What do you think about couples seeing each other and doing pictures before the ceremony?
First off, I'd like to say that there is no right decision. Everyone is different and I strongly believe that weddings should reflect the character and personality of the bride and groom, even down to how they lay out the day.
Believe me, I've heard both extreme sides of the argument. One one side, I've talked with people who believe it's bad luck, wedding blasphemy and that I'm crazy for even suggesting it. On the other side of the spectrum, I've talked with people who find it old-fashioned and want nothing to do with a tradition rooted in the days where marriages were arranged and virgins were sold to old men in exchange for cows. No joke, this is where the tradition came from. Not letting the groom see the bride until the ceremony was a tactic to keep him from deciding she wasn't worth the price he was paying and backing out. Obviously, I don't think that's why anyone is carrying on the tradition today.
I definitely respect the brides I meet who have envisioned that walk down the aisle to see their groom for the first time since they were a child. But, from my perspective, as a bride, as a photographer and as someone who's seen the in's and out's of hundreds of weddings, here are a few reasons to consider seeing each other before the ceremony.
1. You still get the aisle experience. Most bride's main concern is losing the wow factor of her groom seeing her for the first time as she walks down the aisle. But the magic of that moment isn't lost. You're about to get married. The moment is HUGE. You walk down single and walk back united with another person. Whether he's seen you in your dress or not has nothing do do with the magic of the moment. You can see it and feel it, the emotion is still there. At my own wedding, my husband still teared up when I walked down the aisle with my dad. Never mind that he and I had been joking around with friends 30 minutes prior.
2. Nerves. Most people I've talked to after their wedding say that they were so nervous and anxious until the moment they saw each other and the butterflies all went away, regardless of whether that moment was at the alter or a couple of hours before. You suddenly have your other half and you can begin processing the day with them. One time, while we were driving from the photo shoot to the ceremony with a couple, a groom (who will remain nameless) turned to his bride and with a relieved look on his face said, "I would have crapped my pants if I had to wait until the ceremony to see you!"
3. Enjoy the moment alone together. Think about it, if you see each other for the first time at the end of the aisle you can't talk or kiss, you can hardly touch and you'll have somewhere between 5 and 500 of your closest friends, family, co-workers and their random dates watching you. OR, you can set up a romantic moment that you can really enjoy. Laugh, hug, kiss, cry- you don't have to hold anything back because you don't have to worry about anyone watching. AND, the moment usually makes for sweet pictures.
4. Get to the party sooner. Seeing each other beforehand and getting pictures done means that once you're done with the ceremony, you're ready to head straight to the reception with nothing else to worry about except dancing with your friends. If you are doing pictures afterwards, you'll have a lot less time and all of your guests will be waiting.
5. Photos. If you list photos as one of the most important thing to you on your wedding day, I'd highly recommend shooting before the ceremony. It really expands your options for what you're able to do. You're able to schedule in extra time to drive to a great location, time to get a wider variety of shots and just have a more relaxed photo shoot.
6. Spend the day with each other. Really, when you think about it, a wedding reception is a big party that the bride and groom are hosting. Everyone wants to talk to them, congratulate them, dance with them, etc. Yes, you'll probably spend most of the reception side by side, but you'll be talking to everyone else. As we drove away from our reception, Jason and I realized we hadn't really gotten a chance to reallly talk to each other since before the ceremony!
7. Get away from the stress. The few hours before the wedding is when moms, florists, friends helping to set up, etc. begin stressing over little details and begin to come and ask the bride for answers and you hear questions like these: "Do you want the flowers here, or six inches to the left?" or "We can't find the cake! Oh wait... we found it." All things that can work themselves out and if you're not available because you're off taking pictures, you never have to know.