A Wedding Story: Why you should absolutely definitely do a First Look

I have always been adamantly opposed to the “First Look” idea, that is, to seeing the groom before the wedding and doing all photos beforehand. One time I even got in a heated argument with Suze over this issue, informing her that the First Look was created by photographers as one more way to make the day about the photos, not getting married. I had always dreamed of that magical moment when the doors of Estes Chapel would open and I would see the man I was going to marry. And yes, it had to be Estes Chapel. It was where my parents got married and where all weddings are in our small town. I don’t think I realized that you could actually be married somewhere else until I was in middle school. I strongly, emphatically, passionately felt that a First Look would ruin all the wedding magic that I had always imagined.

I take it all back. Every. Last. Word.

Up until about 3 weeks before the wedding, I was standing by my First Look antipathy, despite frequent attempts by others (ahem… Suze….) to get me to change my mind. I would not, I repeated, I WOULD NOT make my wedding day about the pictures, as important to me as they were.

But then, I went to Gen’s wedding, and I marveled in how much she got to enjoy talking to her guests because her photos were done earlier. And I looked at my insane timeline and saw the tiny window of time we had. AND my mom and I got into it about how long photos would take and I started getting stressed about the timeline of the day and potentially fighting with my mother. AND I, for the first time in my extraverted life, started getting nervous about everyone watching my reaction to James.

But the final straw was when I went to my makeup trial and Rachael informed me that I would be a crying sweaty emotional mess (ok, so she said it a little nicer) by the end of the ceremony and I really should do pictures first. That didn’t totally sway me, but what she said next was how precious that walk down the aisle was as her last walk with her father before she became someone else’s wife. She was able to focus on him, as well as her husband, because she had already had that romantic moment earlier.

Thus, in a realization that the only way to make my day NOT about the photos, while still having the ones I wanted, was to get them out of the way earlier, I emailed my photographer with a new schedule and a plan for a First Look.

Best decision I made in terms of the flow of the wedding day.

Why You Should Do a First Look:

First, the practical ones:

  • Your guests will thank you. By the time I had dismissed everyone, was bustled, had my hair put up, switched my veil, etc. I still made it to the reception about 45 minutes after the first guest. If I had taken an hour or so to do photos (not that long, mind you), most of my guests would have left, or at least eaten all the food.
  • You will save money. Because we were getting to the reception faster, we didn’t spend money on the appetizer spread we had initially planned.
  • You will look better in whatever photos you do take. By the end of the ceremony, and people hugging me afterwards and yanking on my veil, I was indeed a frizzy, red-nosed mess.

The more important ones:

  • Speaking the moment. I decided to still do my First Look in the chapel, even though it wasn’t where we were doing photos. I had always imagined that moment happening there, so there it was. And it meant that it was even more perfect than I imagined, because I got to walk towards James (none of this “him blindfolded and I sneak up from behind business”) without anyone watching. We then got to actually speak to each other in that moment about what it meant. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. In fact, if I start talking about how I felt when the doors opened and I saw him, I will promptly start crying. So glad I didn’t have to share that with 300 people.
  • The Aisle. I cannot even begin to describe the tumult of emotions I had when I walked down that aisle a couple hours later. I was emotional about my father giving me away for starters, but that wasn’t all. As I walked down that aisle, I saw everyone from all the different spheres of our lives together for the only time this side of heaven. I saw my past, my present, my childhood, my adult life, my co-workers, my mentors, my teachers, my students, my friends, my family – all in one space. And I didn’t miss any of it, wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of it. I had already seen James, so I was able to soak in the people around us.

Taking that First Look allowed my awareness of the day and my enjoyment of it to be so much richer, so much fuller.

It doesn’t hurt that it also gave us some awesome pictures.

Unsolicited Wedding Advice #4:

  • Do a First Look. See above.  But also, make it your own. If you have dreamed of the church doors moment — do it. Don’t do some farm/urban wasteland/ city chic scene just because the pictures will be cool. Protect the beauty of the moment by thinking about what location makes it more meaningful, not more photogenic.  After our time alone, we went and did our portraits and then were met by the wedding party. This also meant that our friends were only out in the July heat for about half an hour.

(Photo credit to Whitney Neal Photography, as always.)

So, did you or didn’t you do a First Look? What are your thoughts on it?

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12 Responses to A Wedding Story: Why you should absolutely definitely do a First Look

  1. I was very thankful our tiny wedding saved me from having to make this decision. I had heard so much council about a First Look, and it all made perfect sense. Except, that I really, really loved the idea of Matthew seeing me as his bride for the first time when I came down the aisle. I am so glad you were able to find a compromise that enabled your private, long-dreamed-of moment with James, your thoughtful appreciation of all elements of your wedding ceremony and guests, and, of course, your stunningly beautiful photos 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      Thanks! You know, I was pretty excited to get to see some of those guests! ; )

      And you have no idea how many times in those final months I thought of you and your semi-elopment and thought of how right you were to do it that way. So perfect!

  2. Anna Louisa says:

    Yes!! I felt the exact same way, especially regarding the timeline and not wanting to keep out guests waiting. Plus, it really was one of the only times during the day that the two of us were alone – wouldn’t have traded that for anything 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      I know– the day is so busy that you spend so little time with the person that the day is about!!! I loved our first dance for that same reason. We opted for the middle school away over anything fancy just so we could have five minutes to hang out and talk uninterrupted. 🙂

  3. Kate Schweiss says:

    Hannah, you are so cute. I am so happy for you that you wouldn’t change a thing–that’s exactly how it should be! We did not do a “first look”… and it was perfect for US. We had time to work with and it ended up being completely magical that the alone time we did have was right after being married to one another!! We did our just-the-two-of-us photos directly after our ceremony and I swear that we were floating a foot off the ground the whole time… It was such a gift to get to sneak away for that little bit of time with my HUSBAND! Definitely the right choice for us! But everyone is different! 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      You are so right — as long as you are happy, you did the right thing! And your wedding pictures are some of my very favorites ever, so you obviously still had great pictures! : )

      For is a lot of the issue was timing with the venues we chose being kind of far apart. There was a lot of driving around and other things that were stressing me out so I needed the relief of having them done earlier. Our guest list jumping significantly in the final weeks helped convince me as well.

  4. Rebekah says:

    YES. The timing issue for sure. And I loved being able to spend time with Jared at the beginning of the day, talking and enjoying quiet moments together; it was a very different feeling than that overwhelming, pomp and circumstance encounter at the end of the aisle, and I’m glad we had both.

    Finally, though this doesn’t apply to everyone, we didn’t kiss each other until our wedding day, and OH MY I am so glad we had our first kiss without an audience. We had a lot more, um, fun that way. 😉

    • Hannah says:

      I am soooooo glad that you had the first kiss be just you two!!! I remember reading that on your blog and applauding your decision. I think it could be overwhelming to have everything hanging on that one moment in front of everyone. Too much pressure. Plus, it is super intimate– who wants tons of other people there? 🙂

  5. Liz says:

    we’re going to do one! mostly it’s a timing issue with the short reception, but i also was just now thinking about how homere would react if he saw me in my wedding dress and then didn’t get to kiss me right away 🙂 ha! i prefer not to torture him. plus i have read this awesome advice from a trusted friend 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      I’m so glad you are! We will all enjoy getting to see you quicker after the ceremony! Plus, you are right about Homere… There is no way he would stand for waiting for kisses! 😉

  6. Pingback: A Wedding Story: The part that actually matters the most | The Art in Life

  7. Pingback: Wedding! | The Joy As It Flies

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