A first look is lovely, but it isn't your only option either.

Planning a wedding that meshes your vision of your dream day with an event that's convenient for your guests can mean you may have to make some compromises—whether that amounts to trading food stations for a sit-down meal or booking an indoor venue in the summer so you can keep everyone comfortable in the air conditioning will depend on you and your guests. But there's one thing wedding planners and photographers agree that you absolutely should not compromise on, and that's getting away from your guests—yes, all of them!—for a few quiet minutes alone. "It is beneficial and a much needed moment for the couple to come together as a united front," says Gail Johnson of Gail Johnson Weddings. "The day goes by so fast that carving out time for each other is very important."

Whether before or after the ceremony, set aside 15 to 20 minutes to focus on each other and the commitment you're making and create a moment you two can treasure forever.

bride tapping groom on the shoulder for first look outside

Share a first look.

Getting together before the ceremony for a first look is one of the most popular ways for couples to spend a few minutes alone. During a traditional first look, the couple sees each other for the first time before the big walk down the aisle, which gives them a chance to chat and interact without dozens of guests around. "I prefer to set up a few minutes alone for the couple before the ceremony because it allows the couple to enjoy the rest of their day without interruption," says Johnson. "If the private moment is before the ceremony, we typically do the first look so the couple can see each other, embrace and shake off their wedding-day jitters. Definitely, the first look is my favorite private moment for my couples."

Exchange private vows.

If you're able to set aside a longer block of time on the morning of your wedding, follow the lead of couples who exchange their vows in private (either just before the ceremony, in their wedding outfits, or earlier in the day in more casual attire). "I have had a few couples exchange vows before the ceremony because some religions, such as Catholics, have strict guidelines and protocols," says Johnson. "This is typically done when couples want to read their own personal vows but they aren't allowed to do so during their formal ceremony." Bonus: You can select a favorite spot that would have been too small for your ceremony—under a flowering tree, at the edge of a dock, or on a quiet terrace—and make the most of your entire venue.

Travel together.

If your ceremony and reception are in two different locations, block off the travel time as an opportunity for the two of you to be alone. Send your bridal party in a separate limo or party bus, and ride together in a vintage car to your reception; take a private boat ride across the lake to your dinner and dancing spot; or walk a few blocks through the city alone. "That's a lovely way to do it," says New York-based photographer Charlotte Jenks Lewis. She's often worked with couples who worked a quick snack detour into their walk from one destination to another: One city-dwelling couple stopped for a slice of pizza; one bride grabbed an iced coffee on a hot day in Washington, D.C.; another pair of newlyweds went to a bar where they had a drink and "essentially blew off the whole cocktail hour," says Lewis. All of those moments resulted in unique and beloved photos—which is why Johnson always reminds couples to have their photographer along: "I am a firm believer that every moment should be documented," she says. "Once the wedding is over, all they have left is memories and those pictures."


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