Here's how to preserve the element of surprise.

By Helen Sondag
November 07, 2019

The groom's not the only one who gets a first look at the bride on the big day. The moment guests lay eyes on the bride is arguably one of the most exciting part of the whole wedding day. And while it may not be bad luck for friends and family to see the lady of the hour early, it's certainly less than ideal. We tapped wedding planners for their top tips on keeping the bride concealed before the big reveal.


As with anything, it starts with an open, honest conversation about expectations. "Work in advance with your wedding planner and photographer and talk through the plan of your wedding day to ensure you are not being seen by guests," says Megan Grose, founder of Brindle + Oak. "By expressing this as a top value to you—as it should be—your key vendors will ensure a smooth timeline that gives you a break before the ceremony to be in hiding."

Time it out right.

Which brings us to our next point: Timing is everything when it comes to weddings. "The key to not being seen by guests prior to arrival must be facilitated by a well-designed timeline," explains Lorrie Betsill Nielson, founder and creative director of Unveiled Hawaii. "A production schedule, which your planner will organize, alongside proper onsite support, guarantees everyone will be where they're supposed to be. This will give you the necessary time and opportunity to arrive incognito, or remain behind closed doors until it is time for the procession."

Choose the bridal suite location wisely.

Brides have to get ready somewhere—just make sure that somewhere is somewhat strategic. "Bridal suites should be spacious and well-lit, with a lot of natural light in order to be a good space for the bride and her bridesmaids to get ready," Jaclyn Watson, principal planner and owner of Jaclyn Watson Events, tells us. "However, if the suite faces the same direction as a main entrance or space guests will pass through, closed curtains and off-limits balconies may need to be implemented to keep the bride hidden." If possible, select a spot that's separate from the ceremony space but still nearby—perhaps on the opposite side or on another level. "Being close to the site and with her ladies helps to ease the stress of pre-ceremony travel," Watson continues. As does a bit of bubbly!

Ride in style.

Of course, if the bride does need to travel to the venue, her transportation can also double as cover. Take an alternate route, rent a vehicle with tinted windows, or simply wait until all guests are seated before pulling up, Watson suggests. "We have used large shuttles instead of limos to keep the bride in air conditioning," says Alex Quintana, owner and creative director of Quintana Events. "It also allows enough space to stand up, so she's not sitting uncomfortably in her dress."

Dress for the occasion.

The wedding dress is one of the most anticipated details, so keeping it under wraps (literally) can help preserve some surprise. "Adding elements like a cape or warm winter cloak can help to disguise the bride's attire," Watson says.

Choose décor that does more.

Your decorations (think curtains, ribbons, and flowers) can provide protection from prying eyes and craning necks until you're ready for the grand reveal. "Whether it is as simple as utilizing the grand doors of a church or an over-the-top floral wall at the base of an aisle, it creates a gorgeous backdrop to your big walk and makes for killer photos," Grose explains.

Have an off-site first look.

A first look is meant to be an intimate moment shared between the bride and groom. But if it takes place on-site, there's always potential for early-arriving guests or bridal party members to sneak a peek. "In order to keep the couple hidden from guests prior to the ceremony, it is important to chat with the photographer about strategic timing or locations," Watson says. "If there is a space near the ceremony location where a couple wants to be photographed, taking care of those photos first and then moving farther away and out of sight from where guests will collect is important." Photographers may even consider moving the couple to another location. "Either between where the couple is getting ready and the ceremony location or somewhere that is a quick walk or drive away and easy to maneuver is an even safer way to enjoy taking photos and not worry about early guests beginning to arrive before photos are completed," Watson adds.

Keep the photo sessions short.

"We recommend not spending too much time taking photos prior to guest arrival," Nielson explains. "For best timing, we suggest planning your first look and pre-wedding photos at least one hour before guests are scheduled to be onsite." "We also recommend providing a minute-by-minute schedule of bridal party groupings so that the photographer can stay on track," she continues. "This allows ample time for hair and makeup touch-ups, and most of all, gives you a moment to catch your breath out of guest view before the ceremony procession begins."

Arrive early.

Forget fashionably late. "We recommend arriving to your ceremony venue an hour prior to the start time," Grose says. "This allows you to have plenty of time to get to the venue, relax, grab last-minute photos, and be in hiding long before your early bird guests arrive for your nuptials."


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