So Leah Robbins is a dear friend our whole family has known for years at our local church. She has ALWAYS been famous for her amazing photography: they’re just so full of natural light and joy! From newborn sessions to graduation photos to weddings, she has done it all and does it all with grace and professionalism. We were so blessed to have her shoot our first wedding at The Marmalade Lily, and she has worked with at least one bride a year here every since!

Today, Leah has some really great insight for our brides-to-be in her guest blog post. The Lily Crew all knows the decision of whether or not to have a first look weighs on a lot of couples minds…no wedding is the same, and every couple should decide for themselves.

Definitely share this post with your newly-engaged friends and send her info their way!




Let me begin by saying that your wedding day is just that – YOURS.  So if, even after hearing all the arguments for a first look, you want to wait till the ceremony, then please do that.  But there is so much misconception as to what a first look is, and what it’s not, that I want you to know all the facts before you make your final decision.

I recognize that there are some weddings where a first look just won’t work out, be it a timing issue or something else.  Every couple is different and personalities vary.  There is no right way to do this – just what is right for the two of you.  But for those on the fence or who have never thought about any of the following reasons, this post is for you!! So let’s get crackin’……


I have been to many, many weddings.  I have even been a bride myself.  Let me tell you how the day goes: You rush around to get ready, take some photos, go to the ceremony, walk nervously down the aisle to meet your groom, get hitched, walk out and finish some more photos, get to the reception, party, dance, and entertain your guests.  That’s a wedding day in a nutshell.  But let’s slow down for a second and think about what all this means.  Once the ceremony and reception hit, you do not get to spend as much time with your groom as you thought! You have family, friends, guests, all demanding your attention, wanting to tell you how beautiful you are, what a great wedding it is, etc.  But where is your groom?  Off doing the same thing.  And if your wedding is an evening ceremony (as most are), you have to wait until the evening to see your groom.  That means your wedding DAY becomes your wedding EVENING ONLY with your groom.  Now, imagine you saw him prior to the ceremony.  You get a few hours before the chaos of the ceremony and reception begin to just be TOGETHER, enjoy each other’s company, and take photos in a much more relaxed setting.  You have the afternoon to be together and a whole day of memories to hold on to, not just the evening.  Also, you paid good money for that dress – don’t you want to wear it longer and allow him to enjoy seeing you in it longer??


I know this is one of the biggest objections to seeing each other prior to the ceremony.  Couples want that ‘moment’ of the bride walking down the aisle to meet her groom.  First off, let me just say that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can take away that moment of you walking down the aisle to meet your groom to be MARRIED, even if you have seen him before.  In fact, I think that only adds to the moment.  (I’ve had grooms, who had already seen their bride, still bawl like crazy as she comes down that aisle.) For my couples, the first look is done privately, in a setting where he can see you alone and enjoy that moment.  At the first look, you are able to talk, pray, kiss, hug, whatever – things that can’t and won’t be done in the ceremony.  You are able to see each other intimately, without 300 guests watching your first look.  And how does seeing each other before help for during the ceremony?  You will be crazy nervous no matter what, but removing that anticipation of seeing each other can help calm you a little bit.  You’ll be able to catch his eye down the aisle and allow that gaze to help you walk down the aisle.  He’s not going to be fixated on what you’re going to look like because he’s already seen all that – he’s just going to be fixated on you, his bride, and the fact that you are about to marry him.  I’ve heard from so many couples that have done it this way that they were so glad they saw each other before the ceremony because it made that moment much easier and much more enjoyable.


After the ceremony, the photos are done! You can head straight to your reception, possibly enjoy the cocktail hour (if you want to), and relax with your wedding party.  Your guests don’t have to wait for you to finish photos, and everyone gets to eat sooner.  It’s a win-win.  If you do attend your cocktail hour, you get a lot of the mingling and greeting your guests out of the way so you have the rest of the night to tear it up on the dance floor! Also, after the ceremony, I like to whisk my couples away for a quick little shoot with just the two of them, for their “we just got married photos.”  With all the other photos done ahead of time, this little session doesn’t take long and is a super fun way to spend some extra time together, reflecting on what just happened, before being bombarded at the reception.


Here’s why it’s better for photos from your perspective:  Your make-up and hair looks fabulous (don’t have the day to mess it up!), you have plenty of time, you can hit up more locations, and after the ceremony, you can relax! The hard part is done.  By seeing each other prior, you are allowing for a much more relaxed setting for you, your wedding party, and even your family.  And once the ceremony is over, you can sneak off with your wedding party and relax until the party begins.  No worrying about photos, no worrying about making your guests wait.

Depending on the time of year your wedding is taking place, there may be no natural light available after the ceremony (late fall – winter).  The pictures, then, are dependent on an artificial light source (ie. flash, video light, etc).  Just recognize that if your ceremony is after the sun goes down and you did not see each other before hand, your photos will look a little different (although they can still be beautiful!).


Often, when brides tell me they don’t want to see each other prior to the ceremony, they say, “But don’t worry, we’ll do half the photos before the ceremony, so we won’t have as many to do after.”  And while yes, I will try to do as many photos as I can prior to the ceremony, it doesn’t eliminate as many as you think.  There are a lot of photos that include the two of you together.  And even when we do family photos ahead of time, you still have to do them again, with your groom included, so we only eliminated the need for a few shots.  Yes, I want the bride with her mom and dad, but I also want the bride with her groom and her mom and dad.  We can get bridesmaids and groomsmen separate, but you still need the whole wedding party.  And then most importantly, you need the bride and groom together.  It ends up being that only a fraction of the photos can be done beforehand.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but I will tell you that I have yet to find a couple say they wish they hadn’t done it this way.  In fact, couples will usually go out of their way to say how GLAD they are that they decided to see each other before the ceremony!  Their nerves were calmed, their day was more relaxed, and they got to enjoy each other.   But again, like I said, your wedding day is about you and what you want.  If this does not fit you, then don’t feel pressured!  And for those who ended up NOT seeing each other prior, your story may be very different and you are glad you did it the way you did and your day was just as magical.  And it was.  And it can be.  This is merely a post for those who are considering this option but aren’t sure what the benefits could be.  Hopefully this helps!


I am Leah Robbins, a natural light photographer based out of the northern side of Cincinnati.   I have been shooting weddings for 13 years now and have loved every minute of it.  I seek to create beautiful images that will freeze a moment in time so it can be remembered over and over just as it was.  I love telling your story.  I want to tell the story of you, who are as a couple, as a family, as an individual.  I am honored every time someone asks me to be witness to some of the most intimate moments of their lives, and seek to use that opportunity to create images that represent the best and most beautiful side of you.

Leah Robbins Photography


(513) 317-5302