Three Reasons to Have a "First Look"


We have all heard that it is “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride before the wedding,  and many couples take this tradition quite seriously; however, many do not know about the less-than-romantic origins of this tradition.

During the time when arranged marriages were customary, the betrothed couple was not allowed to see each other before the wedding. Marriage, for many families, was essentially a “business deal.”. The father, who was the head of the household, would ideally marry off his daughter to a rich, land-owning male. Once the engagement was contracted, the parents of the bride and groom would keep the couple apart, fearing that if the groom saw the bride before the wedding and found her unattractive, he wouldn’t go through with the marriage.  While today we think of the wedding veil as a lovely must-have accessory,  its original purpose was also to keep the groom from finding out what the bride looked like until the last possible minute, when it was too late to back out of the transaction. Romantic, huh?

More and more couples today are choosing to buck tradition in favor of the “first look” before the wedding ceremony. While the Church has no definitive stance on first looks, every couple has different reasons as to why they would or would not do a first look. Below are three reasons to consider having a first look, and three alternative ideas to consider if you want to have a moment with your groom before the wedding, while saving the “big reveal” for your walk down the aisle.

Maximize your time for photos without sacrificing time at the reception.

While you may have your photographer for 8-10 hours, it’s amazing how fast time flies on the day of your wedding and how easily the timeline can get sidetracked. Most often, portraits with family and the bridal party take longer than expected, and then the next you know, you only have less than 15 minutes to take romantic images of just you and your groom. When you make the first look a priority, it gives you time for those special portraits without being rushed to your cocktail hour or reception. Especially when you also place a large investment into your wedding photography, getting the time to get more photographs of just you and your groom together and in such a candid and special moment can definitely be worth it!

Diminish pre-wedding nerves.

Some couples have a hard time showing emotion in front of a crowd, and understandably so. There is a lot of emotion mounting up to that moment of seeing each other for the first time. When you do a first look with just you and your groom (and your photographer(s) in the background), it gives you both the chance to be yourselves freely while seeing each other for the first time without a crowd of loved ones snapping iPhone photos.

Get some much-needed alone time with your husband.

The first look allows you and your groom to have some alone time before your day gets busy. Unless you set time aside for it later in the day, it’s the only time you both will be alone on your wedding day until you leave the reception. It can also help set the tone for the perfect mood for romantic portraits. Images of just the two of you are also what you’ll decorate your home with and possibly pass down to family, so it makes sense to spend some quality time taking them

Alternatives to the First Look

While a first look has its many perks, it’s not for every couple. Here are some alternative or additional photography ideas for your big day:

A First Look with Dad or Father Figure

If you’re a self-proclaimed Daddy’s girl, or have a close relationship with another male relative, this is a lovely option to consider. Another idea is also for the father to escort the bride to the first look with the groom.

A First Look with the Bridal Party

You have been through the engagement party, the bridal shower, and the bachelorette party. Now your bridesmaids are excited to see your completed look on your wedding day. Have your photographer catch their reactions as they finally see you dressed as a bride!

The “Reach and Pray”

This one is my personal favorite. It’s a beautiful and meaningful way for a bride and groom to come together before the ceremony while still avoiding the pre-wedding first look. You can hold hands around a corner or a door, or keep your eyes closed in a prayerful exchange in your favorite grotto or side chapel.

Elissa Voss Photography

Elissa Voss Photography

No matter what you decide for photographs on your wedding day, communicate with your photographer and make sure you get enough allotted time to capture images of just you and your spouse. These will be the images that you will always cherish.

Elise's Wedding | The Big Day!

Our Social Media Coordinator, Elise Crawford, married her college sweetheart Hunter, on August 12! We're overjoyed for them and are thrilled to share their wedding day with you today as Elise concludes her series of wedding reflections. Join us in congratulating and praying for Elise and Hunter as they begin their life together!

I know it seems cliche, but Hunter's and my wedding day was a taste of heaven! As stressful as the weeks and days leading up to the wedding were, I was so blessed to feel calm and present on our big day. There was so much preparation and effort on both sides of our family to make this day happen: we had an aunt who hosted family from out of town, my mom and sister were with me running errands and ticking of my to-do list and friends flew in to town early to help with preparations. We felt so completely surrounded with love and support!

We were told in the months leading up to our wedding that the day goes by in a blur and that it's easy to let it go by without taking a moment to soak it all in. With that in mind, Hunter and I made sure to take small moments during our wedding day to pause, pray and just be with one another. I remember several times throughout the day taking in the scene in front of me and committing it to memory thinking, "Lord, You are SO good!". After so many years of waiting, I can not describe the joy that comes with being united with your love in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage in front of your family and friends. Our wedding day is truly a testament to the fact that the Lord provides and is faithful to His promises. 

I hope you enjoy the photographs below taken by the beautiful Sarah Price. Thank you for journeying with Hunter and I over the last year as we prepared for this moment in our lives. Your prayers have been fruitful and meant so much to us! I will leave you with the quote that we placed in our wedding mass program:

"Beloved, you do not know how deeply you are mine, how much you belong to my love and my suffering-because to love means to give life through death; to love means to let gush a spring of water of life into the depths of the soul, which burns and smolders, and cannot burn out." -Karol Wojtyla (Pope Saint John Paul II), "The Jeweler's Shop"

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Photography: Sarah Price Photography | Church: St. Augustine- Elkridge, MD | Wedding Reception Venue: Cattail Creek Country ClubFlorist: Corner Florist | Signs + Table Numbers: Custom Crafted Calligraphy  | Caterer: Cattail Creek Country Club | Bridal Gown: BHLDN | Bridesmaid Dresses: Global Bridal Gallery | Partial Wedding Planner: Cedar and Lime Co | Cake: Graul's Market | Hairstylist + Make Up Artists: Up-Dos for I-Dos | Music: Chris Laich Music Services | Groomsmen Tuxes: Cys

How to Get Through Family Photos With Grace



The hot sun is beating down on your perfected curls. You glance over at your Groom, who is calling to his grandparents again that they can’t leave yet; his family photos aren’t finished. Your cheeks are tired of smiling and your hands are starting to get sweaty from holding your bouquet in the same place for so long. Grandma Rose pops in on your left, the photographer adjusts your dress for the hundredth time, you quickly smile as the camera clicks and the next group is called out.

Oh, dear Bride. I understand well how these family photos go. You might be dreading it or forgetting about it, but at some point during your wedding planning process it will come up. You may not be particular about the number of your family photos if, but the reality is that these photos are not as much for you as they are for your relatives.

These are the moments that will be printed for your great-grandmother’s coffee table,  our grandma’s foyer, and your mother’s living room. You won’t see a photo of you and your Groom stylishly overlooking your venue or a photo of your bridal party throwing bouquets up in the air. Those photos are for you, but the family photos are for all those who are supporting you.

For your family’s sake, let your mother and your future mother-in-law tell you what photos they want.

For your family’s sake, ask your photographer to start with large extended family photos.

For your family’s sake, let your smile shine, even if you don’t feel like it.

The one thing I’ve been learning recently that has changed both my perspective on family and weddings is that it’s not about you. I know that’s a countercultural idea. According to the wedding industry, you should be able to make 100% of the decisions regarding your day. From what you wear to the decor on your reception tables, the wedding industry says you should have the final say. But as Catholics, we know that our weddings, marriages, and lives in general are about the gift of self.  

Just like Jesus patiently welcomed the messiness of human life, I encourage you to do the same when your ringbearer won’t look at the camera while your aunt’s new baby cries. In the moments that you feel most frustrated, continue to love them and embrace the mess of life, just as Jesus did. On your wedding day, take advantage of the opportunities you have to serve, love, and support those who have been doing exactly that for you and your Groom for longer than you know.

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Sinikka Rohrer is a daughter of the King, wife of a man she'd only imagined, and lover of waking up quietly. She is the owner of Soul Creations Photography, a business on mission to capture testimonies, encourage hearts, and inspire marriages, and is a Spoken Bride Vendor. You can see more of Sinikka's beautiful photography here, and read her reflections on engagement here



When Earthly Marriage Feels Preferable to Heaven.



This summer as I prepared for the birth of my third child, an otherwise typical Facebook scroll led me to an article on reducing childbirth-related deaths in the advanced world of American medicine. Having experienced postpartum complications in the past, I was surprised to learn excessive bleeding and hemorrhage, issues my hospital had handled quickly and easily when I experienced them, are in reality leading causes of maternal death. I spent the better part of a week in tears, unable to lift the weight of anxiety and fear of death, of leaving my husband and family.


My grief, I know, stems from a realization I’ve recently come to; one I wish didn't have such a hold on me. Here it is: as a Christian, I'm embarrassed to say I often don't feel ready for heaven. Not in the sense of being unprepared, though I almost certainly am--aren't we all, except by grace--but in the sense that my fully human, earthly mind can't fathom something that will fill my soul more than being married to my husband and raising our family.

I find myself secretly hoping Christ’s Second Coming won't happen during my lifetime. I tear up immediately when I think of being separated from my husband. I frequently wrestle with the idea that, theologically, there's no marriage in heaven.

I am immeasurably blessed by my husband, a man who shows me Christ's love in such a tangible way. By extension, I wonder if, by loving him so much, my love for the Father somehow fades into second place. I am in awe of my husband, thankful to him, passionate about him, and I trust him completely, in a way that goes far deeper than just feelings. Shouldn't I see God in this way, and to an even deeper extent?

I know, of course, that my husband isn't--nor should he be--an idol or ultimate source of my happiness. Yet the thought of our being apart, even if it means one of us is rejoicing before our maker at the heavenly feast, is hard to contend with.

Have you experienced this, the fear that heaven couldn’t possibly be as joyful as living out your vocation on earth--one you’ve probably dreamed of and prayed for for years--and its counterpart, a fear of death? I wish I could say I’ve come through this fire with wisdom to spare on the other side, but the truth is that my only recourse has been prayer. Specifically, I ask the Lord to increase my desire for him and to silence my anxieties when I think of eternity. We live in the longing, after all, we humans--imprinted with a restlessness and longing for the fullness of the divine from the moment of our creation. My prayer is that these longings of mine be directed well, aimed fearlessly at the heart of heaven.

I find peace in the thought that if love and marriage on earth are meant to give us the tiniest glimpse of eternal life, and if heaven is such a banquet of perfect love, free from our weakness and imperfection, I don't even know what I'm missing out on. Of course it's better than anything I can imagine, because in my humanity, I literally can't imagine it.

For now, I know my call: to love and sanctify my husband and family and to receive their purifying love in return. And know I’m meant to trust that until these missions are fulfilled, in whatever time the Father intends, death needn’t be a concern.

St. Augustine famously prayed, Make me a saint, but not yet. He echoes my own thoughts in relation to life and death: Get me to Heaven, but not yet. I pray to desire it now, to live with eternity in mind; to be not afraid.

If fears like mine have taken hold of your own heart, know I’m there with you in the tension and that you have my prayers. If any particular practices have brought consolation to your soul, we love hearing your wisdom and sharing in your sisterhood.

About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more


A Heart of Responsibility for Your Wedding Guests

“Spouses,” wrote Pope St. John Paul II, “are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.” Permanent. Witnesses. In the moments after you and your beloved have spoken your vows, and on through all the rest of this life, you’re given the graces of great joy and a sweetness that lightens crosses to come. You’re also shouldered with a new responsibility: to bear the self-emptying love of Christ to the world--sometimes overtly, and other times without a word.

Responsibility can feel heavy, during the season of wedding planning and beyond: experiencing division in your family relationships because of your faith beliefs, willing the good of your beloved even when your heart’s just not in it, caring for young children. It can also come with a temptation to pride. It might be manifest in a sense of personally desiring to change minds on matters like marriage, contraception, and divorce, whether through direct or indirect rhetorical or religious argument.

These are completely normal, understandable tendencies. Moreover, they’re rooted in a desire that’s good. When you feel so convicted of the joy on tap in a distinctively Catholic wedding and marriage, it’s natural that you want to share its fullness with those you love and help open the door to a new perspective. It’s helpful, in this sense, to view the weight of responsibility to your wedding guests as a way to be witnesses, compassionate yet strong. You can choose to extend an opportunity for understanding the Catholic faith, ever the same, in a new and inviting light.

With a spirit of charity and intentionality in mind, there are ways you can lift up your family and friends in the hope that their hearts be more fully disposed to experience truth, goodness, and beauty on your wedding day.

Pray for your wedding guests.

Ultimately, of course, the point of your wedding is to enter into a sacrament with the one God has called you to love and sanctify. At the same time, the Church is a body, a community. The two of you aren’t in this alone, yet amid the busyness of preparing for your big day, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of who it’s for. Make a conscious effort to step back and  view your guests as the individuals dear to you and to your families that they are, rather than an endless list of names for whom to track down RSVPs and seating assignments. Prayer, too, can shift your focus for the better. Clarity. Pray for your wedding guests by name as you address their invitations, offer a decade of the rosary for a different individual or family each day, and if you feel comfortable, invite guests to privately share their prayer intentions via email or your wedding website.

Consider limiting alcohol.

Dominic Prummer, O.P., a Dominican priest, wrote, “Drink to the point of hilarity.” This recommendation generally conveys a spirit of giddiness and freedom, but not mere license. If, depending on the dynamics of your guests, you anticipate the possibility of drunkenness putting a damper on your reception, consider choosing alcohol options that encourage choice and intention, rather than zero limits. You might opt for an open bar for the first few hours of the evening, for instance, then switch to cash later in the reception, or consider offering a smaller selection of spirits.

In all things, cultivate charity and peace.

So often, what sets a person of faith apart is in her actions, not just her words or theological arguments. The trials of wedding planning and preparation for marriage--last-minute emergencies, sexual self-control, delicate conversations over matters of faith or etiquette--all present an opportunity to conduct yourself with virtue, and to bear an example of Christ-like love to those in your life. Practically speaking, that might look like choosing peace over overreaction as inconveniences arise, sharing a few minutes of quality face time with each of your guests during your reception, reminding them of their value and your gratitude, and handling conversations about morals or manners with empathy in mind first, and conversion second.

The particular sense of responsibility each couple feels for their wedding guests varies by matters of faith, past wounds, and strengths and weaknesses among family members. We’ve known the pain of division and disagreement ourselves, and the desire to share what is good with loved ones. Know of our prayers for each of you, and know that in the Father all things are made whole--even if the fruits aren’t visible in this life. If there’s a particular way you’ve developed a heart of responsibility for your own friends and family, we’re eager to hear them in the comments and on our social media.

How He Asked | Sam + Kat


Sam and Kat met as college students, became fast friends, and eventually--under a starry sky--they both confessed deeper feelings for one another and became a couple. Kat recalls that Sam, "told me how he had liked me from the moment he first saw me. From then, it's been a beautiful, unbelievable relationship." 


In Kat's words: The proposal was so incredible! Throughout our whole relationship, Sammy and I knew we were going to get married. All I asked for in the proposal was that Sammy or someone get a picture. Sammy got several of his best friends involved, half of whom are talented photographers. Sammy began planning the proposal at the beginning of the year, and he was finally ready to propose on April. The original plan was to take me out into these beautiful fields and do astrophotography (photography of the night sky), writing out "will you marry me?" in Christmas lights on a hillside. Sam and his friends could not find enough extension chords, so they had to scrap that idea. They then came up with the idea to use a device called a pixel stick. Harrison (one of Sammy's friends involved in the proposal) owns a pixel stick, which is a pole around 6 or 7 feet long with a strip of LED lights running down it. The lights flash and change colors, and when a long exposure picture is taken, the light will either create a design or write out words or draw a picture. Sammy then hired a friend from our Church, Keith, who majors in graphic design to create a program that would make the pixel stick write out "Will You Marry Me?". Keith did an amazing job!

The night before the proposal, Sammy and all the guys drove out to Silverhill Farm to find the perfect location for the proposal. On April 8th, 2017, Sammy took me on a day long date that ended with the proposal. We played around with the pixel stick and did photography for an hour or two, and I was trying to convince myself I would be okay if Sammy didn't propose that day.

The last location we went to was a dirt road in the middle of a field. There was the beautiful tree in the background and the night sky was visible all around us. Harrison said he wanted to get a few pictures of the couple, so Sammy and I took our turn in front of the camera. Sam's best friend and best man Alan ran behind us with the pixel stick. Harrison called us over to look at the photo, and when I saw it, I just stared at the picture (shown above) for a solid 20 seconds. I turned around, and there was Sammy down on one knee asking me to marry him! I cried and jumped around, then he put my grandmother's wedding ring on my finger.  We then recreated the moment Sammy proposed (we didn't get a picture of the actual proposal, which I have hanging in my room. I love Sammy with all my heart, and I absolutely cannot wait to marry him June 23rd (The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), 2018!


Photography (top image): Harrison Tarabella (friend of groom) | Graphic Work: Keith (friend of couple) | Engagement Location: Silverhill, Baldwin County

Creating Your Own Wedding Novena



One of the beautiful things about Catholic devotional life is that there is a prayer (or prayers) for every problem and occasion. Novenas in particular are increasing in popularity amongst younger generations of Catholics, thanks to sites like And while engaged couples can find plenty of novenas to pray in preparation for marriage with a simple Google search, my hope is that this post will inspire you and your fiancé (or your maid of honor/best man) to write your own unique novena to pray with your guests in the nine days leading up to your wedding.

I first encountered the idea of a custom novena for someone’s wedding as a college student at the University of Notre Dame; one of my friends wrote a novena for a soon-to-be-married couple I knew. I thought it was such a wonderful idea that I have since offered to write one for my close friends and family who are preparing for marriage, and was blessed to receive the same gift from my sister Elisa (also my maid of honor) when I got married last year. Even if you don’t have someone who can spearhead the novena for you, writing a novena with your fiancé can be a beautiful way to grow as a couple. Below are simple instructions for how to put a novena together and share it with your guests:

Together with your fiancé, choose nine favorite saints.

These could be your patron saints, saints who have been meaningful to you as a couple, saints whose feast days fall on the days leading up to your wedding, or a combination of all three. My husband and I enjoyed this part of the process, although it was definitely tough to narrow down our list!

Find prayers to those saints that you can customize (or write your own).

Thanks to the internet, this part is surprisingly easy. All you have to do is search for prayers to the saints you’ve chosen and you’ll get lots of options that you can easily customize by inserting your names or changing the wording. If you’re ambitious and have some extra time on your hands, consider writing your own prayers to each Saint. Here’s an example of a modified prayer that I wrote for my sister Elisa’s wedding novena:

St. Joseph, pray for Elisa and Thomas as they begin their life as husband and wife. Pray for Thomas, that he will love Elisa the way that you loved Mary, and that he will teach his children the way you taught your Son. Pray for Elisa, that she will love Thomas the way Mary loved you, and that their union would imitate your holy marriage to Mary. Grant them both, with their future children, the grace of a happy and peaceful death.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of Christ, and for the gift of his earthly foster father, St. Joseph.

Create an email list of guests who you’d like to pray the novena with and for you.

An invitation to pray, even to those who aren’t Catholic, is never a bad thing. However, if you’re concerned that some of your guests may be offended by the idea of praying a novena for you and your fiancé, that’s something to keep in mind when making your list. I also recommend delegating this task to a bridesmaid or groomsman who can commit to sending out the prayer for each day.

Note: You may have older relatives who do not use email or check it regularly, but would love to participate in the novena. Consider printing and mailing copies of the novena to them; they’ll be so grateful.

Write an explanation of 1) what a novena is and 2) how to pray it for those who are unfamiliar with novenas, and send it out with the first day’s prayer.

Even if all of your guests (or everyone on the email list) are Catholic, it’s still helpful to include a brief explanation of novenas in general and yours in particular. It doesn’t need to be long or detailed. This is the explanation I included with my sister’s novena:

What is a Novena?
A novena is a prayer said over the course of nine days, and is popular in Catholic devotion. Novenas are usually prayed for a special intention and through the intercession of a particular Saint. We ask for the intercession of the saints because they are in heaven and are great prayer warriors. We do not worship the Saints or pray "to" them in the same way that we pray to God. We do honor them for their heroic virtue and holiness, and look to their example as we "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" as St. Paul says in Philippians 2:12.
For Elisa and Thomas, each day of the novena is dedicated to one of their favorite Saints. The idea is to have as many of Elisa and Thomas’ family and friends praying for them and their life together on the days leading up to their wedding.
How to pray the novena:
Begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Pray the specific prayer for that day.
End with the Our Father and a Hail Mary.

Pray the final novena prayer together with your wedding party before your rehearsal.

Kristian and I had a holy hour before our rehearsal, so we printed copies of our final novena prayer and invited everyone there to pray it with us. Those who were not at the holy hour could still pray it on their own at home.

In my experience, praying a customized wedding novena is a beautiful way to remain focused on the sacrament of marriage in the final (typically crazy) days of wedding preparation. It’s also a wonderful way to invite your guests to support you, especially those who are far away and unable to attend the wedding. My hope is that Kristian and I will pray our wedding novena each year in the nine days leading up to our anniversary, so that we don’t forget the holy men and women who interceded for us as we entered into married life.


About the Author: Christina Dehan Jaloway is Spoken Bride's Associate Editor. She is the author of the blog The EvangelistaRead more