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