A Case for the First Look | The JayLee M.O.

One of my favorite things about being a photographer is that the clients we get to work with choose us out of a massive pool of our competition because they connect with our images and they connect with us as people. A great perk of the latter connection is that we tend to see eye-to-eye on most things creative, practical and logistical, with the exception of one pretty big issue: The First Look.

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The wedding industry as a whole is pretty messed up, showing you tons and tons of lists of things you’re “expected” to do, and ways you’re supposed to look and behave and feel.  Luckily, we’ve been excited to see more and more couples moving away from traditions that don’t make sense to them and toward a Love Celebration that’s uniquely them. The First Look, though, seems to be the one tradition that pulls at our heartstrings just enough to keep us from wanting to do it any other way. We’ve heard couples upon couples talk about the joy, excitement and suspense of seeing their soon-to-be spouse for the first time as they walk down the aisle. They tell us they appreciate our input, but have resolved this is how they wanna do it. And you know what? We’re pretty rad, and we want you to have your day the way you want to have it. So, whether you do The First Look or not, we’re there to snap every moment of it, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you the three main reasons you should seriously consider doing The First Look instead. So here we go…

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1. A Groom’s Perspective: As you may or may not have heard, we just got hitched back in June and I finally had the opportunity to experience the other side of the wedding process for myself. I really thought I had it all figured out, having seen tons of weddings up to this point, but nothing prepares you for all the emotion and excitement that’s flowing on that day… not even a couple hundred weddings. The one area I WAS fortunate enough to have experienced a day like this before, though, was making the decision about The First Look.

Ali’s walk down the aisle was a total blur. I was nervously trying to keep from locking my knees while smiling one of those huge, uncontrollable smiles and she was keeping step with her dad as tons of folks were starting at the two of us. Then she got to the end of the aisle, my dad (the officiant) said some stuff, then her dad said some stuff, and then we were standing next to each other. That is, quite literally, my memory of the aisle walk. We didn’t touch. We didn’t embrace. We didn’t talk or kiss or do anything but stare at each other and smile. And that’s awesome. BUT…

I VIVIDLY remember our first look. Ali stood behind me at the top of a short flight of stairs while our photographers drug out the moment. I could hear her talking and laughing, I could smell her amazing perfume, and the anticipation was just about killing me. I hadn’t seen a hint of what she was doing with her hair, her makeup, or what her dress looked like. I had no idea what to expect and every bone in my body wanted to spin around and take it all in. And yet I had to stand there losing my mind waiting for the official ‘Go!’. And then it came. And she walked down the steps and I turned to see her. We held each other and kissed a lot. We laughed. I gasped at how stunning she was. And we just stood there, quietly together with no one else around, sharing such an intimate and awesome moment.

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2. A Guest’s Perspective: The one thing that ties every wedding guest together is the couple getting hitched, and while even we in our wedding planning believed that they could all find some other common bond that would help them interact in our absence, the truth is that receptions can often feel a lot like high school. Mom’s family is in this corner while your work friends are at the bar. Your grandparents are sitting with your Dad’s family and your lifelong friends are dancing together. The people they ALL want to hang out with, though, are the two of you. We found that out after we took a very short (~20 min) limo ride from our ceremony to decompress and savor the moment before delving back into the family/friend craziness at our reception. We returned and were bombarded with greetings, hugs, encouragements and stories from every guest within seconds of arriving  back at the venue. And that was 20 minutes of missing us.

When we are shooting a wedding that’s utilizing The First Look, we always allocate a decent amount of time for photos (more on that to come in point #3). When we shoot a wedding that DOESN’T utilize The First Look, we also insist on having the same amount of time with you, your wedding party and families, but we very rarely end up getting that much time. Not only are the two of you probably emotionally exhausted from such an awesome ceremony, but you’re probably hungry or in need of a good drink. Also, you know way in the back of your mind that there are a ton of people back at the reception just waiting for you to show up so they can love on you. Sure, you may distract them for a bit with cocktails or hors d’oeuvres, but at some point they will realize that the reason for the party still isn’t in their midst, and it’s not beyond hungry, emotional people to get a little flustered. Especially if they have to wait 1-2 hours for you to come back. And the last thing you two, in all your wedded blissfullness want, is to walk into a room full of flustered family and friends.

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3. The Photographer’s Perspective: The last people whose opinions you should be concerned with on your wedding day is ours. We’re just gonna get that out of the way now. We don’t want you to make a single decision based on whether or not it’s what we think you should do. Your wedding is about you two and your marriage, not the vendors you’re hiring to help on that day.

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That said, after your marriage itself, your photos are the most important part of your wedding to us. That’s why we set up the photo schedule in the way we do. With all the potential stress and chaos on the day of your wedding, we use your time together during “formals” to calm you down and let you focus on the love that brought you two together. And that’s how we get those fantastically romantic, in-the-moment images you fall in love with. We don’t rush through the snapping, cranking out the “formals” in 10 minutes, but we really let you marinate in the power of the day and your relationship and just sit back to document it all.

Anticipation is a hard emotion to fake or recreate, and while there’s plenty of emotion a-flowin’ right after the ceremony wraps up, there’s just something about the look in your eyes mere hours before you make the biggest commitment of your life to the person you love.  While we believe the photos you will be ‘ooh’ing and ‘aah’ing over will be of all of the tiny-yet-powerful moments of the day, the ones that you will frame, hang, or set as your computer or phone desktop will be those photos… the ones of just you two, crazy in love, savoring the moment.

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While every person’s experience will be different, the circumstances around The First Look and the aisle walk are very much the same each time. We hear the same stories and feelings, and we have never once had a couple tell us they wish they would have waited to see each other until the wedding instead of doing The First Look. With that in mind, do whatever you want. Don’t let us tell you how to run your day. The most important thing is that on this day you two are SO  in love, amongst family and friends, and celebrating. Everything else is just details.


Posted in: JayLee M.O., Weddings

2 Responses


  1. Richard
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with this. It is such a calming and centering moment in the middle of your wedding day to be able to see one another and just one another. HOwever, you can reserve certain things for that moment in front of everyone. For example when we did our first look I wouldn’t kiss my wife for the simple fact that I wanted that to be saved for the declaration of you may now kiss the bride, and the anticipation as a result of that is heightened that much more because you want to kiss her but you can’t. My wife and I love the pictures from our first look, and we love reminiscing on the memories of the moment. Thank You JayLee

  2. Paula
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I sure wish we would have had the First Look option when we got married! Well written!

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