Category: weddings

3 Reasons Why We LOVE (and highly recommend) First Looks

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The “First Look” has gained a lot of momentum in the last 5-7 years, to the point where it’s almost more common than going the traditional route of seeing each other at the altar. More than half of our couples choose to do a “First Look,” and it makes us SO HAPPY. Wedding traditions are evolving and couples are making more conscious choices about how to spend their time on their wedding day. One of my favorite things about doing a “First Look,” is that it allows for more quality time with family and friends later on, and we are all about making that happen!  Today, I’m sharing the top THREE reasons why we love and encourage our couples to do a “First Look,” so if you’re on the fence about whether or not to do one, or just want to learn more about them, read on, my friend! :)

1. Calm your nerves. There’s a reason why you’re marrying the person you’re marrying – and most likely part of that reason, in some way, shape or form, is because of the calming effect they have on you. Because the sight of them after a long and stressful day at work is just what you need to bring you back down. Because their touch is the one thing that keeps you grounded when tensions are running high. Because they are your everything, your heart, your home, and your comfort. There’s a lot of pressure on a wedding day and sometimes the best way to relax your nerves is to break tradition and simply have a moment, before the big moment, with the one you love.

2. Have a private moment (possibly your ONLY private moment) together on your wedding day. As much as your wedding day is all about you, it’s really not. Sure, it’s about celebrating you and your fiance and your beautiful love, but with lots (and lots!) of other people. People who are going to be around you ALL DAY LONG. People who can’t wait to have your ear for just a minute to tell you how beautiful you look and how happy they are for you, (as they should!). Because of this, it can get pretty tricky to grab a moment alone once the ceremony commences. Want to enjoy your wedding dinner with your new husband and have a quiet moment to yourselves to discuss this incredible day? Well, too bad. Your food is going to get cold and your conversation together will be short and sweet because your cousin Steve, who doesn’t stop talking and flew in from across the country to celebrate with you, has decided that dinner time is the perfect time to pull up a chair and have a long overdue chat. Want to tell your fiance how amazing they look when you meet them at the altar? You can! – sort of. But you better keep it to one quick line because the congregation is ready for the ceremony to start and the officiant isn’t going to wait for you guys to have a quick convo about how happy you are in that moment. That fleeting moment. That moment you will only have once in your life. That amazing, incredible moment where you see the person you’re about to marry for the very first time, all dressed up just for you in the most beautiful wedding attire. You’ll be filled with so many incredible emotions that will overflow and you’ll want to laugh and cry and hug each other and share everything you’re feeling in that moment. But, without a first look,  you’ll be sharing it with 100+ of your closest friends and family and the officiant, who are all ready to get on with the show.

3. Time. Doing a First Look gives you many more opportunities for photos with each other and with your wedding party. If you do a First Look then all of your photos can be done before the ceremony. While your guests are at home getting ready for your “I dos”, you can be location hopping, taking your leisurely time and relaxing during your photos with everyone, instead of running to get them all done between the ceremony and reception. Your guests will be grateful that they don’t have to try and find a local bar to go to to waste time during the 2 hours between the end of your ceremony and the start of your reception, all while you and your new hubby race around trying to make the most of the brief time you scheduled in for not only your portraits but all of your group photos (and family photos!) as well. And, if that isn’t enough incentive, you can actually ENJOY YOUR COCKTAIL HOUR!!! That’s right! You’re paying for it, so you might as well reap the benefits. Attending your own cocktail hour will also give you time to mingle with your guests instead of having to make rounds to all the tables during dinner, which in turn gives you time to actually EAT YOUR DINNER! Amazing! We believe so strongly that a wedding day is as much about the people you love as it is about you. It’s about all of the people you love most in the world coming together under one roof for a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable night. Your friends and fam will come from all over the globe to be there for you, so spending as much time with them as possible just makes sense!

If you’re still on the fence after reading all that then please, let me assure you: A First Look will in no way take away from your walk down the aisle. In fact, it may enhance it! Many of our brides have said that doing a First Look allowed them to truly experience the moment of seeing each other for the first time and be themselves together in that moment. But, the second those church doors opened and they stepped out into the aisle, they still felt that enormous rush of emotion at the sight of their future husband up at the altar waiting, with friends and family looking on. Nothing you do can take away from the emotion of your wedding ceremony. Those feelings of excitement, anticipation, and overwhelming love will stay with you for the entire day, whether at the altar or during a First Look. There is something so special and sacred about walking up to meet your love at the altar, regardless of whether or not you saw them before hand. The two photos above of Sarah and Ben’s First Look, and the one below of their first moments at the altar are a perfect example of this.

Read on to hear what a few of our couples had to say about their First Look experience!

“I was a bit torn over the whole First Look business since it’s not necessarily traditional. Sabrina was really pushing for it so I conceded.  I think I was actually a bit speechless when I saw her.  It definitely took the edge off and put me at ease before we got into the ceremony. It reminded me that it was just us, nothing else, other than some fancy clothes.” – Aaron + Sabrina

The first look was definitely one of the most memorable moments of not just the wedding but of my life. There is a certain nervousness that comes along with the first look. In all honesty, I wasn’t too keen on doing a it when we first started the process of wedding planning. I had heard of them before but wasn’t very enthralled by them. I always had this notion that the first time I would see my bride would be when she walked down the aisle. As it turned out, doing a first look was one of the best decisions we made. I knew exactly where she would be coming from but there was so much nervous excitement regardless. When Stacey tapped me on my shoulder and I turned around I was absolutely blown away by how stunning she looked. She’s always beautiful but on that day, in that moment, I’ve never seen someone so beautiful in my life.” – Brad + Stacey

Initially, we weren’t planning on doing the first look, but Jenn convinced us that it would be a really beautiful moment where it was just the two of us before we began the day of craziness. I have to say, it was such a special moment. I will carry every detail with me for a very long time from the tap on the shoulder to the look on Chris’s face when he turned around. Having the amazing photos to remember it by and a few moments with each other was priceless and I absolutely would do that all over again. Thanks Jenn!” – Kristin + Chris

The first look was really incredible. I admit I was pretty nervous, especially waiting to see Laura, but once we were together all the nerves just went away. It was great to enjoy the moment: just the two of us, surrounded by trees, and away from all of the craziness. Just to see how happy Laura was – that was probably my favorite moment of the day.” – Nathan + Laura

Tom and I always knew we wanted to do a First Look. I think it was more about the timing of the day than anything else. We were excited at the idea of being able to enjoy our cocktail hour with all of our guests and not having to rush through photos between the ceremony and reception, or making our guests have to go find something to do to kill time in between. We were, however, both a bit concerned that doing a First Look might take away from the ‘big moment’ of me walking down the aisle.  After all, we only got one shot at a wedding day and we wanted to be sure that we did it right. Luckily on the morning of our wedding, our First Look was absolutely perfect. To be able to see each other privately, to hug, to laugh, to share our feelings about the day and how our mornings went, to just have a moment together to breathe before the chaos of the day set in, was just everything. I honestly don’t think that my day would have gone as smoothly if we hadn’t had this opportunity. It calmed my nerves and really helped both of us to just relax and soak everything in, together. Once we got to our ceremony space we went our separate ways until it was time for our wedding to start. The second Tom left my side I felt emotion welling up inside me – a nervous and excited anticipation of what was about to happen. It didn’t matter in the slightest that we had just spent a couple of hours together, or that he had already seen what I looked like in my dress and veil. When those doors opened out to the aisle and I saw him standing up by the altar… words simply can’t describe that feeling. There is truly nothing that could have taken away from how we both felt in that moment. Needless to say, tears began flowing and didn’t stop until long after our ‘I Do’s’. Thinking back on everything now, nearly 4 years later, I am still so overjoyed that we did things the way we did.” – Rachel + Tom

So the moral of the story is, if you’re considering a First Look in any way then you should absolutely go for it!! You’ll be calmer overall, you’ll be able to truly feel all of your emotions (instead of trying to maintain your composure in front of the 150 people whose eyes will be glued to you as you walk down the aisle), and you’ll be able to spend more time with all of the people who came from far and wide to celebrate your love.  I feel that it’s SO IMPORTANT to clarify, though, that there’s no wrong answer here. Whether you decide to do a First Look or not, your wedding day will be one of the most incredibly amazing days of your entire life!  Over the years we have seen all of the many ways that this option can enhance the wedding day experience, so we wanted to share! :)

Married friends: Did you do a First Look on your wedding day? Are you glad you did?! We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!!!

allison + eddie // Hotel Henry

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I knew about five minutes into meeting Allison and Eddie that they were “my people.”  They’re the kind of people that make everyone around them feel calm, comfortable, and loved. They are an absolute joy to spend time with, and I loved getting to know them throughout the wedding planning process. They both value the relationships they have with their family and friends so highly, and they made that the driving focus of their day. Incredible dance moves are also highly valued in their lives. They hosted a dance contest at their reception, and the winners walked away with a gift certificate to a room at Hotel Henry!!  I just love these two so much, and after you read their story and see the images from their day, I know you will, too. :)

Eddie has his dad to thank for finding his soulmate, Allison. Their story is pretty darn adorable and we’re so glad that Allison shared it with us! Read on for this sweet story, along with a few others, and of course Allison and Eddie’s favorite wedding day memories :)

Allison: “We met at Oliver’s restaurant on Delaware Ave. I was working, Eddie’s family came in to celebrate Babciu’s (grandmother’s) 80th birthday. His parents were a few cocktails deep and his dad said ‘Honey, you’re beautiful. What’s your story?’ I explained that I had just gotten back from a year abroad in France, and was finishing my senior year at Canisius College. His parents then introduced to me their embarrassed and very handsome son, Edward. After dinner, Eddie approached me to apologize for his parents. I wrote my name and number on a napkin and slipped it inside of an empty takeout container. As Eddie was putting on his coat to leave, I said ‘wait, you forgot this’ … I got a text message about fifteen minutes later saying ‘that was incredibly smooth of you.’

Allison: “Eddie was home for a week before he had to go back to school at Xavier in Ohio… so for our first date he took me to Pano’s on Elmwood Avenue and then we went to a Sabres game. The Sabres lost, but I remember putting my arm around his waist and resting my head on his chest while we rode the subway back to UB North Campus. I don’t think he minded too much.

Eddie: “My grandparents were not supposed to be at the wedding. My grandfather’s ailing health and my grandmother’s refusal to leave him meant that two of my family members that I am closest to would miss this important day. The day before, there was some talking that my grandmother might come, but I was not going to hold out hope that my grandfather would make it. About 30 minutes before the ceremony as I stood in a side hall, my mother calls to me from the main hallway. As I approach, she points down the hall and I see my uncle pushing my grandfather in a wheelchair with my grandmother walking beside him.

Eddie: “My grandfather was hooked up to an oxygen tank and in a wheelchair. When the music stirred to announce that my bride was going to walk down the aisle, despite the urging of some to stay seated, my grandfather stood up out of his wheelchair with the rest of the crowd to greet her. I can think of no other memory of him that better encapsulates him as a person, and it will be a moment that I will never forget.

Allison: “When Eddie’s grandfather stood out of his wheelchair as I walked down the aisle Eddie was a wreck. I knew how much it meant to him.

Allison: “The proposal was perfect. I remember snuggling my dogs in bed one day. Eddie walks in the room and (talking to our dogs) he says ‘I’ve got something to talk to mommy about’ and he looks at me and says something along the lines of ‘so I’ve been looking at rings…and I need some help.’ And then cue a long line of questions about what style of ring/stone I like. Little did he know, I had just had a conversation with my mom that past weekend regarding a beautiful diamond that was left to her from my Grandma Corinne. So I scoured the internet for a vintage setting that I liked and we had one custom made. We visited out trusty jeweler, Barbara Oliver, and she did an incredible job as always. He picked up the ring and proposed to me at Glen Falls in Williamsville.

Eddie: “The first kiss between Allison and I was like a waking up from a dream. The ceremony went by so quickly, yet hearing the officiant declare us as husband and wife and permitting us to kiss was a moment that lasted. The crescendo of applause and the warm embrace will be a moment I will always cherish.

Allison: “We’re honest with each other, and with ourselves above all else. We’ve never had an argument. Five years and no fights because we know how to talk to each other. We don’t get defensive or make excuses and in the very rare instance that we are in the wrong, we own up to our mistakes and make it right. We have endless, unconditional support for each other. What we value most in life is each other’s happiness.

Allison: “We love anything food-related, honestly. Cooking, going out, whichever. There’s nothing we love more than sharing a good meal together. We have two dachshunds and a kitty cat so there are tons of snuggles all the time. We walk home together from our jobs in Manhattan and lately we’ve been talking about the podcasts we listen to and what we would do if we won the $800 million dollar Powerball. The rest of our time amounts to procrastination on doing the laundry.

Eddie: “The nerves of the ceremony were still lingering and began to mix with my nerves about our first dance. Despite countless runs through the dance, I was still worried about missing an important step. We waited in that hallway for what seemed like forever, but looking back it was a nice respite. Once we got called into the room there wouldn’t be another moment of quiet together for several hours.

Allison: “I loved how incredibly handsome Eddie looked. Really, he looked so good. Someone asked us, in all seriousness, if we were filming a commercial.

Eddie: “I knew that the dance with my mother was not going to be much of a dance. It was going to be me swaying with her while she sobbed, which was exactly what happened. However, I will never forget it because of how happy she was.

Eddie: “Due to human error on the part of the gentleman officiating our wedding, we did not get a chance to read our personal vows during the ceremony.  Allison and I both felt that what we wrote was important and shouldn’t be wasted. Instead of reading them aloud, we decided that reciting them privately to each other would be more meaningful. Later that night, in a quiet stairwell painted white, we read our vows to each other.

Allison: “It made them infinitely more special.

Allison: “After the wedding, when we were back in our room, I was completely exhausted. I soaked in the tub and Eddie sat on the floor of the bathroom, reading all the cards and guestbook wishes out loud. People were so generous and supportive and it was so nice. It also made us incredibly happy that everyone had a wonderful time. We just sat there together and smiled. We were just relieved that everything went smoothly.

Allison and Eddie gave some great advice for couples planning their weddings and also said a few nice words about us, too!

You can’t plan to make everyone single guest at your wedding happy. Just try to roll with the punches. Not everything will go exactly as planned but it’s supposed to be a day to celebrate you both. At the end of it all, you’re married to your best friend and it’s awesome.

Ayres Photography gets total aces. Jenn and Ben were quick on their feet, gave great direction without being pushy and delivered some of the most beautiful photos. We loved working with them so much.


Wedding Vendors Include:

Venue: Hotel Henry
Invitations: Minted
Hair + Make-Up: Salon-A-Go-Go
Dress Shop: MA Carr
Dress Designer: Allure Bridal
Bridesmaid Dresses: Anthropologie and BHLDN
Groom’s Look: Oliver Wicks
Florist: Fern Croft Floral
Cake: Sassi Cakes
String Quartet: Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with Alan Ross
Saxophonist: Vincent Fossitt
DJ: Moving Music