I think the first time I heard about a First Look was from Sabrina, and it was probably early on when we started dating. I quickly understood it was a pretty big deal. Up until that point I only knew of the traditional, “DON’T SEE EACH OTHER THE DAY OF YOUR WEDDING!”, and I was fine with that – it was all I knew.
I think about our wedding day and imagine it without a First Look. I would have woken up that morning, gotten ready with the boys, sweated it out until it was time to start the ceremony and then see my bride, for the first time that day, coming down the aisle to marry me. I can’t talk to her, can’t stare at her (I think that would have weirded everyone out), can’t calm my nerves by just being together and relaxing. The first words I get to say to her are my vows, which I’m already going to stumble through between tears and sniffles. The ceremony ends and we prance down the aisle, very happy, very relieved, but not nearly done with the day. Picture time – we get to talk a bit, but that’s hard to do when the photog wants you to be smiling nice and pretty. More pictures, because we didn’t do those before the ceremony. Next up – the Reception. The ride over provides some down time and allows us to talk about how exciting it’s all been and to catch up from not seeing each other all day. Once we get to the reception though, it’s back to wedding mode and we’re talking to some, thanking others, hugging, pictures, talking, cake, toasts, seeing old friends, even more talking…and it’s time to go. It’s been fun, but I feel like I haven’t really seen or connected with my fiancée (now wife) on our wedding day.
That is how I imagine our day would have gone, but it didn’t.
I wake up that chilly Saturday morning in November with not nearly enough sleep, throw together some last minute preparations for the reception and honeymoon, and I’m off to the church to get ready. I get to enjoy hanging out with my groomsmen (or the Groomal party as we like to call it) as we get ready. Jokes are made, laughs are had, pictures are taken, and then it’s time to see my girl. My best man and I, along with one of our photographers pile into a car and drive to the First Look location. Once there, I’m led down to where we would meet. My back is to Sabrina as she comes towards me. I still haven’t seen her, but I know she’s close as others help her across the cobble stone bridge. I’m nervous and a little cold, which does not help with the jitters, but very excited. I just saw her the night before, but it feels like a very long time since we’ve been together. I hear birds chirping, cameras snapping, water gurgling, and steps close by…
She lays a hand on my shoulder and I turn around to see my gorgeous girl in a beautiful white dress absolutely beaming at me. The world blurs around us, it gets quiet – all I can see or hear is her. We cry, we talk, we laugh, we shiver, we connect. It feels like an anchor point in a whirlwind of a day.
I didn’t realize beforehand how helpful it would be to see each other, to do a First Look. It grounded me. We got to say, “Hey, this is it. We made it. I’m so happy I get to marry you today!” And seeing each other before the ceremony didn’t stop me from crying as I watched my bride walk down the aisle… it didn’t take away from that very special moment.
Since I have the privilege of shooting weddings with Sabrina, I also get to experience the First Look from behind the camera. Sabrina captures the bride as she approaches and I capture the groom as he waits. I really enjoy capturing his anticipation, nerves, and excitement – at least as much excitement as we men can put out there.
I’ve seen guys who cry, can’t stop smiling, tremble a little, can’t stop talking, and just plain ready to see their beautiful bride. It’s so much fun to watch the couple be so excited to see each other and to have finally arrived at this long awaited day. Capturing that emotion is a real pleasure. As a photographer on a wedding day, you just don’t have another opportunity to get that same kind of genuine emotion and reaction.