As women we’ve all envisioned it … the dress perfectly embracing the curves of your body, every strand of hair in its rightful place, and lest I forget, you’re donning a flawless face. Ahhhh yes, the makeup is so perfect, you’ve got Kim Kardashian frantically searching for a touch-up.
And with all your fabulousness, your first step down the wedding aisle is greeted with harmonious awe-filled sighs of admiration from your circle of family and friends. But even better? Your gaze meets your soon-to-be-husband's eyes for the first time and you can literally see his breath being taken away — you are simply a vision to behold. And, he even sheds a tear, because yes, you are the most beautiful bride in the world!!
For the longest time, that’s how I imagined it would be on our Wedding Day. Time would stop as we saw each other for the first time at the aisle, and dozens of snapshots would be taken to capture that moment.
But this isn’t what happened. It was actually better than I dreamed.
We decided to see each other for the first time — in private — about 90 minutes before the ceremony. And … It. Was. Beautiful. (Yes, sometimes things carry so much meaning, each word warrants its own sentence!)
Never in a million years would I have thought to see my husband-to-be prior to the ceremony, because like I said, I’ve always envisioned that “gazing into each others eyes with everyone in awe,” moment. But then we sat down with our photographer and she asked if we wanted to see each other before the ceremony for a ‘first look’ session. I think I blurted out “NO” before she even finished the sentence. In fact, I think I said it so abruptly I’m sure she thought she accidentally asked me if I wanted to take family formals in the public restroom, LOL.
But weeks later, my mind started to shift after seeing so many incredibly gorgeous “First Look” photos and reading countless photography blogs and articles about the benefits of seeing each other beforehand. Fast forward almost seven years later to today ... my husband and I have been shooting weddings as a husband & wife photography team for about 5 years now, and while we have some couples who like to stick to the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony, we also have plenty of clients who opt for a First Look session -- and frankly, we love it!
Here are some of the advantages in breaking the “see you at the aisle” tradition and opting for a First Look instead:
This is a private and special moment shared between just the two of you. Weddings can often be chaotic, filled with guests who want to greet you, endless “come on, let’s take a picture together” moments, and a timeline that seems to fly faster than you can say “I Do.” Most of the time, a couple never has a moment alone, so the First Look sometimes ends up being the only time you and your sweetheart will share something that is completely private and all your own without any extra eyes watching (except for your photographers of course!). And because of this, this special moment carved out before the Ceremony often makes it the most precious sliver of time during the entire Wedding Day.
There’s more time for romantic photos of the couple! Time blocked out for a First Look allows us super giddy photographers to be more creative with location, poses, etc. By doing a First Look we can choose the perfect location for you to meet and situate ourselves to capture the moment your eyes connect. And yes, be prepared for tears! Sometimes this moment can be so powerful it will draw out all sorts of emotions … awe, utter joy, excitement, and an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude … for each other, for love, for this special day After the First Look, we can then set aside about 30 to 45 minutes to do romantic photos where we’re not racing for time or light, but simply focusing on capturing beautiful images in the most incredible settings!
Family members as well as the Bride and Groom can enjoy the cocktail hour together. Because you're opting to take care of a bulk of the romantic portraits and possibly even family and bridal party photos before the ceremony, there's now more time for everyone to party together AFTER the ceremony! *WOOT WOOT*
There is no sense of rushing while doing pictures after the ceremony. If you can take care of family and bridal party photos before the ceremony, you can focus solely on taking a few more romantic portraits after the ceremony, allowing you to capitalize on the golden hour if your ceremony takes place a couple hours before sunset — when the light is deliciously fabulous and super flattering, giving that special glow to each image!
Make-up and hair look “fresher” in images shot before the ceremony, especially during summer weddings when you’re dealing with heat. Brides you will be beautiful throughout the day, but there’s no better time to catch your look at its freshest than right after you’ve gotten primped and pampered. Doing a First Look allows your photographer to capture you at your best. And if you shed a few tears when you see each other for the first time, no worries, you can always get some touch ups before the ceremony!
It helps the nervousness and anticipation of the day subside. If you are feeling a little anxious during the day's preparations, seeing your sweetheart helps put aside some of those wedding jitters before the ceremony. Who better than to calm your nerves than the one you love?
And now, let me add my own two cents to the list …
First Looks create some of the most amazing wedding pictures I’ve ever seen!!! And I’m not just talking just regular amazing, I mean goosebumps all over your body amazing! The private moment you get to share with the one you love is like the first flower he bought you that is now dried and pressed between the pages of a thick book — it makes your heart flutter every time you see it and brings a smile to your face that no one will ever truly understand.
I have no regrets at all seeing my husband before the ceremony. In fact, I would not have done it any other way. Seeing each other for the first time alone was more special than I could have ever imagined because it was a moment all our own that we shared with no one else, just us (and our amazing photographers with our daughter peeking nearby!!) And guess what? When you see your sweetheart down the wedding aisle, it's still just as special. It's an entirely different feeling of excitement because you also see your family and friends surrounding you -- so instead of one instance of seeing each other for the first time, you actually get two and both are equally wonderful. You get the best of both worlds!
Whatever it is you decide, do what your heart tells you, make sure it fits with your timeline and make that moment your own. Soak in his gaze and let your heart flutter, because it is a fragment of time that you’ll always remember. So make it special!
MarieSam Sanchez Photography is a husband and wife photography team based in Southern California and documenting love all over the world.