The First Look : Groom’s Perspective

When I got this idea, I had no idea I'd get such a heartfelt response. Seriously. People often ask me why I encourage my clients to see each other before the ceremony and how so many of my clients agree to do it. To be honest, when I meet with clients I simply suggest this idea, share my personal experience, then let the matter rest. I do not push the subject and the clients are free to make any decision they like.

I was contacted by and they asked to feature one of my pictures along with a story they were writing about grooms seeing the wedding dress before the ceremony…what an honor! You can read the entire article here.

I've been thinking about how I could sit here and talk about the benefits of a First Look, but that may sound selfish. Clearly photographers prefer a First Look, but how do the clients feel? Furthermore, what's the groom's reaction to such a special moment? Well, I took the liberty to ask a few of my 2009 grooms and here are their responses. And, yes, after reading these comments you'll realize I have absolutely spectacular clients. Seriously.

Steven + Alicia (‘Ala') : Wedding : Villa Del Sol D'Oro Sierra Madre
I have to admit, I had mixed emotions when I was asked to write a piece in response to my experiences from our wedding. So much emphasis is placed on the bride and her experiences, that the ongoing joke is that the groom just rolls out of bed and finds himself at the altar. With that being said, I am happy that someone has taken the time to consider the grooms perspective. From the beginning, I wanted to be involved in our wedding, since I would forever cherish the planning and memories made along the way. This helps understand why the first look was so exciting for me personally.
For 20 months, my soon to be wife and I planned all of the details of this one special day. We made the firm stance from day one that we did not want the average cookie cutter wedding. We wanted every aspect to have some form of detail which could only be described as “Us”. During our engagement, we only got the opportunity to see things on paper, in the form of diagrams, sketches and pictures. Not having the supreme foresight of how all of this would come together gave rise to such a high level of excitement and anticipation that lasted up to the moment Jasmine Star stood in front of me and said, “Okay, now turn around and see Ala!”.
Having the opportunity to see Ala during our “First Look” was one of the most special moments from our wedding. I personally like to think of it as two little kids sneaking downstairs on christmas eve to see how big the gifts are underneath the tree and then sneaking back upstairs before you get caught by your parents. And, this analogy is definitely our style. I was pleased at the opportunity to get to spend intimate time with my soon to be wife. If anything this was our first true ceremony. It was a private time for us to share our excitement with each other, there was no pressure from family or guests, there was no particular place to stand, and probably the greatest part of all was that all of the reactions were genuine.
I am fully aware of the “Tradition” of not seeing bride prior to the wedding, but in our circumstance, we wanted to make our own tradition. When I got to see Ala for the first time, she looked absolutely amazing! My continued reaction during the first look was not just smiling, but genuine joy and laughter. Because that's what we do, we laugh at everything. Having her walk down the aisle, which was just as special, was just the cue to let me know that our wedding was now happening. In my opinion, having a first look is a fantastic option to have. I do not feel in any way that seeing her before the wedding took away from the rest of the day. If anything, I think the opposite. I believe that the first look set the tone for the rest of the day. Having this opportunity gave us time to calm some of the butterflies within ourselves, and it also allowed us to look each other in the eyes with no one else around. I would not trade this experience for anything.

Donald + Damaris : Wedding : Vibiana Los Angeles
The first look was great, but there was so much happening that day, and in that moment, it was hard to really know what I was feeling. We had our families watching, and I knew everyone was expecting something special between us. It was special, but it was the two of us on display for all of them.
Her walk down the aisle, arm in arm with her dad and wearing that stunning dress, was spectacular. But it was another moment when it was nearly impossible for me to sort out my own emotions. I knew there was a camera on me. I could see people glance back toward me. Over the years I had heard everyone talk about “What's going through the groom's mind?”
There were other moments that I felt were truly ours, moments I felt like only we shared that I'll never forget. Damaris' vows were the greatest words she's ever spoken to me. In the 10 mins we had to ourselves after the ceremony, she relaxed across a couch in the groom's prep room and I was blown away to see and realize I'd just married the most beautiful, special woman God has ever created. And on our wedding night, when I was the one to unzip her wedding dress and kiss her soft shoulders, I was quite sure I was drowning in more love than I could handle.
I do believe that our first look was the right choice for us, for one main reason: Scheduling the first look before the ceremony helped create a wedding day that was far less stressful, and therefore filled with more meaningful moments between the two of us and our families. There is no way that seeing Damaris walk down the aisle could ever be anything but spectacular. But without the first look our day would have been far more hectic and stressful for us and everyone else involved.

D.J. + Emily : Wedding : Montage Laguna Beach
So I hear you want some insight into what my thoughts were on the Big day? Well, thanks to the destination wedding I was lucky enough to be poolside for majority of the afternoon. I was accompanied by my best friend and his family which kept me busy for awhile. I don't recall being nervous or anxious. I was in a great mood all day and if there was any bit of angst it was the eagerness to see my beautiful bride walk down the aisle. I kept trying to seize the moment as I knew this was a day wed look back upon for decades to come. The days leading up to the wedding I specifically recall having some thoughts concerning what condition I'll be like the day of. I was curious to whether I'd be nervous, excited, eager or just a blending of the 3. I can safely say I had little nerves, great eagerness and a plenty of excitement. I must say with the help of you and J.D. the day went even smoother. I was a little apprehensive about a lengthy photo session prior to the ceremony but you guys did an unbelievable job of making it fun which made time go by quickly. Once again, thank you so much.

Robert + Marisa : Wedding : Hotel Bel Air
Before I was engaged, I had never even entertained the idea of how I would think or feel about seeing my future bride to be before the ceremony of my wedding. After meeting with you, although open minded, I was still very apprehensive about seeing Marisa before the ceremony; only because even though I had never thought about the logistics behind the actual wedding/photography side of things, I knew, no matter what, it had to be special. After careful consideration, we decided to see each other before the wedding. Seeing Marisa before the wedding was the best decision we could have made. I hoped that seeing her prior wouldn't take away that special feeling of watching her walk down the aisle. It sure didn't.. In fact, if I hadn't seen her beforehand, there is no way I would have been able to make it through the ceremony without completely losing it. You and JD made the “first look” so special, out of everything I took away from that day, that to me, was the most memorable. Being able to share that moment with my fiancee, without 130 people watching was incredible.
I truly believe that if we hadn't done our first look before the ceremony, we wouldn't have been able to get the photos we did. Also, it didn't change the feeling of watching my beautiful bride walk down the isle. Oh, it also alleviated me from being a crying mess. 🙂

Jelani + Cynthia : Wedding : Ebell Club
I must admit that, being the traditionalist that I am, I was VERY skeptical about seeing Cynthia prior to the ceremony. Why would I want to ruin such a moment for the sake of a picture? When Jasmine initially suggested the idea, I really had to think about it. And after long consideration, and perhaps a little tugging and pulling from my now wife, I was finally swayed to do what we once thought was the unthinkable but now see as one of the best decisions to have our first-look prior to the ceremony. In coming to this decision, I quickly realized that there are certain aspects that are incredibly easy to overlook, more so after having gone through the experience.
The first-look prior to the ceremony and the first-look during the ceremony are completely independent experiences. My reaction to seeing Cynthia prior to the ceremony was such a private and personal moment that nobody can share with us, except us. Even with Jasmine in the room (and nobody else), at that moment, everything faded away and nothing else in the world existed or mattered except the person that was standing before me. Instead of having to wait until after the ceremony to tell her how beautiful she looked, I could tell her as the thoughts and words formed in my mind to express what I was thinking.
After sharing that special and private moment of the first-look, then spending a good hour together taking pictures, joking around with your wedding party, waving off family members who want to say hello instead of just walking into the venue, or perhaps chasing down one of the ring bearers because he can't sit still, you'd think that that moment of the first-look during the ceremony would have faded away and that you'd be numb to it during the ceremony. Nothing could be further from the truth. Where the first-look prior to the ceremony was a private affair with no outside intrusions, now you have external elements that you and your future wife have specifically planned for to make that moment special.
The final realization I needed to be reminded of is that we had an amazing photographer who also happens to be a dear friend of ours. In selecting your wedding photographer, chances are you've laboriously done the research. You've gone online, read the blogs, looked at engagement and wedding photos, and perhaps even met up with a handful of photographers at a Starbucks to make sure personalities matched. This is a long and arduous process. Once you've finally selected that person, you have to give yourself the credit due and have faith in your decision. There has to be a high level of comfort and trust when it comes to letting his/her creative juices flow. So when he/she suggests doing a first-look prior to the ceremony, take comfort in knowing that its been done before, that it hasn't ruined any previous weddings, that it will NOT ruin yours, and more importantly, that it may be one of the best wedding decisions you make.

Steven + Stephanie : Wedding : DC Ranch
I feel so honored and would love to answer your question about how I felt about seeing Stephanie before the ceremony. In all honesty, I did initially want to wait until the ceremony to see her because I wanted my emotions and feelings to be completely expressed in that moment with everyone to see. I truly wanted the guests to get an insight into how I truly felt and how much I loved Stephanie. I don't mean to say that my feelings wouldn't of been shown if I had seen her before, but I did feel that it may take away from some of that emotion. And in the end, I was so glad that we saw each other before for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was completely wrong in how I would feel at the ceremony after seeing her. I was just as or even more emotionally tied into her and the entire ceremony than I ever would have been. Secondly, it was really special to share a private first look with her before the ceremony. I really enjoyed that I had the time to visit with her right then and there for that first look (I wouldn't be able to do this standing at the altar). Thirdly, I felt that I had the chance to really take in the entire ceremony and enjoy that special time with my wife. Fourthly, the first look gave us the opportunity to have time for so many more pictures without feeling rushed. We had time to take pictures both before and after the ceremony by choosing to do a first look. And pictures were obviously the most important thing to us.

Steven, Donald, D.J. Robert, Jelani, and Stephen….THANK YOU for sharing your personal experience with my blog readers and future brides. I know your words and perspectives will change the way future couples approach their wedding and I appreciate your time greatly. Love you guys! xoxo…j*