I’m a photographer based in Houston, TX that specializes in sophisticated wedding and high school senior photography.
Let’s talk all about a first look! When I first started shooting weddings, I really was more of a “traditional” guy: grooms should see their bride for the first time when she walks down the aisle. It seemed that was what many brides were doing and well, it is what my parents and grandparents did when they got married, and their stories are so inspiring. But then I experienced a shift. Brides were moving toward first looks and I saw what transpired.
Confession: Now I am a huge fan of first looks! First looks have become my favorite part of the wedding day! Stay with me here while I explain all about a first look and the benefits of this romantic tradition.
Some brides love “traditions”, but what a bride REALLY wants when it comes to her groom seeing her for the first time, is a REACTION. Those who are not interested in a first look usually think that by seeing each other beforehand, they will lose part of that reaction. They also assume that it will not be as emotional or as intimate as it would be if they were coming down the aisle. What I have found (this is starting to sound like a research paper!) is so ironic!
Everyone knows that wedding days are a bit stressful for the bride and groom. The whole day is focused on them: they need to be on time, they need to look their best and the groom has no idea what side the boutonniere is supposed to go on. Little by little the tension grows. Just before the ceremony the gravity of what is about to happen starts to sink in and the calm, collected groom is now starting to feel a little anxious.
The groom waits in a little room for his cue from the coordinator. It seems like it’s taking FOREVER. Finally, the coordinator leans her head in and hurries the groom to get ready. With clammy hands, the groom enters the ceremony and what does he find? He finds anywhere from 80-250+ people sitting there and they’re all looking where? Right at his face, because everyone has expectations and anticipation about his first reaction. This is the farthest thing from a private, intimate moment. Sure, it’s SO powerful and SO wonderful, but it is so much pressure.
For most grooms, the nerves kick in before they see their bride because when they see her, everything becomes VERY real! So when the nerves start creeping up, instead of keeping the groom in a secluded space until his time to enter the ceremony, what if you took him to a private place… no people, no on-lookers, no distractions…. and you let his beautiful bride, the love of his life, quietly call his name and have him turn around to see her for the first time. He would turn around and finally get his first look at his stunning bride and not only would he get to see her… he could embrace her… cry with her…. kiss her… and ENJOY that moment with her for as LONG as they wanted. As she shows him her dress, twirls a few times and then asks him what he thinks… his nerves start to diminish. After all, she’s the one who can make him most comfortable anyway.
The happy couple is not on a time crunch (because we built the first look into their timeline) so they casually move into their romantic portraits. No one is around, the coordinator isn’t announcing “15 minutes left”, and there is no pressure. It’s just the two of them and their photographer….. capturing the excitement and the joy of their wedding day. This is their time to be TOGETHER…and to be ALONE.
Without a first look…. it doesn’t. After their romantic portraits are done, they meet up with their best friends. Their bridal party joins them and because they still have plenty of time to spare, the bride touches up a little makeup while the boys act like boys. Then the bridal party portraits begin and they are FUN. They are FUN, because there is time to make them FUN. There aren’t any guests waiting impatiently at the cocktail hour and there isn’t a DJ coming to find the photographer to get a time check. It’s the most wonderful time!
After portraits are done, the girls and guys separate and prepare for the ceremony. The guests begin to arrive and the ushers are in place. Pretty soon it’s time for the processional music to begin and one by one, the bridesmaids make their way down to the front of the ceremony. The groom clasps his hands because he is excited, not because he is nervous. The music builds, the mother of the bride stands and all of the guests follow her lead. The groom looks up, and here comes the BRIDE!!! His best friend, his companion, his sweetheart…..she’s stunning…. Absolutely stunning. The closer she gets, the bigger he smiles. And a lot of time, even though the groom cried during the first look, he will cry again! So don’t think you lose the magic when the groom sees you for the second time, because you don’t!
My clients are not required to do a first look by any means! I never want to push anything onto my couples, but I do want to share all the options. I only share this because I have seen the results from a first look and I want the BEST for my couples!! If doing a first look is not your thing, it is totally okay! The RGP team will still capture every special moment from your big day. Whatever your preference, maybe a first touch is more your style, l will create a special timeline just for you that will fit everything in!
You’re investing a lot into your wedding photography. With a first look, you’ll receive 40% MORE portraits of the two of you… and those are the images you will decorate your first home with! With a first look, you make the most out of this large investment and get the most for your money.
You actually get to have intimate time on your wedding day with your man. Most brides don’t realize that when you come down the aisle and totally SHOCK him with your gorgeousness, he can’t even tell you how amazing you look. He can’t touch you, embrace you or even SPEAK to you. You have to wait until 30 minutes later when the ceremony is over for him to react and tell you how amazing you look. And after 30 minutes of the ceremony, the reaction isn’t the same as the initial first glance.
first looks allow you to be TOGETHER and alone on your wedding day. It is your time to be intimate with one another, and it is your only time to be alone the whole day! The raw emotion, the tears, the joy and laughter during this moment will put you in the perfect mood for your romantic portraits. Normally portraits are a little rushed after the family formals, and it can be hard to really get back into that “lovey dovey” mode, especially with family around! When you have just shared your first look, you’re READY to love on each other, and I always capture some super sweet images during those moments!
Bride’s, if you have never seen your man cry or get emotional, you can’t expect him to be overly emotional on your wedding day. Some guys just embrace their brides and never cry…. and that’s OK. Some guys show very little emotion when their bride is coming down the aisle and that’s ok too. Just enjoy this amazing day, and try not to put any expectations on him. If you take this advice to heart, I could potentially be saving you a lot of disappointment on your day. After shooting so many weddings, one thing I have noticed is that the stress and nerves that come with a wedding day can sometimes make it hard for some grooms to truly express their emotions. It’s just a lot to take in all at once. This is a great reason to share a first look and also a great reason to give some grace to your guy! Sure, you deserve to feel beautiful, but my encouragement to you is to enjoy this time together, no matter what his reaction is like!
So there you have it – all about a first look. All the reasons why I love a first look and why you should consider it. But don’t forget, it is not a requirement! You do you! Trust that the RGP team will capture every emotional exchange between you and your groom during your wedding day!
Reed Gallagher is a Houston photographer for the elegant bride + chic senior, an educator for the driven photographer, and queso obsessed biz owner.