FAQ : First Look

© Jasmine Star. This post cannot be republished without permission. Stealing makes me sad.
A
couple days ago I met with a bride (Hi, Christina!) and discussed the layout of her wedding day and the wonderful things she has planned. When we discussed the timeline of her day, I asked if she had given consideration to the idea of a First Look--an opportunity for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony and share those first moments as husband and wife together. Christina and Mike hadn't thought too much about it, but were open to hearing more....

I often receive this question from other photographers as well: Why do so many of your clients opt to see each other before the ceremony? Christina suggested I blog about the topic, and I couldn't agree more! ;) After our meeting, I came home and calculated that 73% of my couples opted to see each other before the ceremony...which I think is AWESOME!

When I speak to clients, I am first and foremost a bride. I was a bride before I was a photographer, so my opinion is based from my personal experience. I chose to see JD before the ceremony on our wedding day and it was the best decision. Ever. Our wedding was small (25 people), but our First Look was the only chance we had to spend time alone on our wedding day. When we saw each other, it was if that moment was carved out just for us. Away from guests, details, and things that might have distracted our attention from the gravity of the moment. Just he and I ready to commit ourselves to each other.

Many brides worry about forsaking the moment the groom first sees his bride walk down the aisle, but I think it's just as special having seen JD before the ceremony, if not more. Because we saw each other before the ceremony, I was SO much more calm and relaxed. I descended the aisle looking at JD, but at the same time looking and my friends and family surrounding us, and appreciating the moment of my parents giving me away. It was as if I was truly in the moment, and not just focusing on the man at the end of the aisle.

The best part of a couple seeing each other before the ceremony is that it lends to a much smoother layout for family pictures, cocktail hour, and beautiful sunset pictures of the bride and groom after the ceremony. If a couple requests a First Look, I also encourage them to plan for family pictures and bridal party pictures beforehand. Com'on...how many people want to miss the cocktail hour? Not many. By capturing formal photos before the ceremony, it frees the family and bridal party to mingle, catch up with out-of-towners, and simply enjoy the mood of the day. Some couples opt to spend cocktail hour with their guests as their time is so limited during the reception, or some opt to enjoy some time alone.

I prefer a bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony, but--truthfully--it doesn't matter to me either way. More than anything, I want my brides to be happy. I simply explain their options because I know they'll make an educated decision. Often times brides think there are rules to weddings (Cannot see groom before hand, Must throw garter, Cannot be seen as a couple until the Grand Entrance), but I believe there should only be one rule: Do What Makes You Happy.

Here are a few First Looks from this past year that make me happy. Because, you know, being happy is my only rule!

Miranda and Justin's Wedding at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel


Helen and David's Wedding at Rancho Las Lomas


Carissa and Brian's Wedding at The Bohm Estate in Malibu


Joel and Amanda's Wedding at Centennial Heritage Museum


Blake and Brittany's Wedding


Heather and Gian's Wedding at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu...Heather had her father give her away which I thought was incredibly sweet!


Janey and Mark's Wedding at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara


Kasey and Nick's Wedding at Carnation Farm, Seattle, Washington


Jane and Kevin's Wedding at Seven Degrees, Laguna Beach


Kirstie and Josiah's Wedding at Bowers Museum


Roseann and Jerry's Wedding at Calamigos Equestrian Center...on a sidenote, I just received an email from Roseann letting me know she's PREGNANT!!! Yay for my bride! :) She and Jerry are going to make the most amazing parents ever!


Happy Monday!
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Kelsey {las vegas wedding photographer} - Love this! Totally sharing with my brides!  04.08.11 - 5:07pm
Tru Pettit - !!!! I know it's an old post, but I'm a new admirer of your work. Well not that new, I've been reading your blog on and off (whenever I can get a quiet moment). Just looking through these photos, I'm getting all teary eyed and laughing at the same time~love seeing the emotions of the bride and grooms in these photos.   11.21.10 - 7:59am
Sona Lila - I absolutely love the one of Blake and Brittany's :)   11.10.10 - 4:06am
Brittany - I am a huge advocate of the First Look. I think it is important that the bride and groom be happy about whatever decision they make. I do have to say that many brides (including me before my wedding) are afraid that having a first look with steal some of the magic from the walk down the aisle. I completely disagree. I STILL had that moment when I walked down the aisle and my husband was looking at me with tears POURING down his face as if he'd never seen me looking more beautiful (and we'd seen each other 10 minutes earlier) :)  08.04.10 - 10:33am
g10vann1 - Tu eras muy bonita y tambien tu trabajo, but you probably have heard this many times. I have aspirations of becoming a photographer, but I also want to be a gourmet cook, flamenco guitar player and yoga teacher. How did you get started?  12.23.08 - 8:11pm
Kris Leigh - Wow! I ADORE these first glimpses, absolutely gorgeous and I love how you have explained it! Such a beautiful moment to treasure and capture! :-)  12.23.08 - 2:23am
Mandi Zimmer - Your images are beautiful.   12.20.08 - 11:42pm
joshua k - You are rock Jasmine! Great shots:)  12.19.08 - 8:34pm
Lisa - I agree that the couple needs to decide what works for them! For me, that meant not doing a "first look" or letting my groom see me before the wedding. We got married in Taiwan, and had a mix of Chinese and American customs at our wedding. I certainly didn't get everything an "American" wedding would have had. This issue came up when my husband's family wanted him to come and pick me up, which is a part of the traditional Chinese wedding (my husband is Chinese). It wasn't until then that I realized I'd always dreamed of the moment when my groom would see me for the first time in my white wedding gown at the other end of the church aisle. So I agreed to let him pick me up, but planned to wear another wedding day outfit (Chinese brides get three!) Later the family decided to skip that whole part when the church ceremony was moved to the morning. I'm lucky to be part of two amazing families who respect each other's cultures actually. So anyway, that's how I came to make a totally opposite decision on the first look issue. And I'm glad I did, as I walked down the aisle, I did see all my family and friends. And at the end, I saw my groom staring in awe at me - the first time I saw him with tears in his eyes :)  12.18.08 - 3:38am
Karen (Mikols) Bonar - Right ON, J*! I saw my groom before the wedding ... and it totally allowed for so many amazing photos of the two of us later!  12.17.08 - 3:20pm
lin - Hi Jasmine! I agree that having time for just bride and groom portraits is nice. I was fortunate to have our reception on a separate day so we didn't have first look, but did have about 2 to 3 hours after our ceremony for photos. I loved it so much I want to go back, all dressed up, and do another portrait session on one of our anniversaries.  12.16.08 - 9:44pm
Kricia Morris Photography - AMEN to the make you happy mantra! That is absolutely the most important thing... Totally with Chatti too...ugly sweaters are supposed to be just that...lol...instead you and JD rocked it! Very cute!  12.16.08 - 8:22pm
chatti - you guys were not ugly with the ugly sweaters!!! i just came form jesica's website and boo you guys can't be ugly. actually cute for that matter!  12.16.08 - 5:08pm
adam - Wow, this is my first time viewing your work but it won't be the last. You have a very unique look. Great job!  12.16.08 - 3:42pm
Andrea - The idea is awesome!   12.16.08 - 3:39pm
jeramy - thanks for the insight.  12.16.08 - 3:26pm
Candace Prokopets - You said it perfectly. I couldn't agree more!  12.16.08 - 2:57pm
Lauren - I want to be friends with Brittany and Blake. Their eyes are kind... That is one of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen.  12.16.08 - 11:29am
scott westerman - Hi Jasmine, I have been trying to get some of my couple to do this but i am finding that they all seem a little superstitious about not seeing the other etc etc. I do keep trying to explain about the time constraints that come later in the day but i have not had one take up this idea yet. But i will keep offering it because i see how much sense it makes, You only have to look at yours to see what a huge difference it really can make. Thanks once again for being such a giving person and get well soon.  12.16.08 - 11:08am
Lindsay - I LOVE these pictures!!!  12.16.08 - 10:57am
Adrienne Gunde - Beautiful images and I loved hearing your take on the first look and how you describe it to your clients. Thanks for sharing!  12.16.08 - 10:09am
Adam - Tough call! I can see where it's easier to see each other before the ceremony (my wife and I did) and in my (very limited) experience most seem to want to see each other before the ceremony (definitely helps with all the group shots!). I am shooing a wedding in March though where they don't want to see each other before the ceremony (very traditional couple). I told them that that might limit the number of group shots we can drag together after the ceremony (so I have an out if I need it to cut the group stuff off so the reception can continue...) It will be interesting to see how it goes. They are not interested in lots of staged or group shots.....  12.16.08 - 9:53am
Christopher - When you are alone and can truly be yourself and have the opportunity to have it captured, those are the moments that you always want to treasure. That is why you are so right!  12.16.08 - 8:51am
Stephenie - Jasmine, all of these are BEAUTIFUL! I'm in the south where traditions die hard... but I've had several couples to opt for seeing each other before the ceremony. I hope more will choose this option. It does make for a much smoother day. :)  12.16.08 - 8:38am
Ginger Murray - I love all of these!!! Oh my... Blake and Brittany's pic... makes me choke up! ... Such a symbolic pic with Heather and her dad... and congrats to Roseann and Jerry! (I wonder if her reaction to the pregnancy was as cute as in that pic!)  12.16.08 - 8:27am
Annie - All of those pictures are awesome! You have me totally convinced... :)  12.16.08 - 8:11am
Betsy, La Vida Creations - Great post! Such a wonderful way of laying out all the benefits. Thanks, Jasmine!  12.16.08 - 7:36am
Cailyn - I love the First Look. I always recommend it, and my fiancé and I will definitely be doing it at our wedding! Great post, Jasmine!  12.16.08 - 6:52am
Clemens - Oh Jasmine....Love the post! I wish I was instructed by my photographer when we got married. I remember Dan being so nervous that he almost forgot to hold my hands.... :-)   12.16.08 - 6:47am
Onsite Minnesota Photography - Great pics, I love Brittany and Blake's picture.  12.16.08 - 6:37am
erin harvey - Thank you so much for posting this! We love giving this option to our brides for all the reasons you mentioned. It really allows for a more relaxed day and much more time for pictures. Thanks for the gorgeous recap. It is hilarious that you actually went and calculated the percentage. Classic. =)  12.16.08 - 4:33am
Brandy Burridge - I remember the first time you posted brittany and blake's first look, it choked me up a bit... it absolutely radiates what a first look is all about! beautiful job!  12.16.08 - 4:12am
Rachel D. - I would have loved a "first look" but it seemed everyone else was against it and the timing was a bit off. (I stress the bit part) =( To any couples out there, follow your heart, and do what you must!! =)  12.16.08 - 3:47am
john waire - blake & brittnay's first look is priceless. what an incredibly powerful image.  12.16.08 - 3:38am
Matthew Saville - Call me old-fashioned, but I'm gonna see my bride for the first time when she's coming up the aisle to me. And we're gonna cry our eyes out to "Annie's Song". We'll just do a day-after shoot instead of a first-look shoot, no biggie! =Matt=  12.16.08 - 1:05am
Catara - Awesome Post. Love the 1st set of pictures of Miranda and Justin. Love the feel of the photo...now why can't mine come out like that :( Stay Fab!!  12.15.08 - 10:31pm
Lindsay P. - Such a great post...I wish our brides did this more often. We saw each other before the ceremony at our wedding strictly to get some amazing pictures and I couldn't be happier we did. Very well said!!  12.15.08 - 8:12pm
marta - Jasmine - all of your 'first look' photos are absolutely amazing. This is one of the few moments on a wedding day that's just for the bride/groom to share and how lucky they are to have it captured in a photograph!  12.15.08 - 7:34pm
Cathy Crawley - I wish brides were so open minded here in Australia, it's all so traditional unfortunately. I have only had one first look, and boy did we get some awesome photos because of it!  12.15.08 - 7:17pm
Kevin - Great post. Very helpful insight. Thanks.  12.15.08 - 6:43pm
frannie - This is good to know!! Love these photos too, by the way. I want a first look when I get married..*sigh*. :D  12.15.08 - 6:30pm
Chung Li - Hi, Jasmine, this is my first time to put a comment in your blog. You know why today ? simply because this post is just IMPRESSIVE !!! Being a wedding photographer here too, I'm so inspired !!!  12.15.08 - 6:17pm
Katherine Bowman - Great post! I did not do a first look for my own wedding and wish i would have. That's the only thing my husband and I would have changed about the day. It would have left more time to visit with the guests and I know I wouldn't have felt as rushed! Yes, forget all the "rules" to weddings and just do what makes you happy! :)  12.15.08 - 6:10pm
Nick Abadilla - Thanks for a very informative post, and it makes total sense. I plan on presenting the 'first look' idea to all of my prospective customers from now on.  12.15.08 - 5:47pm
Steph - I was recently talking to a friend that is engaged and suggested she do a first look (she expressed concern about lighting issues after the ceremony). She said it's not for her... But, had I not been a HUGE fan of your site I would have never been able to suggest it. And, I may have teared up looking at all of these pictures! ;)  12.15.08 - 5:32pm
Tara Swain - I've only actually had 2 first looks, but I have several more upcoming weddings where the couple has opted for the first look. I wish everyone would. The two brides that DID do the first look STILL rave about it. It is, to me, the most emotional part of the day. I can't help but get teary eyed everytime. I just love it... it's an amazingly emotional moment for me as the photographer so I can only imagine how the bride and groom feel! :)  12.15.08 - 5:32pm
Liza - I totally understand the feeling brides get about wanting to wait until the ceremony. I have not been married myself but have been in tons of weddings and have seen first hand the hassle and the stress that goes on when brides decide to wait. I believe as long as they know EXACTLY what that entails in regards to photos then you're right, Jasmine, whatever makes them happy...because in the end it's THEIR day!  12.15.08 - 5:13pm
Emily Mason - I've been wanting to do a first look so badly with my couples, but they never want to. Maybe 2009 will be the year. I always love seeing yours!  12.15.08 - 4:17pm
Dennis Bullock - Great information Jasmine!  12.15.08 - 4:11pm
Bobbie Brown - Makes perfect sense, I might would do a first look myself if I weren't already married!  12.15.08 - 4:07pm
Greer Rivera - WOW Cassandra M. I totally say that to myself at every shoot..."What would J* do?" haha! Jasmine, I'm a huge fan of the first site because everyone always wants a sunset ceremony and its hard to get good photos with flash.   12.15.08 - 3:47pm
Lucy - Thanks for posting this... when I would shoot film I would suggest it to every couple..But then digital came and I figured I had more time since I wouldnt be changing film all the time..But the pictures come out better when you they see eachother before hand.  12.15.08 - 3:22pm
jackie wonders - this is one if my favorite posts of yours. ever. you're such an amazing writer and give the best explanation/wording for this scenario. thank you- again.  12.15.08 - 3:17pm
cassandra m - I don't think this could be explained any better. I love the reference to your & JD's experience. As I often say to myself "What would J* do?"...ha.ha. Seriously, I do....  12.15.08 - 3:07pm
Christina - I'm so honored to get a shout out! ;) You do make a very good argument for 'first looks', and the pictures... just speak for themselves!  12.15.08 - 2:39pm
valerie - Thanks soooo much for posting this! Fantastic images, as always!  12.15.08 - 2:23pm
Meghan - My husband and I opted for a first look, but on the actual day of our wedding the timing didn't work out. Looking back at the pictures (which are amazing!) I wish we would have been able to do a first look. We, too, lost most of the day to out-of-towners and questions from the staff at the reception hall. We got some amazing shots about 2/3rds into the reception, but by then we were both so tired and our faces hurt so much from smiling that we didn't get the emotion that I think we would have had at the beginning of the day. We worked with what we had, but I definitely encourage a first look.   12.15.08 - 2:10pm
Jane - As one of your brides who initially didn't want a first look, it seriously was the best decision ever. My favorite picture of Kevin from the entire day is from our First Look. We lost our cocktail hour to a barrage of well wishers and had we not had the First Look, we probably would not have any portraits of the two of us. Sometimes things go according to plan and if a sudden tornado/earthquake/natural disaster/attack of relatives happens, then you at least have the pictures from your First Look.   12.15.08 - 1:59pm
Jalene - Jasmine! I love your photos as always... do you ever do interships or shadows for any event? If so I am really interested! I would love to see more of how you work behind the scenes!  12.15.08 - 1:53pm
jacqueline fronters - I wish I could also talk my brides into doing something like this. Is it hard? What are some ways to talk more openly with my clients about a Frist Look? Thank you.  12.15.08 - 1:46pm
Jamie Burnett - I luuuuvv the emotion you capture, simply breathtaking!  12.15.08 - 1:45pm
julie - i love where jerry's eyes are! julie  12.15.08 - 1:24pm
Fishgirl - When are you going to post your wedding photos?? i would love to see yours.. i have become your blog stalker.. i just adore your job and pay to God for 1/2 of your talent..   12.15.08 - 1:22pm
Ginette - Do you know how many of your posts make me cry? It is just not right. Seeing all these *first looks* was incredibly sweet and moving. Thanks for this post.  12.15.08 - 1:16pm
Melissa J Copeland - My husband and I spent the morning together at home..the only time we actually were apart was while I was getting my hair/make-up and then getting dressed. As soon as we were both dressed..we chose to see eachother and do photos before the wedding. It made the day so casual and calm... I always knew I wanted to do the "first look." I suggest it to every bride to be too.  12.15.08 - 1:07pm
Chung Nguyen - (1) I LOVE your rule. Happy is very important. (2) The pictures really sell your point. These photos wouldn't happen so organically if they didn't see one another first, in private. Great stuff, Jasmine!  12.15.08 - 12:57pm
Candace Jeffery - I totally agree! Two years ago my husband and I did this on our wedding day, and as a photographer I always suggest it.  12.15.08 - 12:54pm
Tira J - Even when I got married back in 2000, the first look was the most important thing to David and I. J*, I agree with everything you said above, and more importantly, it is truly a magical moment between two souls that are about to become one.   12.15.08 - 12:51pm
Jackie Beale - I love it! We did the same thing for ours and because of it, we have stunning pictures! You're so anxious after the ceremony with greeting everyone and ready to get the party started that you're not as relaxed. Well that was my thing anyway :)  12.15.08 - 12:35pm
Ashley - Can I just say that I LOVE that you posted this?! I could not have said it better. And I love all the photo recaps. Absolutely gorgeous.   12.15.08 - 12:30pm
Cassidy - Yay, I am the first to comment on this post! Anyways, I really like this post and it has actually changed my mind about the way I want MY wedding day to flow. Good topic to post :) Keep the great stuff comin'!  12.15.08 - 12:26pm
Jasmine* - @Korey: I LOOOOOVE you!! Thanks for further buttressing my point...you make me feel so lucky to have brides as awesome as you! :)  12.15.08 - 12:22pm
Korey - Jasmine, you know I was hesitant to have a first look...and I don't know if I told YOU, but I have told everyone who crosses my path what a great idea it was. I was a million times less nervous walking down the aisle and able to enjoy the moment so much more! Also, the pictures you captured were priceless, and the time we had for those sweet after-ceremony pictures was as well.  12.15.08 - 12:20pm
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