The First Look: Stories From Real Couples

For Brides

Over the past few years, I have had more and more couples choose to do a First Look and they all have had such amazing experiences that I decided to ask a few of them to share their experience with all of you! While I can explain all the benefits of a First Look and why I love them as a photographer, (and I have written about them many times before), I have not experienced one as a bride yet. This is why I am so excited to share these stories from several of my couples who chose a First Look. There is something about hearing someone else’s lived experience that is so powerful and beautiful! 

Grace & Michael 

From the Bride: 

“When we first decided to work with Mary Kate for our wedding day, she asked us if we wanted to do a first look, and we said no! However, after thinking about it a little more, and reading about other couple’s experiences, we changed our minds- and it was the best decision we could have made! 

Doing the first look before walking down the aisle took away all of my nerves that had been building up throughout the day and allowed me to walk towards my soon-to-be husband with nothing but joy. I was so excited to do the first look because I couldn’t wait to see Michael. I know typically the bride walks up to the groom and he doesn’t see her until she taps him on the shoulder and turns around; however, I didn’t want to see him either! So Mary Kate let me keep my eyes closed until we were both ready for the big reveal. With my eyes closed, she led me over to Michael, had us face one another, and put my hand in his. She counted down for the two of us to reveal our first look- for the both of us! It was such a beautiful moment to be able to open our eyes and see each other at exactly the same time. 

I remember instantly being taken aback and I just started laughing the second I saw him- I couldn’t get over how excited I was, so it came out as laughter instead of tears! I remember being so happy I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing the whole time we were together before the ceremony- I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. The first look was such a wonderful way to relax, pray, and simply be together before the rest of the day began. The whole experience of the first look was so much fun and allowed me to get out any nerves, enjoy a moment of peace with Michael, and prepare myself for everything that was ahead. I am forever thankful we changed our minds and decided to do a first look.” 

From the Groom: 

“I loved the first look experience because I could express myself fully when I first saw my bride and all of her glowing beauty. It was so special being able to see her and be with her before being with everybody inside the church. The First Look experience was also nice because it took a lot of pressure off of seeing her walk down the aisle for the first time and it definitely helped calm my nerves by being able to talk to her before going inside the church. I don’t think it took anything out of the moment I saw her walk down the aisle. The First Look was a time of pure joy, excitement, and awe at one another before joining together as husband and wife.  I was definitely nervous to decide to do it because I thought that it might take away from the moment I saw her walk down the aisle, but it really didn’t. If anything, it made it more special being able to talk and share our emotions minutes before because I think it made both of us a lot more at ease and we were able to enter into every second of the Ceremony. I do not have any regrets at all about deciding to do the First Look.” 

Maggie & Seth

From the Bride: 

“I was on the fence about doing a first look. There was something romantic about Seth seeing me for the first time as I was walking down the aisle, and I wanted that moment. However, after talking about it with Seth, I realized that doing a first look would fit our personalities perfectly. I love emotional reactions, Seth loves privacy; I love tender moments, and Seth loves the one-on-one aspect of those tender moments. We decided to do a first look so that we could have a moment between the two of us that would be free of other distractions (like people with their iphone cameras out, etc.) and totally ours

After getting ready all morning, getting into my wedding dress, and feeling utterly beautiful, all I wanted was to see Seth and have that moment! And we were right; it was perfect. Free from the pressure of having a certain “reaction,” we were able to cry, laugh, embrace, and soak in that time together. It was like a mini-celebration right before getting married, and the best part for me was being able to see Seth be perfectly himself when he saw me for the first time.

One of the other things I loved was that walking down the aisle was something special for me and my dad. Holding his arm and walking down with my father was something that seemed to happen in slow motion, and I was able to be fully present with my dad since I already had that moment with Seth beforehand. I feel like the first look gave me the opportunity to have 2 special moments with the men I love, and I wouldn’t change anything about it! (Except for having more tissues on hand.)

For brides on the fence like I was, I would encourage you to think about if your fiance would feel pressure about having a certain reaction in front of an entire audience the first time he sees you walking down the aisle. I know that Seth would have felt like everyone was looking at him, wanting him to cry or smile, etc, and instead of it being a show for others, our first look was something beautiful that we can look back on as one of the most tender, beautiful and real moments where we were able to see and love each other without any distractions and pressure, and fully react in the moment.” 

From the Groom: 

“I wanted the first look because I thought it would take off some pressure, give me a space to express my emotions privately, and give Maggie and me a moment of privacy before a jam-packed day, and I wasn’t disappointed in any respect. I loved that doing a first look afforded Maggie and me the opportunity to have a special, private moment before spending the rest of the day with our loved ones. Our wedding day, while being one of the best days of my life, was a whirlwind of dancing, talking with friends and family, and all sorts of things.  It’s hard to imagine how it would have been different had I not been able to enjoy a nice repose in the middle of the day with my beloved bride, where we could come up for air, tell each other “I love you,” and just hold one another.

When Maggie walked down the aisle, I was awestruck.  She was beautiful.  I could not stop smiling if I tried. I do not feel that the moment was impoverished in any way simply because it was not the first time I saw her in her wedding dress or something else of the sort.  

For those who are wondering whether a first look is for them, I would just try to use your imagination.  Try and picture your wedding day from start to finish with a first look and without a first look.  If you think the first look brings any sort of benefit to you or your beloved, give it a go.  You won’t be disappointed!” 

Tessa & Zack 

From the Bride:

“I loved our First Look so much! I wasn’t nervous at all about marrying Zack but I was nervous about the big walk down the aisle with everyone looking at me and everyone watching Zack to see how he reacted. But with doing the first look I felt like the pressure was off and I felt calm and confident as I walked down the aisle. It was such an endearing moment to experience the “grand reveal” and see each other all dressed up privately, that moment was all ours! It was just us in the middle of the beautiful grounds and it felt so private, perfect, and as soon as I saw him all my stress melted away and there was just peace and joy. It was wonderful to talk a little to each other about how excited we were to get married in a few hours. We got to hug each other, pray together, laugh together, and ooh and aah all over each other – it was so much fun and a very precious memory of mine from the day. Afterward, Mary Kate took the portraits of just us and it didn’t feel like we were posing at all because we were both so present in the moment and just wanted to kiss, smile at each other, and stare deeply into each other’s eyes and that’s what she wanted pictures of anyway! 

While we were heading to the church there was zero stress and just pure excitement to see each other again at the end of the aisle. Walking down the aisle was still magical and perfect and seeing each other beforehand didn’t take away from that all for me! Seeing my husband in front of the altar waiting for me is also one of my favorite parts of the day. I feel blessed that I got to have two memories of seeing his reactions- one of me in my dress during our first look and the second with me wearing a veil and walking down the aisle to him. I also felt like we were able to enter fully into the Mass instead of trying to talk to each other during it. 

In hindsight, the only thing I would have done differently would be to not hold my flowers during our first look. We both didn’t want to mess them up so we ended up being extra careful. But I have no regrets that we chose a first look, and I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I would 210% recommend doing a first look, getting that one on one time with my future husband before our wedding changed the chaos to calm. Also if you’re like me and are kinda awkward when lots of people are looking at you or are someone who talks a lot and knows that as soon as you see your future husband you will want to ramble on about how amazing they look and hug them a million times, then a first look is probably perfect for you. Our first look was such a blessing and I know it will be for you too, trust me, you will not regret it.

(Also it is an amazing bonus to get to spend even more of the day with each other! We were together for almost 2 hours before the wedding and loved every second.)”

From the Groom: 

“I really appreciated our First Look because it brought me a lot of peace during the stressful part of the day:  We did a lot of our own planning and had to manage a lot of things for our wedding reception on the day of the wedding (lots of setup).  I was getting stressed and anxious about all the small details coming together to make an enjoyable celebration for our guests.  Seeing my bride, Tessa, during the First Look brought me immediate calm.  I knew she was there for me and I was there for her. It calmed my nerves, and I wasn’t nervous at all as I waited for the doors of the chapel to open before my bride walked down the aisle. For that reason alone, I would recommend it to any groom. And no, the First Look did not take away from that moment at all; on the contrary, it made me feel even more ready for it.”

Lauren & Cody

From the Bride: 

“It is true that as a bride you spend your most intimate moments of your wedding day with your photographer- and I could not be more grateful that I got to share those moments with Mary Kate.  The morning of my wedding was chaotic, as I imagine most are, and as I started to get ready to put my dress on my hands began to shake.  Mary Kate was quietly in the corner photographing our wedding details.  I walked over to my dress and looking at her I quietly said, “I am really nervous”.  She instantly put her camera down- completely stopped her work and looked me in the eye and said- “That’s normal, but don’t forget you and I are just going to the church next to see Cody- it will be just you, Him, and the Lord.”  I sighed with relief in remembering our first look and knew this was exactly what I needed- our church, the tabernacle, and my future husband.

When we started our wedding planning, the idea of a first look was something we strongly objected to.  But after a few more conversations, we decided to surrender to Mary Kate’s expertise and allowed her to guide us through a first look experience that kept Christ at the center.  Her wisdom to recommend this part of our day was truly divinely inspired.  It was exactly what we needed that morning to prepare our hearts to enter into the sacrament.  Looking back on our wedding day, our first look is one of the moments that we treasure most and outside of the sacrament, was the most spiritual, intimate, and prayerful part of our wedding day. 

One of our biggest concerns was that walking down the aisle would be less meaningful, but as I tearfully made my way down the aisle clutching to my father’s arm as we approached a very teary-eyed and emotional groom, I knew that our quiet time together earlier that morning only enhanced the reactions we both we experiencing as we saw each other in that moment.  My walk down the aisle was devoid of the shaky hands and anxiety of earlier that morning, as I was emotionally present to Christ, the sacrament, and the man that was about to give his life for me.  I walked down the aisle with a quiet confidence knowing that my groom was there waiting to receive my life, not just see me in a beautiful dress.  The tears my groom shed on the altar were a different and deeper kind of tears than he shed when he saw me during our first look, and my heart was overflowing with love and a new level of emotion as we stood on the altar, face- to-face, about to enter into the sacrament.”

From the Groom: 

“The thought of a first look was not something my bride and I considered.  When the idea was first presented to us by Mary Kate my first initial knee-jerk reaction was, “Thanks but no thanks. I’ll be seeing my bride for the first time standing on the altar.”  I thought having a first look would take away from the moment I always imagined when the church doors would open, and my bride would approach me down the center aisle.  With a stubborn and prideful heart, I took the idea of a first look to prayer.  As I reluctantly sifted through the idea of a first look, I had a change in heart realizing that seeing my beautiful bride and all the details of her dress up close would only enhance the sacrament.

Mary Kate arranged a private First Look experience for us in the empty church the morning before our wedding. Not only was this the church where we were to be married, but also where we first met 2 years ago. I stood alone in silence only for it to be broken by the footsteps of my bride.  The moment she softly called me by name to turn to see her, took me back to when Christ first called me by name to follow him.  As I slowly turned to see Lauren face-to-face, my journey of turning towards Christ was encapsulated in that single moment.  As I faced my bride the morning of our wedding day, I was reminded of how loved I am by my heavenly Father, to have and to hold such a beautiful bride.”


If you are planning your wedding and on the fence about a First Look, I hope this post can help alleviate any hesitation you might have about choosing this newer tradition! 

  1. […] One last thing, if you want to read real life stories about couples who have chosen to do a First Look on their wedding day, be sure to read this blog post! […]

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