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When you’re planning your wedding ceremony, the type of wedding vows you plan to exchange will likely depend on the style of your ceremony. Not surprisingly, the vows shared at a traditional wedding ceremony with a religious officiant will be different than vows shared during an open-air, destination wedding ceremony with a friend serving as the officiant. If the structure of your ceremony doesn’t permit for personalized wedding vows or you just aren’t feeling the whole “public speaking” experience, you should consider sharing your personalized vows during the First Look.

Yes, even as the makers of vow books, we give you full permission to skip the speech in front of dozens of friends and family members. (Or not—you do you!) By sharing personalized vows during the First Look, you can focus all of your attention on your partner.

The First Look vow exchange also earned the endorsement of wedding photographer Lindsay Varner. As someone who has witnessed countless wedding days unfold, Lindsay tells The Art of Etiquette that couples often describe this moment as one of their “favorite parts” of the day—which is really saying something! 

“We realize that for many of our couples, the sharing of vows is desired to be more intimate than just proclaiming them out loud in front of family and friends,” says Lindsay, the owner of Lindsay Eileen Photography. “They’ve spent hours trying to figure out the perfect way to summarize the boundless ways in which they love their partner as well as laying out the promises that truly mean something to them. That’s one reason we often suggest the exchanging of vows during your first look.”

Do You Want More Special Moments? The First Look is a Memory-Maker

Couples traditionally waited until the ceremony to see each other on the wedding day. However, an earlier “First Look” meeting has caught on in popularity in recent years—and for very good reason. This private moment before the ceremony allows couples to connect, center each other and make a special memory before the formalities of the ceremony begin.

Lindsay says she’s seen couples exchange vow books to silently read or use the First Look to read the vow aloud. Either way, she explains this moment “not only gives you such a gorgeous moment of intimacy, but allows you the space to process all of the feelings that have led up to this day!”

Not to mention this is a great time to do wedding portraits so you can get straight to celebrating after the ceremony! (Cheers to that.)


How to write your wedding vows

Are Your Ceremony Vows Standardized?

Share Personalized Vows Earlier If you plan to share religious or standardized vows, the First Look is also an opportunity to have a more free-form exchange. Think of it like “silly inside jokes now, scripture later.” A great way to loosen up, right? Lindsay adds, “Some of our couples also exchange private hand-written vows during this moment while opting to go with more standard vows coached by the officiant during their ceremony.”

By doing personalized vows before the ceremony, it’s truly a win-win. You get this moment of meaningful connection while still getting to honor the formal vows you envisioned sharing before friends and family. 

The First Look is a Solution to Public Speaking Anxiety

Even if your wedding ceremony makes space for personalized vows doesn’t mean you have to share personalized vows. Without an audience listening in to your every word, the First Look is a perfect, low-pressure opportunity to share your intimate thoughts and feelings with your love.

Lindsay says the First Look is especially loved by individuals who “aren’t entirely comfortable expressing that degree of emotion in a public space.” By making the exchange of vows private, she says “more and more” couples have been able to focus on enjoying the day. After all, what matters isn’t the performance of vows, but the promise they contain. You only need one person for that: your beloved.

How to Write Vows for a First Look

When you share wedding vows during a First Look meeting, truly anything goes. So let your personality shine—whether that’s with romantic vows, funny vows or a combination. Our collection of inclusive vow books are designed to perfectly complement you, your relationship and your intentions. We also have digital resources, including a 10-Day Vow Writing Challenge to guide you through the vow-writing process, so you can confidently check this task off your pre-wedding to-do list.

Explore Our Heirloom Vow Books

Download the 10-Day Vow Writing Challenge now.

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