The idea that it is bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony is based on a truly archaic tradition relating to arranged marriages. In the early days of arranged marriages, the bride and groom often never saw each other at all before the wedding. Even when couples were acquainted before they married, it was still considered bad luck for the groom to glimpse the bride pre-ceremony, as she would not be pure and new. This superstition often gives couples a great deal of grief, wondering at what point does it kick in. Is it just “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride in all her finery before the ceremony, or is it bad luck just for him to even see her that day before the ceremony?
In the end, I think the superstitions are all a lot of hooey if you ask me. What is not hooey though is that wonderful moment that the groom first lays eyes on his beautiful bride in her dress. He can do that at the start of the ceremony as she walks down the aisle, or you can do a “big reveal” session. This is sometimes referred to as the “first glance” or “first look” session. We did this at my wedding, and frankly I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was one of the most memorable times of the day.
Your photographer should be able to set up a situation in which the groom is ready and waiting for the bride. He can either have his back to her as she walks up and then taps him on a shoulder, or she can descend a staircase as he looks up at her, or a curtain can be drawn with her standing behind it. There are hundreds of scenarios that could be played out. For each of these though, it should be a moment between only the bride and groom, and possibly the photographer (assuming the couple wants shots of this amazing moment).
Parents and bridal party members should not be looking on from the side. It should be a moment just for the bride and groom. After the bride and groom have taken each other all in, then a short photo shoot of the two of them can begin. After that, the formal portraits can be done with the family members before the ceremony. This way everyone still looks as fresh as can be. Chairs should be available to elderly family members who will be asked to be in the formals.
Then, you can actually enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests instead of trying to pack in as many family photos as possible, leaving you to have very little time to get those beautiful shots of just you two alone, which are really the shots you are going to want to have up on your wall for the rest of your life. Ask yourself, do you really want to leave only 5 hurried minutes for that?