**Disclaimer: I do feel the need for a disclaimer before I dive into this long post. While I do have strong opinions about a First Look, I completely understand that it is not for every couple. People have varying thoughts, ideas and traditions about what a wedding day should look like. And though I’ll say it again later in the post I’m going to say it here before we begin: I would NEVER force a couple to have a First Look. While I do have specific opinions about the First Look, at the end of the day YOU have a specific vision for your wedding day, a vision that is IMPORTANT to protect. As a Bride turned photographer my hope is only to educate you on the First Look to help you make a decision that is right for you.**
With that out of the way, let’s begin! Here’s a candid First Look from this Liz and Pat’s wedding this past weekend. The Groom could not have been any more adorable than when he saw his Bride!
I want to tell you a story. A story about my wedding experience.
Dave and I were married in 2006. I was 22 and he was 25. I was fresh out of college (by a few months) and he had just finished his first year at GE. We were EAGER to get married. We planned our wedding on a budget and did the best we could. We were some of the first of our friends to tie the knot and I remember thinking that I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to be married.
When it came to planning out the timeline of our day, I didn’t even give it a thought. I knew when the ceremony would start and stop and when the cocktail hour would begin. My poor photographer as I think back on it now! He did the best he could with what little we (and the thunder-storming weather) gave him. We did everything in a traditional manner from our attire to our vows to not seeing each other before the ceremony.
Because THAT’S just what you did. There was no such thing as First Look (back in the days of 2006). We didn’t even know that was an option.
This is how our “First Look” unfolded. I was a ball of nerves before the ceremony. I was a WRECK. And all that was getting me through was knowing that I would see Dave at the end of that aisle. That we would have “THAT MOMENT”. Ya know some how time would magically stop, all Zach Morris style, and we would speak to each other the things that we were feeling. Well guess what, that didn’t happen. Because do things ever go exactly the way you imagine them? Things like, my dress getting stuck in the doorway, my dad and I barely fitting down the aisle, the snot pouring from my nose, the makeup running down my face. As I brought my eyes to Dave to have our MOMENT, there was the look I’ll never forget. HE WAS FROWNING. Dave was SO nervous that he forgot to smile. His best man had to lean over and nudge him, “Don’t forget to smile!” Before I knew it I was at the end of the aisle and the ceremony began. No words were spoken to each other except for a whispered “You are beautiful” and we were off. That magical moment, yea that didn’t exactly happen.
What did happen though was my Father walking me down the aisle telling me “Let’s do this!” What happened was a beautiful moment as my Father gave me away. What happened was Dave came and replaced my Father’s arm with his and walked me to the alter. Those moments were beautiful and memorable and ones I’ll never forget. But believe you me there was no magical Zach Morris style moment for Dave and I.
If I could go back in time to the 22 year old bride getting married, I would have begged her to consider having a First Look. I would have told her about how it would save her timeline. I would tell her how seeing her groom BEFORE the ceremony would calm her nerves and give her a confidence of “Let’s do this!” I would tell her how she would have amazing pictures in her album of her and husband, embracing one another instead of just the afforded “posed” shots. I would tell her just how special being able to speak to each other the things your heart is feeling really is. In short I would tell her “Have a First Look.”
Now, a lot of people will say that having a First Look takes away from that first time moment when you see each other as you walk down the aisle. And I have to be blunt. I disagree. Because that moment as you walk down the aisle, nothing can compare to that. That moment when your Dad gives you away to your husband is a special moment in of itself and a First Look is not meant to replace that. A First Look is not meant to replace that moment when your Groom watches his Bride make her way towards him. A First Look is only meant to compliment those moments. And while I know that it’s hard to understand that NOW, trust me. Whether you see each other before the ceremony or as you are walking down the aisle, those moments are both equally special and beautiful and moments you will never forget.
Still with me?:) Let’s fast forward from 2006 to 2011. Because Dave and I had a RAINY wedding day, because our timeline didn’t afford many pictures, because we didn’t have a First Look, our wedding day images are not truly indicative of us. We were always longing for images that truly represented who we are as couple. So as an anniversary present Dave arranged for one of my favorite photographers Katelyn to come to New England and “retake” our bridal portraits. And guess what we decided to do: Have a First Look.
You may ask WHY we decided to have a First Look. Dave and I had been married for five years at this point. He’d seen me at my best and he’d seen me at my worst. My friends, the mystery was LONG gone. Besides it’s not like he hadn’t seen me in my wedding dress before! Why would we have a First Look??
Because a First Look is NOT about when you see each other or how many pictures you can take before the Ceremony. It’s about HOW you feel as your Groom watches you come around the corner. It’s about the butterflies dancing in your stomach as you watch the smile on his face. It’s about falling into his arms as you share in a moment you’ll never for get. It’s about having the TIME to speak to another what’s on your heart. It’s about creating the space and the time to express to one another how you truly feel. That is what a First Look is meant to do. And it’s just as special on your wedding day as it is five years later. That moment NEVER changes because it’s not centered around a tradition, it’s centered around YOU.
As I look at this picture, I remember exactly what I was thinking as I walked down those steps. I felt like a little school girl, wondering if the boy I liked thought I was pretty. I remember the butterflies dancing in my stomach as I made my way to him. I remember falling into his arms and having a moment we NEVER shared on our wedding day. Five years later it was as if we were reliving our wedding day, making a memory we never had the chance to create. This is the moment I realized just how special the First Look truly is. On the wedding day or five years later.
Look at his face! Look at that smile! After five years of marriage and he STILL looks at me that way! Swoon;)
I’d like to make one more point before I get off my First Look soap box. Dave and I are very traditional people. So much so that we didn’t live together before we got married. We did almost everything in a traditional way from our courtship, to engagement even down to our wedding day. And if I were to get married again today, I would do it all the same. Except for one thing, I would have a First Look. If you are a Bride or Groom who wants to have a traditional wedding, I understand! I was that Bride too! But I hope that what I’ve shared with you will help change your perception of what a First Look is and how that CAN fit into your traditional wedding day without taking away from the traditions that are so important to you. Remember a First Look doesn’t take away, it only enhances.
I’ll end by saying that I would NEVER force a couple to have a First Look. While I do have specific opinions about the First Look, at the end of the day you have a specific vision for your wedding day, a vision that is important to protect. As a Bride turned photographer my hope is only to educate you on the First Look to help you make a decision that is right for you.
For us a First Look, even five years later, was incredibly special. In that moment I fell in love with Dave all over again. It’s a moment I’ll cherish forever. It’s moment that was captured by a camera to be relived for years to come.
Did you have a First Look? What was your experience like? Are you considering having a First Look? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below!