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. 



When it comes to music for your wedding, bringing in traditions is something that makes your wedding just that more special.  This last year it seemed to be the year of the Mariachi.  We had the pleasure of listening to a half dozen Mariachi bands playing lovely ballads during the prelude (music before the ceremony), playing instrumental songs during the procession and ceremony and then playing more traditional songs as they lead guests to the cocktail party.
Mariachi music can be tricky if you are not fluent in Spanish.  We sometimes find ourselves liking the melody or beat of a song, not realizing that the words may be less about love and more about unhappiness so you need to be careful with song selection.  Mariachi bands also usually offer a couple of selection of dress color and can be 4-5 members or many, many more.  They usually charge based by the hour with many having a four hour minimum and prices can vary.  They are not inexpensive but they are definitely a wonderful addition to a wedding especially if it is part of you or your fiance's heritage.
After much experience with having so many weddings featuring Mariachi music and with a lot of research, we've narrowed it down for you.  Below is a list you might find handy.  We have worked with several different Mariachi bands and provide our clients with referrals to them.  Many of the more popular bands have websites but if you have a chance to listen to them at a restaurant or they have some you tube videos, check them out to find one that is a great fit for the two of you.
Ava Maria
Besame Mucho
Bridal March by Wagner
*Canon in D
Cielito Lindo
Cien Anos Contigo Aprendi
El Rey
Es mi Nina Bonita (father daughter dance)
La Gloria eres tu
Mi Linda Esposa
*Que Bonito Amor
Sabor a mi
Si Quieres
Solamemte Una Vez
Somos Novios
Te Amare Toda La Vida
Tre Regalos
Wedding March by Mendelson

 *Used for bridal entrance
Remainder are good choices for prelude or recessional


Southern California is the perfect backdrop for a beautiful wedding venue and none more so than the city of Thousand Oaks.  A premiere community recognized as one of the most desirable and safest places in all of California, it is often referred to as the Conejo Valley.  Nestled between the Los Angeles and Ventura county lines, it is a just a short distance to Malibu’s scenic coastline and is surrounded by scenic mountains and rolling hills.  With a Mediterranean climate, it also offers a diversified selection of wedding venues featuring outside areas that you can comfortably enjoy on a year round basis.

Keeping the budget conscious happy, there are many community choices such as the Oak Park and North Ranch Community Centers as well as the historic Stagecoach Inn and the Chumash Indian Museum outdoor area. 

For the country club lover, golf courses abound, both public and private, offering indoor and outdoor venues such as The Gardens @ Los Robles, North Ranch Country Club, Wood Ranch Golf Club,  Sunset Hills Country Club, Lake Lindero Country Club and the elegant Sherwood Country Club, to name a few.

Outdoor venues are endless in the Thousand Oaks and the adjoining cities.  If you are looking for an exquisite 40 acre ranch vineyard estate setting, Epona Estates is the perfect setting.  Within a couple of miles from Thousand Oaks, ranch and barn weddings have multiplied in the Moorpark and Camarillo areas with Quail Ranch, McCormick Home Ranch, Camarillo Ranch, Walnut Grove, Eden Gardens, and Rancho de las Palmas to name a few.

Of course, the traditional hotel settings from the simple Palm Garden Hotel to the more luxurious Four Seasons and Westlake Village Inn also offer indoor and outdoor areas for wedding celebrations.

And if that’s not enough choices you will find many, many more which is why hiring a local wedding planner can help you not only with your venue choice but in assuring you are connected with the best local resources.  Of course, a local wedding planner also knows these venues well which is paramount to making sure your special day runs smoothly and goes off without a hitch!


Photo Credit: Lucas Rossi Photography