Bradley Cortez is overcome with emotion at the sight of his bride, Vanileze Pessoni.

Tim Correira


Ask a Wedding Planner

To "first look" or not to "first look"? Patrie Grace has the answer.

Q: We're debating doing a "first look." What are the benefits to saving that moment of surprise for the actual ceremony?

There are great reasons to go either way. The rule of thumb twenty-five years ago was that it is bad luck to see each other before the ceremony, and why tempt fate? This superstition actually came from when arranged marriages were common. The ceremony was a business deal, so to assure the groom would not run off if he didn’t approve of his bride’s appearance he was not allowed to see her prior to the "I dos."

In the past five years, more couples are opting for their "first look" before guests arrive. They are accustomed to one another, are living together, and have the real facts:  all brides are stunning to behold. They’re trading in past tradition at the altar for enjoying a relaxed cocktail hour with guests. Taking care of your first look shots, wedding party, and family snaps before guests arrive can be a comfort and less daunting then seeing one another for the first time in front of everyone.

Still, history aside, not seeing one another before the ceremony offers a longer time to get ready with one’s closest friends and the element of breathless surprise. Being a romantic, I continue to cherish this exciting, emotional, and tender moment. There remains a certain indescribable magic to it.

Q: We’d like to ask one of our loved ones to officiate our big day. Is it worth the hassle?

Asking a loved one to be the officiant can be a blessing. It’s a beautiful gift to that family member or friend, and can make your day even more intimate.

That being said, your relative or friend has likely never performed a marriage ceremony before. They may have some vague recollection of "I wills" and "I dos," but no idea of who walks whom or which side the guys stand on and who has the rings. So some homework needs to be done beforehand.

If your beloved officiant is not up to the task, there is plenty of available information on the elements of wedding ceremonies online. It is up to one of you, your family, or your planner to oversee this preparation.

On the other hand, an experienced officiant who is comfortable with his or her  role and spends a little time getting to know the two of you can set the whole ceremony and all your guests at ease. And this can be a different kind of blessing – peace of mind.

Q: As a thank you to my bridesmaids, I want to pamper them before the wedding. Should we head out to a spa or stay in?

Spending time with your bridesmaids the morning of your wedding is the best. Everyone is full of excitement and joy and is there just for you. Matching robes, monogrammed shirts, makeup bags, hair stylists, makeup artists, finger foods, and mimosas can make the experience even more fun.

Some brides find not traveling to a salon can make for a calming and easygoing start to their big day. Having your bridal party, hair, and makeup come to you can be the right fit. I’ve had brides invite a friend to lead a yoga class, go for a fun run together, or take an invigorating morning dip before getting ready begins.

Others prefer the full spa experience. Whichever way you choose to spend getting ready for your perfect day, there are wonderful spas to host you and stylists who will travel to you to take extra special care of beautiful you.

Q: Let's not forget about the groom and his buddies. What should they do on the morning of the wedding?

The guys typically like to sleep in a little longer than the ladies (and have often had a later last night). If the groom and groomsmen are all getting ready together, having sandwiches, chips, drinks, and cookies dropped off may suffice and be greatly appreciated. If your ceremony starts on the later side, a morning round of golf, a sail, or a game of beach Frisbee can be a welcome way to enjoy the last morning as a bachelor.

Each issue we invite a wedding professional to share his or her expertise. Patrie Grace has more than thirty years of experience on the Island, and offers full-service wedding coordination and planning services through her company, With Grace. For more info, visit Submit your questions to