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8 First Look Alternatives (That Won't Ruin the Surprise)

These sweet ideas are perfect for the couple who's feeling traditional-ish.
bride and groom preceremony meeting
VALERIE DEMO PHOTOGRAPHY
maggie seaver the knot wedding planning expert
by Maggie Seaver
maggie seaver the knot wedding planning expert
Maggie Seaver
Wedding Planning Expert
  • Maggie Seaver is an Associate Digital Editor at RealSimple.com.
  • Maggie writes about life, career, health, and more.
  • Maggie was an editor at The Knot from 2015 to 2019.
Updated Aug 13, 2019

Looking for a happy medium between a traditional first look at the altar and a modern first look before the ceremony? We've got you. Anyone searching for a special way to share a private, emotional moment together before the ceremony (that doesn't involve seeing each other in full wedding attire quite yet) should check out our list of first look alternatives that are equally sweet, special and sentimental. Personalize to taste for a first something that feels exactly like "you."

1. First Touch or Hug

Many couples choose to do a first touch in lieu of a first look—it still feels intimate and personal without blowing the surprise. You can hold hands while standing back to back or on either side of a partition, or one (or both) of you can wear a blindfold. If you're feeling traditional and/or superstitious about the groom seeing the bride, the bride can come out and give the groom a hug while he keeps his eyes covered or his back turned. Trust us, the photos will be so sweet—and the actual moment will be even sweeter.

2. First Read

It's traditional for the couple to send each other love notes to read while they're getting ready or waiting for the ceremony to begin. Take this sentimental moment up a notch by reading your notes to each other aloud (or silently, but simultaneously) on either side of an open door or partition, or while standing back to back. This last option is a great way to combine a first look and a first touch. For anyone feeling shy about saying personalized vows in front of a crowd, this is the perfect opportunity to recite private vows prior to the ceremony.

3. First Gifts

If you like, exchange wedding day gifts to each other at the same time, separated or hidden from one another, but where you can still hear your happy reactions and your photographer can capture an epic photo of the moment.

4. First Song or Poem

Expressing your love through music or poetry is never a bad idea. Whether it's something you wrote or a piece that's special to both of you, sing, play or read your partner something they'll never forget. Just don't forget to have a few tissues at the ready.

5. First Prayer

Your religion should play as big of a role in your wedding day as you want it to, and this idea is a beautiful way to share a private moment of love, faith and gratitude before heading to the altar. Just like you might for a first touch or first read, hold hands and say a prayer together for a meaningful preceremony "first."

6. Wedding Party First Look

Your first look doesn't have to be with your partner. Stick to tradition and capture that quintessential "big reveal" moment by having your photographer snap your wedding party's reactions when you step out in full wedding attire. And don't forget to have them get you and your partner's reactions when you see each other at the ceremony (this is a huge benefit to hiring a team of two or more shooters who can photograph both of you at the same time).  

7. First Call

Okay, this might sound a little nuts, but just hear us out. Coordinating a first touch or first read might be tricky due to timing or venue logistics, but you can still steal a moment together—even if you aren't actually together. Call your partner to swap words of love, read your letters to each other and send an air kiss through the phone. If you have two photographers, now's the moment to utilize them to the fullest.

8. First Look, With a Twist

If you're not superstitious about seeing each other on your wedding day, here's a great first look alternative to consider. Do your first look sans veil or other accessories so you don't give away your whole look. Then put it on before your ceremony as a sweet surprise for your partner. We know one hilarious bride who showed up to her first look with her hair and makeup done, but wearing an oversized cat T-shirt and sweatpants. Her partner was completely surprised, and the moment encapsulated their relationship to a T.


On the fence about whether or not to do a first look? These pros and cons will help you decide.

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