Within the past few years, a new tradition has been born: the First Look. Aptly named, this is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time on the wedding day before the ceremony. To most brides, this isn't news. But, the decision is new to you...and you likely have no idea what to do. Your mom/mother-in-law are probably completely turned off by the idea (and aren't afraid to voice their opinions!). Your photographer is like "c'mon man, everybody's doing it!" Your best friend is asking if she can hide in the bushes and watch.

But what do you want?

If you're like most brides, you want the moment. You know the one! That moment when his eyes light up and slowly fill with awe. That moment of complete shock over how unbelievably gorgeous you look. The moment when you know, without a shadow of doubt, that you'll be his forever. Well, I was blessed enough to have that moment twice! Don't worry...same man, same wedding day! This is the story of my First Look AND Traditional Aisle experience...

I had spent four hours sitting in a not-so-cozy hotel room desk chair the night before. At least I got to sit. My beloved friend and hair stylist had to stand while also inhaling the smoke from my frizzy, curly hair meeting her super fancy straightening iron. She was straightening like 10 hairs at a she could make this transformation...


I then spent another chair-ridden hour on the wedding morning while Christina added back in some pretty loose curls and styled me up. I then applied my make-up and eye-lashes. My girls helped dress me just like Cinderella's birds. My 5-inch heels were on, and I was ready to go. After all this work, I simply couldn't wait to see my have him hug me and kiss me and tell me how beautiful I looked. I knew that I wanted to do a First Look so that I could have lots of pictures of me and Chris. And I was really really hoping he would cry because apparently I'm evil!

Our photographers helped guide us into our waiting positions and then assumed their hiding spots in the bushes. As I turned the corner, Chris was anxiously waiting for me. His jaw hit the floor and his eyes immediately watered. He pulled me in close, told me he's never seen a more beautiful vision in his life, pushed me back out again so he could keep admiring me, made me do a little turn for him, and pulled me back in again.


As we held each other close, we had our first secret moment. No words, just the warmth of the sun on our necks, his arms wrapped around me, and tears flowing to our cheeks. It was a little piece of heaven on this earth. We had a few minutes to ourselves to just talk and get super giddy over the fact that we were getting married!


After our First Look, my nerves were mostly calmed. Now we just had to wait for the ceremony. As my wedding party lined up to begin their walks down the aisle in the garden, my nerves started to return.

Here we go, I'm getting married...oh man!

My dad put my arm in his and began telling me how proud he is of me. My mom passed away when I was 8 years old, and my dad (who is "technically" my step-dad) took me in and raised me as his own. We didn't talk about my mom very much, so when he started to say "Your mom would be so proud of who you are..." both our eyes immediately turned to water. Before I even began my trip down the aisle, I was liquid. Then as we walked toward our guests, I found myself doing the ugly cry down the eyes rolled over my best friend (and Maid of Honor) since 4th grade who was hysterically crying, my step-mom who was trying her hardest to hold back tears but was failing miserably...I couldn't look anymore. The only safe place to look was Christopher. I had already seen him, and I knew he could help me hold it together. Our eyes locked and I refused to look at anyone else. Our second secret moment. Our traditional aisle moment. We weren't talking, but we were communicating. I am his...his forever. And he is mine.


And then we cleaned up our ugly cries together!


I wanted to share this story with you because we so frequently hear that you have to choose. That you either have a moment together before the ceremony or you have a moment together during the ceremony. But I honestly believe you can have them both, because I was fortunate enough to have them both! :)

There are a million reasons why I am happy that Chris and I opted to do a First Look. But I'll narrow it down to four!


I spent more time than ever making myself look beautiful. And even though I could look in the mirror and confidently know I looked the best I ever had, I couldn't wait to hear it from Chris. I wanted to run to his arms and listen to him tell me how pretty I looked. Yeah, I know, I need way too much attention! If we waited until the ceremony, I wouldn't have been able to hug and kiss him and we wouldn't have been able to talk to each other for at least 30 minutes. By then most of the initial "wow factor" would have worn off, and we still wouldn't have had alone time because we'd have been rushed off to family photos. Plus, I wouldn't have been able to listen to a thing our officiant was saying...I'd be too busy wondering what Chris was thinking!


It was our only alone time until the wedding day was over. It was our time to really take in the magnitude of the day and to let it hit us that we were really getting married!


Our pictures are AMAZING!


You know how they say weddings don't always go as planned? Well, 5 inch heels were the culprit for me! I'm not a heel wearer - I'm 5'9" I don't need heels! I already feel like the jolly green giant! But they do make legs look gooood (heyyyy!). So I wore heels the day before the wedding (rehearsal dinner) and for about 3 hours on my wedding day. My feet were they went numb during the ceremony and I physically couldn't take one more step after we exited the ceremony area. We weren't planning on having a receiving line, but once my heels came off I couldn't move. SO I stood there for 25 minutes greeting all our guests. We started family/wedding party photos late and barely made it in time for the start of the reception. If we didn't have our first look, we wouldn't have had any portraits. Well maybe a few because I would have happily skipped dinner for some photos!

I know it seems like I am advocating for a First Look, but I know it's not for everyone. So if you read this and think "that girl is crazy desperate for attention" (guilty!) or "I don't care, I want to wait until the ceremony to see my fella!" - then, GOOD! I helped you make up your mind, eh?  But if you are on the fence, I hope this helped you see that you really can have your cake and eat it too! :)

(Photos from my wedding compliments of Cecilia Grace and Lauren Allison)

Cassi Claire is a New Jersey, California, and Destination wedding photographer that
creates joyful, romantic, and timeless photographs.