First Look

Wedding Ideas and Planning Tips from Industry Professionals here at Ybarra Events

Wedding planners are more than just event planners. We're designers, problem-solvers, coordinators, budgeteers, part-time therapists, and friends to the couples and families who are entrusting us to help them with their events. Since we're on friendly terms now, here are some tips and tricks to the trade of navigating wedding planning! 

The First Look: Is it right for you?

updated: 02-17-2020

When it comes to weddings there are quite a few traditions from all around the world, both big and small. Almost every culture has the exchanging of vows, and, of course, there is the wedding dress. The bridal shower is an age-old tradition, to give the bride some last-minute support from her closest friends. And don’t forget the all-important ‘stag party’, a tradition that started, in all places, on the Greek Isle of Sparta! From ‘something old and something new’ to the ring finger, wedding cake and best man, weddings and traditions go together like me and wedding cake! Some are fun and frivolous, some are meaningful heartfelt, but all of them make up what we call today’s modern wedding. One of the most beautiful things about weddings are the traditions, being handed down, generation after generation, combining with new cultures, blending and becoming something new an beautiful. 

Sometimes there are traditions that fade away to make room for new traditions. One tradition in particular, is steeped in superstition, and supposedly brings ‘bad luck’ to the couple-to-be (if you believe in that sort of thing). This tradition, of course, is that the groom can’t see his blushing bride on their wedding day. At least, not until she arrives at the church and walks towards him down the aisle. More and more couples are having a First Look in lue of not seeing each other before the ceremony. What is this First Look I speak of, and should you consider it? 

The Origins of This Unique Tradition

If you don’t know how this tradition started, prepare to be… astounded. The origin of this tradition does not have a romantic history. It was back in Elizabethan England when, as happened in those days, weddings were more of a business arrangement by the parents than an act of love and devotion.


Back then, a young woman’s father went through all sorts of trouble to marry her off to a well-to-do suitor. Why? So that she would hopefully have a much better life.  Things were rough back in the day. In most cases, the ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ didn’t even know each other, and never even met before their wedding day. (Can you imagine?!)


Following months of negotiations on dad’s part, the actual day would arrive. In many cases, the last thing he wanted was for the young man marrying his daughter to see what she actually looked like. This was especially true if they weren't sure if the bride-to-be was his "type".


So, rather than risk the young man fleeing before the wedding day, a new tradition was born. Keeping the bride and groom apart until the actual wedding ceremony took place because it was ‘bad luck’. *wink wink, nudge nudge*


The wedding veil took part in this plan as well. It literally hid the young woman’s face until the very last second, after the exchange of vows and right before the kiss, ensuring the betrothed wouldn't see her face and flee. I am pleased that the tradition's origins are far from the ceremony rituals of the modern wedding couple!

The Tradition Evolves and A New Tradition is Born

Today, a lot of couples still follow this tradition, but luckily, not for the same reason! The vast majority have seen each other and most have even lived together before their engagement, but the tradition to have a wedding veil is still prominent. The tradition has changed over the years, generally not covering the bride's face and masking her identity. Wedding couples will also often not see each other on the morning of the wedding, waiting for those butterflies down the Aisle. 


Today, however, many couples are opting for a new, trendy and vastly different tradition: The First Look!


A first look is when a couple sees each other on their wedding day before the ceremony. It’s usually a very private, tender moment, with nobody present except the wedding couple, the photographer, and the videographer. I recommend scheduling this about two hours before the ceremony. Set aside 30 minutes to capture the First Look and some sweetheart photos. The following hour is a fantastic time to take advantage of your photographer and videographer, capturing many of the formal photos beforehand. 


If you’re wondering if a ‘first look’ is something you’d like to do, we have some pros and cons to help you. There are, frankly, some wonderful reasons to have a first look and some just as wonderful reasons not to. Hopefully the tips we’ll share will help you decide which is the right choice for you. 



The PROs of Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day


1- Getting Over the ‘Butterflies’

Most couples get all sorts of butterflies on their wedding day, even if they've known each other for years. Not only for the excitement of marrying your soulmate, but also because you’re standing up in front of all those people. It can be a little bit overwhelming for some, without question. Stage fright is still real on your wedding day in front of your loved ones. Most often, the person you chose for your spouse, is also the person that best comforts you in the world. They are your rock, and a first look gives you both a chance to get all those silly butterflies out of the way and calms your nerves.


2- A First Look Give You More Time To Bask In the Romance

Many married couples will tell you that their wedding ceremony flew by so fast, with no time for a true emotional oomph. With a first look, you’ll have more time to bask in the emotions and enjoy each other before all the wedding day madness starts. You can take your time with a first look. Start with a 1st touch, holding hands around a doorway, or have one of you blindfolded. It still builds up just as much excitement, if not more than walking down the Aisle. You get to immediately hug and kiss, exchange gifts or letters… it’s a very sweet and intimate moment.


3- You’ll Have a Private Moment All To Yourselves

Weddings are a fast day, filled with all of your loved ones, and they all want our attention. Your parents and siblings, your friends and colleagues, and the assorted service providers too. It can be overwhelming, to say the least. It may sound odd, but you won’t have very many moments to enjoy with just the two of you. That’s why it’s nice to take advantage of opportunities to create those moments. A first look gives you some time that’s all for you on your big day. Some couples don’t even have their photographer there so they can share a private moment. (Although, most do because it’s a great chance to get some amazing wedding photos.)


4- More Daylight if it’s Wintertime

If you're having a winter wedding the sun will be setting a lot earlier so you won't have many daylight hours for photos. If you have a first look, however, you'll have sunshine to brighten all your photos naturally. 


5- More Time for Photos

No matter the season, with a first look you'll have all the time you want for photographs of just the two of you. In fact, you can go with your photographer to several locations. You would need to scout out photo ops before the wedding day and create an itinerary though. You still want to arrive to your ceremony on time!


6- Cocktail Hour is On!

Some couples, as we mentioned, opt to get their first look photos, sweetheart portraits, wedding party photos, and immediate family photos out of the way. That way, after the ceremony they can fully enjoy all of the wedding day wonders to come. That includes the all-important cocktail hour, of course, which many couples really look forward to. (Especially the Hors d’oeuvres and Specialty Drinks!)


7- It Gives You The Chance to ‘Be’ At Your Wedding

One thing that we always hear from couples we've helped is that their wedding day flew by so fast! There's so much to do, it's not surprising. If you take all of your important pictures during your first look, however, you can then truly enjoy your wedding day and spend more time with your wedding guests!

8- You May Not Have the Tunnel Vision Experience

If you grew up invisioning your walk down the aisle the way I did, you may have thought it would be the tunnel vision experience you witness in movies. It is absolutely still a special moment, but whoever is walking down the aisle second, doesn't have the luxury of undivided attention. Your future spouse will be gazing at you from afar, watching your approach. Most of the guests will turn away from them, allowing them to focus on you and your beauty. As the person walking down the aisle though, the guests all turn to look at you. You are engulfed in warm wishes and sometimes waves from your loved ones. They are all special to you and it is nearly impossible to ignore them and focus your entire attention on your better half ahead. A 1st look gives you that moment back. Not to mention, if you are clumsy, you will be looking down a lot to not trip and fall on your face. Or if you are nearsighted and normally wear glasses, your love may be a bit fuzzy. Maybe you will wear contacts, but if they hurt your eyes our cause redness, you may want to consider a First Look. 


9- Take Advantage of the Moment

The first look gives you an opportunity to have a sweet and romantic moment, but you can also put a bit of your personality into it and have a silly moment. Take advantage of the planning and surprise your spouse-to-be! Inflatable dinosaur outfit? Where’s Waldo outfit? Groomsmen in grass skirts and coconut bras? Visit from a Celebrity Hero? If the traditional first look feels too serious or corny and you want something the feels more you, let’s talk about options! I am a sucker for unique experiences created especially for you!


There are only so many hours in a day and the day is full of love and joy that flies by. It’s important to enjoy the time you can, and the 1st Look is a perfect opportunity to do just that. It gives you more time to enjoy each other and your wedding guests. The best of both worlds! The memories you'll make in your mind will always be strong and endearing, but capturing these precious moments on film will allow you to enjoy them with clarity for decades to come!


The CONs of Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day


1- Photographers and Videographers Charge By the Hour

Most professional wedding photographers and cinematographers charge by the hour. That means, if they have to come out several hours earlier, you'll be booking a larger package with an increased price. If you have a First Look, they'll need to arrive roughly 2 hours earlier than if you did not have a 1st Look. 


2- You Won’t Actually Be Married in Your Wedding Photos

If you choose to have your most of your sweetheart photos done during your first look, although it is your wedding day, you won't technically be married in your photos. For some people that's a big deal, for others, it doesn't matter at all. You need to choose depending on how you feel about it. 


3- Some Couples Worry the Emotional Impact Will Be Different

No matter how long you and your partner have been together, there is an emotional impact that most feel at the ceremony. If you're worried about that emotion being lessened, a first look might not be for you, but based on feedback I have received from countless couples over the years, they still got all the feels walking down the aisle after their First Look. 


4- Your Dress Could Get Dirty

Accidents do happen, and sometimes at the very worst moments. Murphy's Law I suppose. If your wedding dress gets dirty during your first look, it might be a little bit embarrassing. Or, if you're taking photographs outside, it could be a total disaster if you slip and fall in the dirt. (So be careful!) I have never had this happen, but it is something to weigh in the equation.


5- You’ll Have To Get Ready Earlier

If your morning is already pressed for time because of an early ceremony, you may want to skip the First Look. Some hair and makeup schedules start as early as 6 or 7 in the morning. If you need to bump up your hair and makeup schedule even earlier, and you're not a morning person... maybe the 1st Look is not right for you.  


6- You Might Need To Touch Up Your Hair and Makeup

It is definitely not manditory, but some couples pay to have their hair and makeup artists stay for touch-ups after the first look. Not many couples choose this option, but if you were worried about your makeup and wanted to be touched up right before the ceremony, there would be an additonal cost. 

Our Thoughts About the First Look

Personally, I am always a fan of the First Look. I am not supersticious by nature, and I love that you can create another special moment in time together. I love that it allows you more time with your wedding guests as well. The thing is, however, our opinion of the first look isn't important at all. It's your opinion of it that matters the most! If you love it, go for it! If you don't, definitely stick with the older tradition, by all means.


Who are we? We’re Ybarra Events and we’ve been planning weddings in California for years. We’ve helped hundreds of couples plan their dream wedding, and some of them have gone with the new, first look tradition. Others have stayed with the tried-and-true tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony. (We love them both!)


Whichever tradition you choose, old or new, we'd love to help you plan your special day. If you want advice, need help, or have questions about how to plan every last detail of your upcoming wedding, reach out and we will promptly respond.




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About the Author: 

Tara Ybarra, Co-Owner and Event Planner for Ybarra Events, has been in the Wedding Industry for over 20 years. From Photographer, to Wedding Cake Artist, to Florist, to Officiant, and now Wedding Planner, her accumilated experience, paired with her College Courses in Event Planning, have given her the experience she has today. Blogging gives her an opportunity to share that knowledge with her readers. 

Ybarra Events is located in California’s spectacular Napa Valley. Ybarra Events are the pièce de résistance of wedding planners. Run by the dynamic duo of Tara and James Ybarra, they help couples organize, design, and plan their nuptials at some of the most fabulous and luxurious wedding venues in Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco, and Beyond. Chat with them today to start planning the wine-country wedding of your dreams.

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