Shade Hotel | Manhattan Beach | Wedding Photography | First Look

What is the "First Look"? 

To put it simply, the First Look is the first time on the wedding day that the groom sees the bride in her wedding gown, with hair and make-up complete.

But isn't it bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony?

In present day, this superstition is largely a myth.  The tradition began when arranged marriages were the popular custom.  Often, a bride's family was trying to marry their daughter into a wealthy/wealthier family to secure a dowry.  The bride's parents did not want the groom to back out on what was largely a business transaction if the groom saw the bride and found her unattractive.  Thus, the bride was not allowed to see the groom until the veil was lifted at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony.

While many couples find the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony romantic, a look at the history of the ritual reveals that it is in fact quite the opposite of romantic.

What are the benefits of a first look?

One of the most important benefits of a First Look is that it allows for a more intimate and romantic experience.  At Jessica Elizabeth Photography, we often tour the wedding venue with the couple prior to the wedding to find the best locations that will allow for privacy during the First Look, so that the couple can enjoy the few moments together without distractions.  This allows the couple to take a time out and just focus on each other with out all the other guests and details interfering.    This helps the couple relax and creates much more genuine expressions which makes for better photos that truly capture who the couple is.

Since there is usually more time available for portraits prior to the ceremony, we often get to spend closer to 25 minutes instead of only 10-15 minutes taking portraits of the bride and groom during a First Look.  This extra time often allows us to take photographs in a variety of settings and backdrops, as well as take not only traditional photos but also the more creative and artistic photos that our clients enjoy.

Based on the other elements of your wedding day timeline, the First Look often allows for time to take the family and bridal party portraits before the ceremony.  This allows you more time to spend with your guests after the ceremony.  This also allows your family and bridal party to spend more time enjoying the cocktail hour and reception.

Won't the first look make the ceremony "less special"?

During the ceremony, you are getting MARRIED.  There is nothing that could possibly make the significance of that particular moment less special.  You may have seen each other earlier in the day if you chose to go with the option of a First Look, but this time you, the bride, are walking toward your groom for the last time as a single person.  You look at each other in an entirely different light at that moment and know that shortly you will be husband and wife. 

When is it essential to do a First Look?

Well, if you are not doing a first look, then by default that means that all of your formal portraits as well as all the group portraits with the family and the bridal party must be taken AFTER the ceremony.  We like to allow 30 minutes for the portraits of the bride and groom and at least 15 minutes each for the family portraits and the bridal party portraits.  So, if the sunset occurs within one hour of the time your ceremony ends, it is essential to have a First Look. 

Here in Southern California, we are blessed with plenty of sunshine, but the sunset time is of particular concern for weddings in the Fall and Winter (September-March).

Do you require us to do the First Look?

We don't require it.  Like all other aspects of Jessica Elizabeth Photography, the experience is designed uniquely for each of our couples.  The First Look is largely a personal preference.  But honestly, you'd be kinda silly not to do it :)

Did you and Robert do the First Look at your wedding?

Of Course!!!  And I can tell you right now that it didn't make the walk down the aisle any "less special."  If anything, those 15 minutes during the First Look are some of my most favorite moments of my wedding day.  We were able to escape from all the hustle and bustle that is a wedding day and spend just a few minutes together reflecting on the significance of the day and each other.  

If you didn't get the hint by now, we highly recommend it!

Here is a peek at Ashleigh and Luke's first look.  We had the entire rooftop pool deck at the Shade Hotel to ourselves for their First Look.  

Shade_Hotel_JEssica_Elizabeth_Wedding_Photography-7.jpgShade_Hotel_JEssica_Elizabeth_Wedding_Photography-1.jpg Shade_Hotel_JEssica_Elizabeth_Wedding_Photography-5.jpgShade_Hotel_JEssica_Elizabeth_Wedding_Photography-2.jpg Shade_Hotel_JEssica_Elizabeth_Wedding_Photography-3.jpg Shade_Hotel_JEssica_Elizabeth_Wedding_Photography-10.jpgAfter a brief session on the rooftop, we had some time to take photos by the Shade Hotel's fountain, one of Ashleigh and Luke's favorite areas of the hotel.


We also had the opportunity, to spend some time at their ceremony site before all the guests romantic!


And we even had a few minutes left to take some fun photos with the bridesmaids :)


Special thanks to their wedding coordinator Kerry Pulverman of de Luxe Weddings & Events who was instrumental in developing a photographic timeline with us and overseeing it on wedding day, so that we could fit in all these photos.

Shade Hotel:

1221 N Valley Drive

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266


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