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The first look {Claire & James: an interview}

fist look south farm

When we got married, Jake and I decided to see each other before the ceremony. We wanted a few precious moments, just the two of us, to take everything in before we went forward to become husband and wife. During this time we shared, our photographers took photographs of us, natural and full of emotion. It was a very special experience and meant that we were able to spend the rest of the day with our guests who had traveled from all over the world to be with us. Having a ‘First Look’ is a popular thing in America, but is not a well known option here.

It wouldn’t be for everyone, and is a very personal choice, but for some it may be just the thing they want to do. Claire & James, who’s wedding we documented last summer, had a more relaxed and unusual day plan, with speeches, for example, happening throughout the day. The idea of a First Look was perfect for them. They have very kindly shared their own individual thoughts and experiences below (the groom followed by the bride), so that other brides and grooms might have a first hand account of what it is like.

James’ experience: I think my main reason for deciding to do the First Look was purely practical: by getting the photos out of the way before the ceremony it would mean we would be able to spend more time with our guests. But in fact, although it did have this benefit, it turned out to be a special and very memorable event. Ria and Jake successfully navigated the fine line between building the tension & excitement but also keeping us both calm as Claire was brought out to meet me. It was a very emotional moment and one that I was so pleased I got to share with Claire and Claire alone.

Being able to see and hold Claire had a huge calming effect on me and I knew from that point it was going to be the most amazing day. Having already seen Claire did not make her walk down the aisle any less special – I think it just relaxed us both and meant we could enjoy it more. The First Look was one of many highlights of the day.

Claire’s experience: When we first met with Ria, it wasn’t that long after she’d gotten married herself and a First Look was something she mentioned in passing that she and her husband had done. Immediately James and I were interested. We wanted our day to be as relaxed as possible, to spend as much time with our guests – and each other – as possible! And the best way to do this seemed to be to get our photos out the way before the ceremony. We’re not particularly traditional and had no issues spending the night before together – in fact we wanted to just to keep the nerves at bay! I think having been together for nine years, the idea of not seeing each other for the morning of one of the most special days of our lives, that we’d put so much effort into just felt a bit odd – after all the day was for us.

Over the months before the wedding we had a mixed reception to the idea of a First Look. My Mum was fairly unconvinced, saying that she wanted to see James’ face as he saw me for the first time and wouldn’t we regret having that special moment. But in many ways that just reconfirmed in my mind that I wanted to go ahead with it – I wanted James to be the first to see me and for us to share that special moment together.

And I’m so glad we did. When we first saw each other we both cried and shared one of the most intimate moments of our lives. It was lovely. Had all our guests been staring at us I would have found it really hard to keep myself together and I wouldn’t have been able to have sobbed into his arms in quite the same way or for James to tell me how beautiful I looked.

We had a heavenly half an hour together – just us, saying how much we meant to each other and how lucky we were. To be honest I barely noticed Ria & Jake taking any photos. After that I completely relaxed – the nerves disappeared and all that was left was excitement and anticipation for the rest of the day ahead. And when it came to actually walking down the aisle, I found I couldn’t really focus any further than about three feet in front of me for the nerves and our friends and family smiling and waving as I walked past anyway. I am so glad we decided to go for the First Look – I think the vibe of the whole ceremony would have been completely different if we hadn’t done it and I will never forget that time we got to spend together, alone on our wedding day.

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Thank you Claire & James for sharing your experience. It was such a joy for us to be a part of your celebrations.

Ria Mishaal PHOTOGRAPHY

Based in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire

Ria mishaal portraits

chandlers ford, hampshire