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I'm Rachel, your Washington-based elopement photographer. I create affirming spaces for all couples, so that you can have the freedom to be exactly who you are on your elopement day.
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The term “first look” may have come up while you were doing some wedding research. Or you heard someone mention it. Maybe this is the first (…haha) you’re hearing about it.
Either way, the first look has gotten more and more popular over time, and there are several reasons why. (I think it’s a great idea; my partner and I had one at our elopement!) But before we leap into that, let’s back up and start at the beginning:
The “first look” is the first time you see your partner on your wedding day all dressed up. The first time you get to see each other in your wedding clothes, looking like people about to get freaking married. It’s emotional.
Traditionally, the first time someone would see their partner on the wedding day is after they’ve walked down the aisle. Veil goes back, face revealed, the ceremony begins. Etc. Some people still do this, but like I said, more and more couples are choosing to see their partner before the ceremony. And it’s pretty great.
(Side story: that whole “don’t see your partner before the ceremony” thing? One of the origin theories is that this practice goes back to arranged marriages, which were essentially business transactions. The groom (I’m sorry, let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that LGBTQ couples could marry back then) wouldn’t be allowed to see the bride until they were both at the altar, just in case he wasn’t into her. At that point, it was “too late to back out.” Weird how we kept that tradition, huh…?)
There are some great reasons to have a first look (even if you don’t include making a rude hand gesture at the patriarchy and its historical bullshit).
For starters, you get more time with your partner on your wedding day! Let’s say you have an afternoon ceremony, at 3 pm. That means that the majority of your wedding day will be spent…without your partner. Not ideal. Having a first look means you get to spend more time soaking it all in together.
If you’re inviting guests to your wedding and not eloping solo, having a first look means you have more time for portraits and group photos. This means you don’t have to take them after the ceremony like everyone else; you can go straight to your post-ceremony celebration.
Whether you’re eloping or not, the first look is an incredible stress reliever. Wedding days get emotional! The jitters happen to almost everyone, even if you are over-the-freaking-moon excited. It’s a big deal, this getting married lark. Getting to see your partner and relax with them is huge. Highly highly recommend doing this, and doing it early in the day.
Some couples just don’t want to do a first look. They want to see each other for the first time during their ceremony. That’s perfectly fine.
Another reason why couples don’t want a first look is that they want to get ready together. They want to be together all day and help each other into their wedding clothes and enjoy that as an entire experience. Which is also perfect. (Do you see where I’m going with this? Do whatever you want. Truly.)
Social media is weird, isn’t it? If you’ve seen a series of photos from a first look, you might have an idea in your head about what yours is going to look like. We all do it; can’t be helped. But let’s manage some expectations here, ok? For starters, not everyone is a happy crier! Not everyone is going to break down and lose their shit during a first look. I cry when I see dogs (and 10,000 other reasons), but I only teared up a little right after our first look when we were reading our vows. My partner actually did get a bit watery, which is not normal for him, but we mostly smiled and laughed. And it was still perfect. I stopped paying attention to literally everything else. It was just us. I’m glad we have photos of that moment because I barely knew what was happening.
And the ceremony? Still freaking magical! Still emotional! Having a first look doesn’t take away from that.
TLDR: just because your partner doesn’t cry at some point on your wedding day doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Even if you think you know how someone (or you) will react, you honestly can’t predict it. Just roll with whatever happens, whatever you’re feeling. And if you do a first look, you have the total freedom to do that.
Send me a message if you want to chat about your own wedding day! I build custom timelines for all of my couples, with or without a first look xx