Why you should consider doing a “Big Reveal” session and formals before the ceremony

The idea that it is bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony is based on a truly archaic tradition relating to arranged marriages.  In the early days of arranged marriages, the bride and groom often never saw each other at all before the wedding. Even when couples were acquainted before they married, it was still considered bad luck for the groom to glimpse the bride pre-ceremony, as she would not be pure and new.  This superstition often gives couples a great deal of grief, wondering at what point does it kick in.  Is it just “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride in all her finery before the ceremony, or is it bad luck just for him to even see her that day before the ceremony?

In the end, I think the superstitions are all a lot of hooey if you ask me.  What is not hooey though, that wonderful moment that the groom first lays eyes on his beautiful bride in her dress.  He can do that at the start of the ceremony as she walks down the aisle, or you can do a “big reveal” session.  This is sometimes referred to as the “first glance” or “first look” session.  We did this at my wedding, because of time constraints at the venue, and frankly I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  It was one of the most memorable times of the day.  On the day of your wedding you barely get any time alone with each other.  This is a time for you to take each other all in.  Talk about how you are feeling.  Get out the wedding jitters.  Embrace and enjoy!  When my husband and I look back on our wedding day, this was frankly our favorite part.  There are plenty of other benefits too! Your hair and makeup will be at its freshest at this point, and if your wedding is during the summer, you both won’t be too sweaty yet.  Make sure if you go outside for the big reveal you have either a sheet or white garbage bags (if it has been rainy) safety pinned to the underside of your dress so it doesn’t get dirty before the ceremony. Avoid having the big reveal on spots where if you are wearing heels you may sink in.  For big reveal’s in forests I have actually had my brides wear knee high boots so they can avoid getting ticks and other insect bites.  A huge benefit is that you can actually embrace each other upon seeing the other person.  Many a couple has not been able to wait until the officiant says, you may now kiss your bride, to kiss each other during the ceremony, much to the dismay of many of the guests.  I’ve heard grooms say after, oh now I can actually see your dress, before that during the ceremony I was just concentrating so hard, I could barely even see what you looked like.   Doing these shots in advance also allows you to enjoy your cocktail hour, which is really one of the best times to get to talk with your guests who have traveled near and far to see you.

Your photographer should be able to set up a situation in which the groom is ready and waiting for the bride.  He can either have his back to her as she walks up and then taps him on a shoulder, or she can descend a staircase as he looks up at her, or a curtain can be drawn with her standing behind it.  There are hundreds of scenarios that could be played out.  For each of these though, it should be a moment between only the bride and groom, and possibly the photographer (assuming the couple wants shots of this amazing moment).

Parents and bridal party members should not be looking on from the side.  It should be a moment just for the bride and groom.  After the bride and groom have taken each other all in, then a short photo shoot of the two of them can begin.  After that, the formal portraits can be done with the family members before the ceremony.  This way everyone still looks as fresh as can be.  Chairs should be available to elderly family members who will be asked to be in the formals.  If not everyone is available for formal portraits before the ceremony, some can be done right after, like with grandparents, etc.  But remember, the more shots you leave for after the ceremony, the less time you get to spend at your cocktail hour, and the more rushed the photos will be.  If you want all those dreamy, artistic shots, that made you fall in love with your photographer in the first place, be sure to allot enough time for your bridal portrait session either before your ceremony or after.  Last but not least, talk to your photographer about the time of day these shots are being taken.  Unless you have access to shade, or a nice cloudy day, taking shots outside between the hours of 10am-2pm should generally be avoided.  With the sun directly overhead, harsh shadows are cast giving the appearance of dark circles under the eyes and “Hitler” mustaches under the nose, as well as hot spots on your head.  What most couples don’t realize is, the light available for a shot is always far more important than the background.  Cloudy days are actually the best days to shoot on.

  •  If you found this post helpful email the link to your friends when they get engaged or if they are bridesmaids in a wedding.


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  • Wedding TipsAugust 16, 2010 - 1:55 am

    I happened to be looking all over the net for weeks trying to discover helpful suggestions that I can use to increase my knowledge. There is so much info on the internet that it gets incredibly exciting and I love every minute of it. Thankfully you will discover websites like yours that we have found recently which are already a superb assist and source of data and suggestions which I have employed for gaining knowledge on a lot of the ideas needed to enlighten myself. Thank you for the information, I definitely appreciate it.ReplyCancel

  • Sheri OberFebruary 13, 2013 - 6:15 am

    I agree with everything except not letting anyone see the reveal. My daughter and son-in-law wanted the photos taken prior to the wedding. We agreed to the compromise that we’d set up the reveal. My husband walked our daughter to the top of the steps. Our son-in-law was at the bottom of the steps. The family got to see his face when he saw his bride. We all cherish this memory. After all the work and expense of putting on the wedding, I think we earned the privilege of witnessing this special moment.ReplyCancel

  • Wesley Alan SmithJune 25, 2013 - 4:19 am

    THANK YOU! Living in a rural area, the “We don’t want to see each other before the wedding tradition runs deep and nobody knows why, other than mom and grandma insist its bad luck. I am going to post a link to this on my wedding page as recommended reading for any bride to be that books with me – very well done!ReplyCancel

  • Erica SnareMay 29, 2015 - 10:05 pm

    with our venue being outdoors and so wide open I was trying to figure out how to do a “groom sees bride” moment without ruining what could be a special moment. Thank you for posting the ideas and thoughts on this… so helpful!ReplyCancel