Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wedding Crap: The First Look

(See introduction and disclaimer to this series here, and other posts in the series here.)

What is the tradition? 

After getting ready separately, the bride and groom arrange for a photographed "first look" to see each other for the first time in their wedding finery. It's often set up so that the groom is waiting somewhere, with his back turned, and the bride approaches; it's the look on the groom's face when he sees her that is intended to be a particularly special moment and one that's desired to be captured in pictures.

What is the origin of the tradition?

When marriages were arranged by parents and essentially business transactions, the parents desired to keep the bride and groom apart until the ceremony so they didn't have a chance to decide they didn't like their chosen spouse and back out. Eventually this morphed into it being "bad luck" for the groom to see the bride before the ceremony.

Why do people still follow it?

Having a first look - either a pre-ceremony "first look" or having the moment as the bride enters the ceremony - seems to be viewed as a special, emotional moment. The bride is, obviously, all gussied up and looks not just like the woman the groom loves, but she looks like a bride! He's supposed to be overwhelmed with emotion at how absolutely beautiful she looks.

Having a separate first look before the ceremony is typically justified with one of two reasons: (1) to be able to take group photos including both the bride and groom beforehand, rather than taking up time in between the ceremony and reception to do so (cause, otherwise it wouldn't be allowed to take those groups photos cause the groom would see the bride!), or (2) because it's seen as an intimate moment between bride and groom, and this allows them to express emotions in privacy rather than in front of all the guests in the ceremony.

Why is that crap? 

Um, is the marriage predicated on the bride's good looks? I certainly hope not! While it's certainly not unreasonable to be gussied up for the occasion, for the bride to be so extravagantly beautiful for the sake of the wedding that the groom - who presumably has known her for quite some time, since it's not an arranged marriage - tears up in joy at the sight - that just screams icky, gross, superficial, obsession with appearance and virginity and ugh. Or it's a beautiful sight because she looks like a bride, rather than the actual human being that she is, also brings up thoughts of patriarchy and ownership and gender roles and other such disgusting things. Edited to add: after publishing, my mind was finally able to split out the words that had been on the tip of my tongue: Placing such an emotional value on this moment of appearances, not only objectives the bride, but almost fetishes her.

If you desire to spend some quiet time with your spouse-to-be in the midst of what is otherwise an often hectic day, and reflect on the importance of solemnity of the occasion, sure. But why bring this superficial obsession with looks and fanciness into such an intimate moment? Why put it into terms of the roles of "Bride" and "Groom", rather than the person you got to know over the course of your relationship, with whom you've chosen to spend the rest of your life?

What am I doing with this tradition?

Nothing! We both got ready at home, so saw each other in all stages of readiness for the day (pretty sure he saw me in curlers, gasp!). While I thought he looked handsome, and I'm sure (hopefully) he thought I looked beautiful, we also both looked like ourselves, so there was no stunning moment of a reveal.

How did/will you handle this tradition?

I would love to have a lively debate and conversation in the comments! Please join in!

Dissenting opinions (from the post itself or other commenters) are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments that personally attack me or any other commenter.


  1. Yep yep yep. 100% with all of this. But then I have to roll my eyes at most wedding traditions, particularly ones like this which are grounded in patriarchy, sexism, & women as property. This is also probably a big part of why my bf have been together for 7 years, cohabitated for 5, just bought a house together, & when people are all like, "OMG BUT WHEN ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?!?!?!" we just kind of shrug & are like, "Whenever there's nothing better to spend our money on, I guess....?"

    1. If my parents weren't religious and adamantly opposed to "living in sin", I definitely would have been less likely to get married. Although I do like some of the legal protections (and since he's a student right now so basically only my income is taxable but at twice the brackets now, we should have some awesome tax savings this year), so I guess I likely would have gotten married anyway, but I totally would have gone the courthouse elopement route (doesn't taken away some inherent issues with the institution of marriage, but at least negates most of the patriachal Wedding stuff), had that not been disappointing to too many people in our lives.


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