It is March 14th, 2020 in Northern California, and the weather is terrible. Conversations surrounding COVID-19 means that the government is considering restricting gatherings and travel (including weddings). On paper, this day is far from ideal when it comes to wedding festivities. But thanks to the spirit and sense of humor of this lovely couple, we were able to capture what turned out to be the most incredible first look wedding photos I had the chance to take.
I love the first look. And maybe it’s selfishly because I am the only person who gets to see (and capture) the beautiful and unique moment of when the couple sets eyes on each other for the first time on their big day.
Traditionally, this moment was when the bride was walking down the aisle, but in recent times a lot more couples are opting to connect privately before the ceremony. If you’re considering doing a first look moment, please keep reading to see if it’s right for you and your future spouse.
To illustrate how gorgeous a first look can be, I’ll use Jacqueline & Daniel’s beautiful moment as an example. I will also share why having a ‘first look’ can be a really important and intimate moment on your wedding day.
Pros and cons
A ‘first look’ is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in a more private setting before the walk down the aisle. It is always an intimate, intense and beautiful special moment on a wedding day.
It quickly became a modern tradition in the wedding photography world. Let’s find out if it fits your needs!
It calms the nerves.
There is nothing that relaxes nervous brides and grooms more than finally seeing each other and enjoying a few moments alone before they see the rest of their friends and family. You get to connect and breathe a sigh of relief and excitement together before the big day kicks off.
It gives you time to take it all in.
You can share what you’re feeling, you can hug, you can actually say “wow you look incredible in that wedding dress”– all things you can’t do when you’re at the front of the aisle with everyone watching.
It makes the timeline easier to work with.
If you see each other before the ceremony, you’ll probably be ok with doing a few couple photos, maybe family portraits, and some of the wedding party photos before too. This allows your family to go enjoy the cocktail hour right after the ceremony (instead of sticking around for the portrait session) and we can get to your couple portraits right away. You’ll be freed up quicker to enjoy the reception with plenty of time too, as we already grabbed the important memories! Win-Win.
Tips for California weddings: most of the weddings in California happen outside. The ceremony can’t happen too early in the afternoon with the sun high in the sky. It gets too warm too quickly. Having a first look is a great moment to craft your day with a meaningful moment without impacting the rest of your day.
Tips for Winter weddings: due to the lighting difficulties, a first look can help us nail your couple photos at the right moment. You don’t need to rush your ceremony to ‘make sure’ to get your couple photos in before sunset.
It is a personal preference.
Come on, admit it. You always dreamed of walking down the aisle. You always waited for that moment where your husband-to-be will see you for the first time. And that thought gives you more butterflies than any other moment of your wedding day.
If that’s the case, don’t think twice and don’t plan for a first look. That’s totally fine! It’s your choice.
We are lucky to be in a time of being okay breaking the rules. Don’t follow what others do if it is not what you are feeling.
Make it something bigger than just first look wedding photos
You can choose to write and read your own personal vows for a special moment together. It can be bigger than just a first look! This is what Jacqueline & Daniel decided to do that morning in March. Think about it as a unique opportunity to strengthen and express the reasons why you love each other.
Here is Jacqueline’s vision of her first look: “from my perspective, a big pro of the first look was that it created an intimate time and space that was truly “ours” because it was private, unrehearsed, and separate from the broader wedding timeline. The entire wedding flew by so quickly and looking back I am so happy to say that my most vivid and clear memory is indeed the first look. And I personally felt at ease spending the rest of the time during the wedding events with guests who were there to celebrate with us, and wasn’t at all regretful about not having had more private time with just Dan during the wedding.”
During another beautiful wedding in the Tahoe Forest area last year, Michelle & Matt did not want to have a first look. Better than seeing each other, they wanted to feel each other and did “a first touch”. For another wedding, the groom played guitar and sang a song to her bride without seeing each other. What a special memory for them!
Don’t limit a first look to just what you see. Make it yours. Make it unforgettable and meaningful, marking the beginning of this fantastic journey together.
Photographer: Sebastien Bicard Photography
Jacqueline Wedding Dress: Galia Lahav
Jacqueline & Daniel Venue: The Mountain Terrace
Michelle Wedding Dress: Essense of Australia | Bride to be Couture
Michelle & Matt Wedding Venue: Mitchell’s Meadows, Tahoe California