The Reveal Moment… to have or not to have.

I’ve heard it many times before…. “WHAT?!  You’re going to see each other before the wedding?!  You’re going to put a curse on your marriage!”  Well actually, the reason behind the custom of not seeing each other before the ceremony on your wedding has less to do with superstitions and more to do with the realities of arranged marriages.  The reason a groom is not to see his bride before the wedding…. is to make sure he doesn’t run away.  Seriously.  Many of the traditions we have in fact, are there for the sole purpose of keeping a groom planted in place just long enough to get a firm commitment out of him to a girl he’s never met before.  Flowers… they hide bad smelling brides very well.  The veil… he doesn’t lift it until he’s promised his life away, remember?  And of course the whole “not seeing each other before hand thing”.  Keep your flowers and your veil traditions, I’m fine with those and they both add a little something to the wedding.  The hiding away from one another however, is a tradition I’d be happy to see go.

In case you’re thinking I’m just being a selfish photographer who wants more time with our clients, that is not at all the case.  I have thought long and hard about this and have experienced many weddings on both sides of the scenario.  And the final verdict from my voice of experience?  The reveal moment wins hands down.

Benefit of the reveal moment

So what are the big arguments for not seeing each other before hand?  Well there’s the whole keeping with tradition thing, which I think we’ve already decided is a bogus tradition that doesn’t really deserve our respect (unless you really are afraid that your groom will run away when he sees your face… then maybe you want to keep this tradition).  The other excuse of course is that you want to experience the moment of seeing each other for the first time during the ceremony.  I totally agree with this line of thinking… it is an amazing moment.  Which is exactly why I think it deserves to be given the thought, time, and attention that the reveal moment gives it.

wedding first look

The reveal moment (or what some call a “First Look”), really is a an actual moment… we make it a big deal!  It’s not like you’re just walking around on your wedding day high fiving one another casually in passing while only half your hair’s done.  It’s basically set up to be the ultimate “seeing each other for the first time experience”.  You can see in the pictures below what the set up looks like. The sneaking up of the bride…

…tapping on the shoulder (with a slight pause to torture the groom as he waits impatiently)…

…and then… tada! 


The first lookReveal moment

But not just a quick moment, a moment that keeps on giving and giving.

Why a first look wedding

The reveal moment takes those few blurry seconds of haziness that you would experience during a ceremony first look (when your brain is flopping back and forth from “don’t trip”, to “don’t cry”, to “oh my gosh I have a wedgie”) and turns it into a time that has your true 100% focus when you are allowed to do whatever you feel like to express your true emotions…. cry…

…kiss, make out sick, pray (like the couple below is did)…

…or even just sit and hold each other.

You don’t get to do that at the ceremony.  In fact, you are spending so much energy trying NOT to cry in front of everyone that you could almost miss the moment entirely.

benefit of the reveal moment

Of course as you are expressing all the emotion you’d only wish you could express if this first look had happened at the alter, we are getting much better pictures than we would of that quick glance at the beginning of the ceremony.  Which brings me to the next reason why people are against reveal moments… they often want a picture of that happening during the ceremony.

Hawaii wedding

Well consider for a moment the fact that all your guests are standing up during this point in time (not all of us are giants like Scottie who can take pictures over everyone’s heads)… and that there really are only so many angles we can get the right shot from and lighting, ceremony set up, etc. affects that…. and remember that this moment only goes on for a few seconds.  Well, we will do our best, but you really can’t blame us if we miss it.  For the reveal moment, we pick the place (a private one with beautiful lighting where we have the freedom to move and shoot from wherever we want with nothing in our way), we also have as long as we need to catch what’s happening, and we have that one quick second of the initial look that turns into 15 minutes of adoring looks that only grow in emotion from that first second on.

the first look wedding

(All 4 of these pictures above and below are taken right at their ceremony alter… it just happened to be before the wedding started so we could actually stand wherever we wanted and light it however we wanted.  There’s no way we could’ve got a perfect kiss shot that close up during their ceremony because of the chair set up… but this was their first kiss on their wedding day and because of the reveal moment, they now have a better photo of it than if it had been during the ceremony!  Don’t worry, the actual wedding kiss is still a HUGE deal and we got photos of that one as well!).

Better pictures from that same moment at the ceremony?  Highly unlikely.

Seeing each other before ceremony(This is still one of my favorite pictures we’ve ever taken… and it happened at a reveal.  This shot wouldn’t exist had they not decided to do a reveal moment, because there’s no way we would have been able to get one this perfect during their ceremony… at least not without standing right in front of their parents throughout the entire thing!).

first look benefit

By the way, many of our couples who do the reveal, also have an amazing moment when they see each other at the ceremony for the first time… it’s a different kind of moment, because it’s more of a “we have a shared secret and I feel so close to you right now, kind of look”. This look is just as good as the first moment look, it’s special in it’s own way. The two pictures below were taken between their reveal moments and the ceremony.  This is the “shared secret” look I’m talking about…

Wedding emotion

Why do they have a secret between them at the ceremony?  Because they had time to bond together before heading into it.  They are walking in front of everyone they know, full of nerves, fears, worries, etc…. and they are the only two people there at that moment that are sharing those exact same feelings to that degree… and they have already laughed and cried about it together… now they get to just live it side by side.

There really is something to say for the magic that happens between a couple during the reveal moment.  Every single time we’ve had it, at least one of the two people involved, whether it’s the bride or the groom, goes through a transition that takes them from ” stressed out maniac” to “chill, in love, happiest person in the world” as soon as they see their love.  It is amazing, it’s almost like you can see the ton of bricks slide off their shoulders all at once into a heap at their feet.

Their entire countenance changes as they stop thinking about the hundreds of eyes on them, the missing bouquets, or the angry family members because all they can think about is that they are here to marry this amazing person in front of them.  All of a sudden, they are enjoying their day and they remember the importance of what it’s all about.  This same thing often happens with the ceremony first look, but it’s sad to me that they wasted so much of their wedding day NOT feeling like that when they didn’t have to.

As you can see, my advice to choose a reveal moment for your wedding day has to do with far more than just pictures.  It has made so many of our clients so very happy… so much so that as they are getting ready to walk down the aisle, they are going on and on to me about how glad they are that they did a reveal moment.  I’m not talking about just one of our clients raving about it on their very wedding day… I’m talking about most of our clients.  I also have had brides turn to me during a particular nerve wracking moment on a very stressful wedding day and say “I really wish we had done the reveal moment thing, I think I would feel so much better right now if I had!”.

The proof is in the pudding people.

You do have every right to disagree with me….and I am fine with that.  In fact, some of our clients do disagree with me and choose not to do reveal moments and I totally respect their choice and give them that right.  I just consider it my duty as their photographer to inform them of the options and to educate them on things I’ve learned in my experiences.  And just so you know, Scottie and I did NOT have a reveal moment at our own wedding, we did things in what we call “The Old School” way and I was fine with it.

BUT, had I seen the things I’ve now seen and known the stuff I now know, I would’ve done the reveal moment in a heartbeat because I know that even though my wedding day was totally fine the way it was and I don’t have any complaints, there is a pretty good chance that it could’ve been even better had I been more open minded about this particular tradition.  I’m not sad about it and my point is not to make anyone else sad about it.  My point is to fully educate those who still have this decision to make one day.

I know, I know, after hearing all this, many of you are still saying, “but it’s just not what I imagined!!”.  I know that is a big deal when you’re planning a wedding, especially if you’ve been planning it since you were like 5!  That is pretty much the one argument I can’t stand up against, because I know, it’s not what you imagined.  But I still implore you to make that one sacrifice for the greater good.  Those few seconds of the first look during the ceremony… the ones that might not even go the way you dreamed, that you are willing to plan your entire day around… are they worth losing out on all the other benefits for?  If so, then you have made your decision and more power to you, follow those childhood wedding dreams!

Despite the fact that I currently have a blog post here that is much longer than I planned on, I still have not even told you half the reasons I think a reveal moment is a good idea.  So here’s my short little summary of my points about this…

The Lesser Known Benefits of the Reveal Moment:

  1. The first time you see each other in a ceremony happens in the blur of a few seconds. The reveal takes that amazing moment and turns it into it’s own event which makes it more memorable and significant.
  2. You feel more like partners going into this together rather than alone… it is an amazing bonding experience to anticipate the moment together.
  3. Your emotions are more genuine when expressed in private, which is one of the many things about a reveal moment that will make the photos of the first time you see one another turn out better
  4. Your nerves calm down significantly when you see one another, allowing you to enjoy the first half of your wedding day more.
  5. Your schedule is more relaxed which will make your entire wedding day feel more relaxed.
  6. It feels more natural to do family photos before the ceremony because afterwards all you want to do is be together for a few minutes and then go join your party.
  7. You have more time for photos of the two of you alone and with the people you care about (30 min to 1 hr more!).
  8. Cocktail hour is shorter and your guests are happier!
  9. The reveal moment is all about relaxing everyone and making the day more enjoyable.  Every person involved in the wedding will be more chill and have more fun when the reveal moment schedule is used.
  10. Part of the reason our clients hire us is because they trust our experience and you believe we have their best interests at heart… and we fully believe they will be happiest experiencing the benefits of the Reveal Moment Schedule.

The final point of all time for why you should opt for a reveal moment on your wedding day?  Just look at all these pictures.  They are some of the most emotional moments we’ve ever captured… and they are moments that never would have happened if the couple hadn’t made the decision to include this time in their wedding day.

(to hear more about our wedding experiences or to see many more beautiful wedding moments, stay connected with us by liking Radiant Photography on Facebook!)

first look

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • Brenda MoodyMarch 23, 2011 - 9:30 am

    Oh how this makes me wish that I had a reveal moment before my ceremony!! I wish I had known about the reasons behind the tradition of not seeing each other.
    It would have made such a huge difference in my wedding (which was 19 years ago, by the way).
    We were married at a bed and breakfast and our photographer took so much time after the ceremony that the owner/coordinator actually had the reception without us!! Yep, we actually missed our own reception….by the time we got inside, all of the food was gone, as well as most of the guests, the champagne fountain was dry and the owner/coordinator was out in the back yard at the gazebo having a drink with the bartender!!
    Anyway…thanks for the awesome article and my advice to all new brides would be…please, please allow yourselves the luxury of having that reveal moment with your photographer!! Seriously!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Inez MorenoMarch 23, 2011 - 1:08 pm

    If I had one wish, it would be to go back in time and have you two take our wedding pictures. I am seriously going to talk my husband into buying me a new dress (my orig dress is super duper dirty on the bottom) so that you can take our wedding pictures. You guys are amazing! Your pictures litteraly take my breathe away.ReplyCancel

  • diana elizabethMarch 24, 2011 - 1:12 pm

    YES!! I try so hard to convince my couples to do it and you did a great job selling it! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kelly CMarch 24, 2011 - 1:18 pm

    100 times over, if I could do it again, I’d do the reveal. I, however, did not. I see the preciousness in both events now. And I know it would have calmed the nerves of my sweet hubby! lol It also helps you be all about your whole ceremony. To take a look around and take in everything that is happening.ReplyCancel

  • Raquel SergioMarch 24, 2011 - 6:37 pm

    My husband and I chose to do the real look… It was the best decision I ever made as a bride! we hugged, kissed, almost cried as we held each other and then we relaxed we held hands and danced…. I loved it I will never forget walking into the empty ballroom where daniel was playing the piano… till this day I say it was the best choice!

    I love how this article expressed everything that I felt and showed the world the reason why traditions move on and so should we 🙂

    great job 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sara BlissMarch 25, 2011 - 4:38 am

    Love, love, love how you put this! I love doing it with my couples and wish that I had done it at mine. Like you I’m not sad, I just didn’t know it was an option at that point and I would change it if I were doing it again. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful, amazing moments!ReplyCancel

  • […] Photography recently wrote an excellent article on what a first look (or reveal moment) is all about.  I highly suggest reading […] ReplyCancel

  • Nicholas LeongMarch 31, 2011 - 1:23 am

    Awesome reveal moments! And yes, every couple should have them! I saw my bride a few thousand times before the wedding ceremony, and I still loved it when I saw her walked down the aisle.

    And I didn’t run away, so there you go. 😛ReplyCancel

  • Katie DeYoungMarch 31, 2011 - 9:45 pm

    I’ve always pictured doing the reveal at the ceremony and the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of doing it before. I’m getting married in 2 months and its been set in stone that the reveal will be before and this article just sold the idea to me. I am actually VERY excited about it now! Thank You for sharing a photographers insight 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Chantal Brown PhotographyApril 8, 2011 - 4:57 pm

    This article is perfect! Thanks so much for sharing with all of us!ReplyCancel

  • Texasfrog PhotographyApril 16, 2011 - 6:39 am

    I think this is an amazing way to capture the moment of seeing each other for the first time. I will be offer this to my wedding clients from now on.ReplyCancel

  • Brad GittingsApril 16, 2011 - 9:33 am

    What great ideas. I love the natural expressions and poses (or lack of which makes the pics even more natural).

    I’ve got a wedding coming up soon I’ll be photographing and am looking for some fresh ideas and takes to spice up the photo shoot. First one with the new camera as well (Canon EOS-7D).

    Lets keep in touch. You have my email and my (or our, my wife’s as well) FB page is at:

  • KadeeJuly 15, 2011 - 9:34 am

    I am in love with this idea. I was on the fence about it, and I know my fiancee is too. But after reading this article and seeing your beatiful photos (they induced happy tears in me while sitting in my office at work!) I am SOLD. We’re doing this.

    Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • […] was so glad they chose to do a reveal moment and see one another before the ceremony because as soon as they were together, the stresses of the […] ReplyCancel

  • […] The Reveal Moment […] ReplyCancel

  • […] a great blog post about the Reveal by US photographers, The Chansons, here if you want to read more about the […]ReplyCancel

  • Danielle SlaterAugust 16, 2013 - 6:25 pm

    I have to say that after reading your blog, I definitely do see the magic and beauty in having a “first look”, but I would still, to this day, never, ever change NOT having a “first look” with my husband before the ceremony.

    The anticipation and excitement of building up to that moment when we locked eyes as my Dad escorted me down the aisle is forever etched in my mind. The feelings that I could feel, that he could feel, and we were feeling together is irreplaceable. The magic was unbelievable and everyone got to witness it. If we wanted to keep that moment private, we would have eloped. But we wanted to share with our family and friends that special moment, because even though it was public, he and I were still feeling very private, intimate feelings that no one could ever possibly understand or get. He recalls with great fondness, still, how much he loved waiting for me, watching me come towards him, and listening to the song I walked down to.

    When my husband and I are in the grocery store and the song I walked down the aisle to comes on over the radio and he gets instant tears in his eyes and looks at me with that love sick look, I know keeping our first look at our ceremony was the best choice for us.ReplyCancel

  • soniaDecember 11, 2013 - 9:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you made me change my mind…
    it will be my second wedding, and I want it to be very different from the first one
    this will seize that very special moment to remember and cherish forever :))ReplyCancel

  • MeaghenMarch 2, 2014 - 12:58 am

    I was dead set on waiting for the ceremony…But I’ve been converted :D…Now I just need a groom…hmmmReplyCancel

  • […] Another photographer made the argument that the first look during the ceremony goes by very quickly and you may not get the best shots. Plus, a first look is more intimate and allows the couple to share a special moment together before the hustle and bustle of the wedding, which goes by fast enough as it is. […]ReplyCancel

  • laura SawyerJuly 28, 2014 - 2:43 pm

    I think this is a really personal decision. I read and appreciate your comments, but my husband and I stuck with tradition, and did not do the first look, even though I was pretty sure he didn’t plan to run. I don’t care for First Look pictures, or a big production of a “moment.” I really dislike the contrived, groom is covering his eyes, while the bride stands behind him pictures. Everyone has a different take on this, though. My photographer got great pictures of his face as I came down the aisle. I am really, really glad I didn’t do the first look. When people post wedding pictures, they are always among my least facorite, and I didn’t miss it at all.ReplyCancel

  • Raquel PinsonOctober 31, 2014 - 8:54 am

    Thank you for sharing this! You have changed my outlook on this and my mind. We are going to have a reveal moment before the ceremony. I am ecstatic I stabled across your blog.ReplyCancel

Serving California, Arizona & Beyond