How I Became a "First Look" Believer

One of the questions I ask our brides is if they are doing First Look.  Only about 50% of them know what it is, so for those that don’t, let me explain.  First look is a time, pre-wedding ceremony, where your photographer will choose a setting to stage the first time you see each other.  Usually the groom has his back turned as his bride walks up to him from behind and the photographer captures this private moment and he turns and they have the “first look”.

As a traditionalist, I was not so crazy about the idea when I first heard of it either.  Doesn’t the bride want to have the surprise of seeing her husband to be as she is walking down the aisle and vice versa?  Isn’t it more for the convenience of the photographer because with first look they can get all of the photographs out of the way pre-wedding?  As I was soon to find out, this was not necessarily so and as a result I became a convert.

When my own daughter got married, she was totally against First Look having been brought up by me, her very traditional Mother.  However, at the last minute she changed her mind.  I now look back and treasure the decision she made.  When I look back at the private moments caught in time when her groom turned and looked at her in awe for the first time, twirled her, kissed her and cried…those are the most memorable pictures of their wedding day and they make me emotional each and every time I look back at them.  At the time, it made both of them very emotional too and most importantly; it allowed them some private time to be alone to really take in what was happening.  They had a chance to relax and breathe before it all really began and to cherish the step they were about to take.

The First Look created a sense of relaxation for all as well. It allowed the bridal party and all of the parents and close family to take their photos pre-wedding so there was no rushing around.  This allowed for everyone to spend some together time, laugh and it seemed to take some of the pressure off of everyone.  There was even a moment caught where the flower girl and my grandson, a sign bearer, were sweetly conversing with each other while waiting for their picture.  Captured by the photographer, it was one of the sweetest photos of the day!  Taking pictures pre-wedding also allowed the bride, groom and bridal party to enjoy the cocktail hour instead of being absent for photos.  The bride and groom used this time instead to visit and then sneak out 15 minutes before the grand entrance to catch some beautiful sunset shots they may not have had the chance to do.

Taking pictures before the ceremony also allows the bridal party to enjoy the cocktail hour instead of being absent for photos.  The bride and groom can be more relaxed during their portraits and also get to catch some of the cocktail hour too to visit with guests.

Of course, the question is - do the bride and groom lose the surprise of walking down the aisle when they do First Look?  I think not.  While I feel the first look photos captured the essence of their love and are my personal favorites, it did not by any means take away from the traditional “walk down the aisle first time we’ve seen each other” experience either.


As with any bride, when they walk down the aisle, she really doesn’t focus on the groom until the very last steps so it’s really more of a one-way view for the groom until the bride is near the end.  She is more nervous about “the walk”, all the people watching, the need to acknowledge them and of course, not getting too emotional while approaching her groom while arm in arm with her Daddy.  But once in her final steps, she still experiences that catch your breath emotion as she heads towards her groom to take his hand.


The groom, gazing at her as she walks down the aisle, even though he has already seen her and spent time with her, is still very much surprised, just from a different perspective than First Look.  The reality of the ceremony starting and their life together still creates the beautiful, emotional photo opportunities as in any traditional wedding. 


Yes, it is more convenient for your photographer mainly because they are not pressured to get all of the photos done in a short timeframe during cocktail hour.  This allows them the opportunity to take even more shots and also to have more creativity in their work.   The end result is a more full portfolio of pictures for your selection.


I think First Look is definitely a combination of the best of both worlds and rather than detracting, it just adds another element of intimacy a bride and groom would not otherwise have. 



Many wedding venues with banquet facilities have an event manager on staff.  They will book the venue for you, assist you with menu planning and usually handle the setup of the tables and chairs as part of their responsibility. Today, many of the wedding venues, also have on staff a wedding coordinator that they include with your wedding package. 

The important thing to remember in both cases is that these venue coordinators are employed by the venue.  Their responsibilities are to the venue who employs them and is limited to taking care of the venue itself, their food service & staffing and in some cases, depending on the venue, tables and chair set up.  They have not worked with you closely over several months getting to know you on a more personal basis, helping you to create your vision and getting to know how you want your day presented.  Their services are also limited. 

An outside wedding planner is like your general contractor.  Beyond the basics, they manage all of the vendors confirming with them prior to the wedding, providing headcounts, coordinating arrival and set up times and to assure that everyone is on task during the event.  Your personal wedding planner is there not just to coordinate the day but to set up your décor to create your vision, make sure guests are greeted, assure that the cake cutting and other events of the day are done in a timely manner, music is getting your guests on the dance floor, etc.  They are also there to also take care of things that may not go so right – like the wrong flowers being delivered, the cake not delivered on time, getting an emergency keg of beer when you run out, etc.   Their services are over and above a venue coordinator’s normal responsibilities. 

Your own personal wedding planner also relies on your happiness as their business is built on referrals.  The venue coordinator is an employee and their goal is to facilitate the wedding for the venue.  Their desire to make your day as special as can be may not be at the same level as your wedding planner who hopes to have you as a lifetime client who will refer their friends and families.

Photo Credit:  Lucas Rossi Photography