First looks are a big point of contention with weddings today. I find that a lot of couples are either strongly in the “yes!” column or firmly believe the groom shouldn’t see his future bride until she walks down the aisle. As a photographer, I fall head over heels in the yes column. If you can move past the fact that a first look feels untraditional, it can be the most amazing and special moment of your wedding day.
From a photographer’s perspective, a first look gives us an opportunity to take a lot of your photos before the ceremony, taking the pressure off the time we have during cocktail hour. It allows me to capture the raw emotion of your groom seeing you for the first time without the interference of guests’ cell phones, venue restrictions, or heads rubbernecking down the aisle. While I could tell you the technical photographic benefits from this point of view all day, I want to share a personal story from my own wedding with you that I think perfectly illustrates why every couple should do a first look. [ Photos taken by Rodney of Aesthetic Life Studio ]
When I got married, I didn’t want to do a first look. I wanted Ricky to see me for the first time as I walked down the aisle with my dad as I had always imagined. In lieu of doing a full first look, however, we did take a moment prior to the ceremony for just the two of us. We had written each other letters the night before the wedding, stood back to back with a door in between us and held hands as we quietly read the words the other had written. The only person that could see the both of us was our photographer and while that moment (and those pictures) are incredibly special to me, it did not calm my pre-ceremony excitement, in fact, it did just the opposite! All I wanted to do after that moment was push by that open door and finally get to see (and hug!) my groom!
The ceremony was a total blur. As I walked down the aisle with my dad, I tugged at his arm saying “we can slow down”. It was already flying by and I wanted nothing more than to be present in the moment. As we got the altar, the only thing I vividly remember is my dad telling Ricky that I was the best gift he could ever give to him, my sister crying because she heard those words and then … a bunch of exchanged words from the pastor, out of Ricky’s mouth, and then out of mine – not exactly what I had pictured.
My mind was flooded, all I could think about was how I wanted to hug him, kiss him or SOMETHING other than being made to stand still, only touching fingertips, staying quiet and listening. I just wanted to let all of this bundled up excitement out! I actually stopped our pastor during my vows so I could take a minute to bring myself into the moment. It felt like an out of body experience as I repeated the words our pastor said like a parrot. The whole ceremony was rushing by in anticipation of the moment I finally got to embrace my husband. While taking a moment to pause helped me recenter and be present, I know that a first look would have allowed me to feel that way the entire ceremony.
By doing a first look, you get everything you’re hoping for and more. Often times during the ceremony, you can’t even properly see your husband’s face as he catches a glimpse of you for the first time. With a first look, you not only get to see his reaction but you’re allowed to embrace each other and feel all the emotions you’re feeling in the moment – cry the tears of joy, laugh in excitement and be together, just the two of you – and you have the perfect forever images from this wonderfully intimate time!
For me, to have all the anticipation of the day build up, not seeing Ricky, not talking, then knowing that there was nothing but a door in between us and I still had to wait was torture for me. Did it completely ruin the day? Of course not, but what I wouldn’t give looking back to be able to embrace my husband in that moment and release everything I was feeling so that I could be present from that moment on.
When you’re in the depths of wedding planning, a day you’ve dreamed of for as long as you can remember, you’re oblivious to a lot of things – as you should be, you’ve never done this before! That’s why the insight and advice of professionals is so valuable. The once in a lifetime moment of you walking down the aisle in your gown to meet your groom is not one that is lessened by a first look. When that moment comes, it feels real, the way you’ve always wanted to feel, but better. The anticipation and nerves are gone. You get to be present in every minute of your day soaking up the fact that you’re marrying the one you love. As for the groom? No matter if you’ve seen each other before the wedding ceremony or not, as soon as you take those footsteps toward him you can smile, for you have just made his image of his wedding day a reality.
First look photos are the ones you’ll cherish forever, gracing the pages of your album and displayed proudly in your home. It’s a moment unlike any other that sets the stage for the joyous celebration to come!
Venue: The Lodges at Gettysburg
Wedding Dress: Simone’s Unlimited
Guys Attire: J&B Bridals and Tuxedos
Photographer: Aesthetic Life Photography