Wedding Why: Why Do I Need a First Look?

We have a special guest on the blog this week! Wedding Coordinator Karen Betancourt of Karen Marie Events is discussing why brides should do a first look on their wedding day. Yes, it's a very special moment when your groom sees you walking down the aisle in your dress for the first time. But, what if it were just as special, even if you did a first look? I'll let Karen tell you more about how she became a first-look convert:

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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, before the wedding ceremony, where your photographer will choose a setting to stage the first time you see each other. Typically, the groom has his back turned as his bride walks up to him from behind. The photographer captures this private moment while he turns around and the bride and groom  have their “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 they can get all of the wedding party photographs finished before the ceremony? As I was soon to find out, this was not necessarily so—and as a result, I became a first-look convert.

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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. Most importantly, it allowed them some private time to be alone and really take in what was happening. They had a chance to relax and breathe before the wedding 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 before the 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 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 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 the their portraits after the ceremony and usually catch some of the cocktail hour, too. 

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 capture the essence of their love, it does not by any means take away from the traditional “walk down the aisle for the first time we see 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 father. 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 the 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 broader 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.

I couldn't have said it better! Ask Karen for more bridal Qs at karenmarieevents@gmail.com, and you can contact me at daybreakduskphoto@gmail.com

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