario? Are brides and grooms moving away from the more traditional custom of waiting until the ceremony to see one another? To find out the answers to these and other questions, we talked to three award-winning WPJA members.
There’s no wrong scenario here. And the photographers all agree that there are pros and cons to either waiting until the walk down the aisle or to seeing one another beforehand. Like everything involving your wedding, this is a very personal decision, which means it weighs entirely on your individual preferences. Carefully considering each option is the best way to make the right decision.
There is that one moment when the bride and groom see one other, and then it is over. Will it take place in the same setting as you say your vows? Whether in a place of worship, underneath a setting sunset or against the rising tide, when you wait until the walk down the aisle to see one another, that special setting can add meaning and atmosphere to the moment.
Garrett Nudd, a wedding photographer from Florida, USA, says that the clear benefit to waiting until the ceremony is “the bride invests a lot of time and money in her wedding dress. It’s so important. It symbolizes a woman’s style and sophistication on the most important day of her life. That’s powerful when he sees her for the first time.”
Others find that no matter where they are when they see one another, it is a wonderfully romantic moment. And for some, it’s important that they’re alone when that moment comes. They may find that the eyes of all their guests make the event less intimate and therefore not as romantic. Nudd says that when he photographs the bride and groom before the wedding, “they have a more private moment than if they were to see one another for the first time during the ceremony. It also gives them a longer time to be with one another.”
Having this time to be together can help diminish the stresses of the day. The couple can focus on what’s really important, as opposed to the many details that must fall into place. As a result, they’re love for one another takes center stage. And this can happen no matter what the setting. This definitely comes across in the photographs.
Photographing the moment can entail very different approaches. For example, when Nudd is photographing the couple seeing one another before the wedding, he says that he stands back from them and using a long lens, capturing them interacting. That gives them more time to simply be with one another before the action of the wedding and reception kick into gear, and allows for more varied photographs.
Oftentimes, when the couple sees one another on the aisle for the first time, the photographer is working doubly as fast to capture the bride and the groom reacting to the moment. Many wedding photojournalists handle that challenge by working with a second shooter. With one person kneeling in the front row of the guests and the other situated behind the bride in the back of the room, they are able to capture images that simultaneously show both partners, adding a valuable dimension to the coverage of the ceremony.
Wedding photographer Bianca Palmer, based in North Carolina, USA, knows from experience that some couples are able to have it both ways, allowing for photographs of them together before their wedding, without them actually seeing each other. How is this accomplished? On more than one occasion she has observed, and captured, couples talking to one another on either side of an open door, but out of one another’s range of sight. She says, “Sometimes they hold hands and exchange cards and gifts.” Wonderful, unexpected things can happen as the camera captures the couple interacting, albeit not face-to-face.
Palmer’s award-winning photograph of one of the groomsmen sneaking a peek at an astonished bride shows what can happen when things go slightly array. She explains that she had just finished photographing the bride and groom at the door when the groom’s brother swung it open. Upon seeing the picture, the bride confessed she could not muster that same expression if she tried.
For couples who would like their photographs before the ceremony but want the aura and mystique of the wedding setting, they can combine the two. Palmer has photographed a bride and groom who met with loved ones at the actual site of the ceremony prior to the wedding. In that instance, only close family members sat in the pews while the couple stood in the aisle. Palmer recounts that it was a very intimate and special experience for the couple, as well as for their loved ones looking on.
Nudd’s award winning photograph shows a bride and her bridesmaids standing on a bench, taking a pre-ceremony “sneak peak” out of the window at the guests entering the building, while the bride’s father looks on from behind. The image perfectly captures the feeling of the “bride in hiding” that often fills those excited moments prior to appearing in all her glory for that dramatic walk down the aisle.
It’s unlikely that anyone has ever made seeing their fiancé before the wedding grounds for divorce. There are no rules governing when you see you first see your partner, except perhaps one: Whichever route you take, make sure it is determined solely by your vision of your wedding, and nobody else’s.
Logistical considerations, such as scheduling photographs, should never be determined by the photographer for the sake of convenience. Some may suggest to you that you should meet before the ceremony “while the makeup is still fresh” in order to get good pictures. Meeting for that reason alone would be a mistake. Be true to your heart, since you will be able to depend on your wedding photojournalist getting memorable shots no matter when you see each other.
As Nudd says, “It’s a special moment no matter how you do it.”
— by Lauren Ragland for the Wedding Photojournalist Association