As an engagement and wedding photographer, it has been so amazing to go through the whole engagement/wedding process myself.  It gives me total insight into what my clients are going through and feeling, and I think it’s actually made me a better photographer.  As much as I wanted to relate to my brides before, there was no way I could really know what it felt like, because I hadn’t yet been a bride.  But now that I’m on the otherside, I really think it will help me connect on a different level with my clients.

Yesterday I briefly mentioned that I think all couples should do a first look, and I want to talk about why I feel that way in a little more detail today.

There is this person inside of me who really likes tradition.  I wouldn’t call myself a traditional person on the whole, but there are bits that are traditional.  I like holiday traditions, for example.  I like it when there are certain things we do at Thanksgiving or Christmas that are the same every year… getting up early to watch the Macy’s Parade or being allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve before bed.  So there were certain things that when it came to our wedding, I was actually somewhat traditional about, because it was a tie to all the brides that came before me.  My father walked me down the aisle… I had my something old/new/borrowed/blue… and I didn’t think I would want to see John before the ceremony, among other things.  Man, am I glad I changed my mind about that last one.

I realized pretty early on in talking to our photographers and my photographer friends that in order to get the pictures we really wanted, we were probably going to have to see each other before the ceremony, and so I had resigned myself to it.  I felt a little sad… I thought it would make my walk down the aisle a little less emotional.  But – aside from actually marrying John – the photography was by far the most important thing to us that day, and we were willing to do whatever we had to do.

If we had waited until after the ceremony, it would have been dark already, and we would have lost that gorgeous, pre-sunset golden light that I wanted in our pictures so badly.  We also wouldn’t get to spend our cocktail hour with our guests.  We weren’t doing a receiving line or anything like that, and John and I were really looking forward to taking our cocktail hour to go around to as many of our guests as possible and chat.

The day of our wedding… A LOT of things went wrong.  Nothing totally insane, but a lot of little things, and I was starting to get anxious about whether it would all actually come together… in the way we wanted, at least.  This is a HORRIBLE analogy, but it was like I lost control of a plane, and I didn’t have my co-pilot to help me.  There was only one person who could make me feel better about all the stupid little things going wrong.

(A side note: None of this is to say that I wasn’t deliriously happy the morning of my wedding… I definitely was, especially once my bridal brigade arrived at my apartment.  But I had a lot on my plate that day, and some of it just wasn’t working out the way I’d hoped.  Does any of that matter now?  Nope.  Did any of it really matter then?  Nope.  Wish someone would have told me that!)

When we arrived at our venue, our photographer led me to the spot her husband, our other photographer, had picked out for the first look.  I walked up and tapped John on the shoulder, and when he turned around… everything was perfect.  All those little problems were gone, along with my nervousness.  In that moment, I didn’t care about tradition, I was so unbelievably happy to be seeing John just then.  I knew all those other things didn’t matter, because in an hour we’d be married.  That was the only thing that mattered.

Our First Look was – aside from a few minutes immediately following the ceremony – the only time John and I had alone all day.  I can’t tell you how precious that hour was for that reason alone.  It brought the focus back where it needed to be: the only thing this day was really about was the awesome commitment we were making to each other.

Later, as I waited to walk down the aisle, I was actually giggling.  The anxiousness I felt was gone.  I was just ready to get hitched!  Seeing John before the walk down the aisle helped me be present in that moment so much more, because I wasn’t thinking about how nervous I was; he had made me feel better.  I was just EXCITED.  And as I rounded the corner and John came into view, I can tell you… there was no less emotion because we had seen each other already.  I think because the anxiousness was gone, we both felt the magnitude of that moment, and were able to savor it so much more.

Later, drinking wine with our guests during cocktail hour, actually getting to taste all our yummy h’ors d’oeuvres… I was SO thankful we weren’t off taking pictures and missing what turned out to be some of my favorite moments from the day.  I know it’s hard to give up tradition, but the First Look is quickly becoming a new tradition I think.  It was the best part of my wedding day – that moment John turned around and saw me for the first time.  And I didn’t have to share it with anyone else.  It’s a memory that only John and I will share, which is kind of special.

A First Look is a personal choice, and obviously I would never push any of my brides and grooms into it if it wasn’t what they really wanted.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to weddings and photography.  I just wanted to share my experience with you, and encourage you to at least consider it.  I promise it won’t take away from the gravity of your walk down the aisle.  Infact, I really think it only enhances that moment.

So… tell me, would you consider a First Look?  If you had one, would you do it again?

And because every post needs a picture – and I don’t have my wedding pictures back yet, of course – here is one of my favorite photographs from our Photobooth!  That’s my maid of honor I’m smothering.  Ahhh…. best day EVER!