wedding traditions

Henry & Cassandra | Traditional Wedding at First Baptist Church | Waco, Texas

A traditional church wedding on Christmas weekend inside First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, Jason & Melaina Photography -

We ended 2017 with the beautiful, traditional church wedding of Henry & Cassandra on Christmas weekend, and we are so excited to show it to you! If you read Henry & Cassandra’s engagement blog post, you’ll remember these two Sweethearts met when they were younger because their families attend First Baptist Church, Waco together. So FBC was the perfect choice for their wedding ceremony!

If you asked us what would be the most beautiful sanctuary in Waco for a traditional church wedding, FBC Waco will definitely be one of our top suggestions! With the soaring ceilings, all the stained-glass windows, the rows of beautiful wooden pews, the architecture of the is just such a gorgeous sanctuary! The beauty of the sanctuary and the small touches of red poinsettias for Christmas provided the perfect backdrop for Henry & Cassandra's wedding day.

Henry & Cassandra continued the traditional theme of their wedding by choosing not to see one another before her walk down the aisle. However, to help calm their nerves and to have a special moment together before, they decided to do a “first touch.” We love when our Sweetheart’s choose to do a first touch, taking a moment to connect and talk together before saying "I do." Since we couldn’t find a great doorway without exposing Henry & Cassandra to all their guests who were arriving, Jason found a small bench in front of stained-glass windows on the second floor landing. I brought Henry up from downstairs and had him sit facing the corner, and made him PROMISE he wouldn’t turn around. Then while Jason got into place, I brought Cassandra out of her bridal suite and placed her behind Henry on the bench. Maybe Cassandra was able to sneak a little peek at Henry before the ceremony and see him looking all dapper in his blue tux, but this location paid off in one of the most beautiful first touches we’ve photographed.

After the first touch it was time for the ceremony, and it was such a meaningful ceremony filled with beautiful moments. A pastor from Mexico closely connected with the family presided over much of the ceremony, encouraging Henry & Cassandra in their new roles as husband and wife. There was also a time in the ceremony when relatives and close family friends were invited to give traditional gifts to the couple getting married. One of our favorite parts was when Henry & Cassandra were encircled with the wedding lasso rosary during their time of prayer together. It was such a perfect symbol of marriage, being tied together, side-by-side as you journey forward.

A bride gets into her beaded wedding gown from Georgio's Bridal Salon, Waco, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -
A calligraphy wedding invitation suite laid out on bride's veil, surrounded by bouquet and bride's jewelry - Jason & Melaina Photography -
A bride gets emotional giving her father a gift before her wedding at First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -
A bride and groom hold hands during a "first touch" at their wedding at FBC Waco - Jason & Melaina Photography -
A groom cries when he sees his bride coming down the aisle at a wedding ceremony at FBC Waco - Jason & Melaina Photography -
A bride and groom kiss in front of the historic First Baptist Church in downtown Waco- Jason & Melaina Photography -

After the ceremony, Henry & Cassandra invited their guests to a fun-filled reception at Castle Heights Bijoux Events Center. They kept the traditional reception elements such as the Father/Daughter dance, toasts, and of course, cutting their gorgeous wedding cake! But there were some fun additions to the celebration we had never seen before in our experience as wedding photographers!

Before Cassandra did her bouquet toss, she and Henry stretched her cathedral length veil between them and all the young women (and some young-at-heart) joined hands and ran through the venue and under the veil. Then, right before Henry tossed his boutonniere to the young, single men, they did the same! Also, a group of Cassandra’s cousins from Mexico swarmed Henry and tossed him up in the air to the music. He almost hit the ceiling!

After all the cake had been served and the bouquet had been tossed, a family friend led the entire reception in a few rounds of competitive games. It was fun to see the women compete against the men, each team trying to win for the bride or groom! The fun reception ended with everyone praying over these Sweethearts, praying blessings on their new marriage as they left the reception to start their new life together.

A bride and groom dance together during their wedding reception at Castle Heights Bijoux Events Center in Waco, Texas - Jason & Melaina Photography -
Guests at a wedding reception run under the bride's veil - Jason & Melaina Photography -
Guests throw the groom into the air on the dance floor during his wedding reception at Castle Heights Bijoux Events Center - Jason & Melaina Photography -

Dear Henry & Cassandra,

There were so many beautiful moments on your wedding day that we hope you cherish in your memory for years. We hope you remember the joy and emotions, the way all your family and friends came together to support your love and marriage. And we pray that the way you two smile at one another and the love in your eyes for one another doesn't fade but grows stronger with each anniversary. Blessings on your marriage!

Love, J&M


Should you do a first look?

Bride approaches a groom from behind for a first look, The Palladium in Waco, Texas

When we formulate a wedding day timeline for our J&M Sweethearts, we’ll go over all the little details that will make their day flow smoothly. One of the big questions we always ask is, “Would you want to do a first look prior to the ceremony?” And honestly, the majority of our couples are unsure what they would like to do.

Since whether or not you should do a first look is a big question for both wedding photographers and their wedding couples, we thought we’d share our professional (and personal) opinions on a first look vs. keeping things traditional on your wedding day.

3 major pros of doing a first look

A bride and groom's first look on their wedding day, Horseshoe Bay Resort, Texas

1. Calming your nerves

Ha! I bet you thought we’d come at you with a bunch of reasons photographers think you should do a first look. But actually, 2 of our 3 pros for having a first look have nothing to do with wedding photography and everything to do with our brides and grooms. One of the most important things we've seen a first look do for couples is provide an opportunity to calm nerves.

We're not sure what sort of bride you are, but when I (Melaina) was getting ready to walk down the aisle to marry Jason, I was a nervous wreck! Full disclosure, we didn’t do a first look because Jason wanted the first time he saw me to be when I was walking down the aisle. Also, I’m not even sure we were aware of the first look option 9 years ago when we were planning our wedding ceremony. But looking back, I feel if we had done a first look prior to the ceremony, my nerves would have been much calmer for our actual ceremony.

If you think nerves or anxiety may be something you are battling on your wedding day, having a first look and chance to be with one another before the ceremony in front of everyone you know may be a great idea for you.

2. Have a chance to talk to one another

Having a first look can not only calm your nerves, but it can also give you two a chance to talk to one another in a more intimate setting on the most important day in your relationship. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation about how beautiful you look and how much you love one another and are so excited to be getting married when you’re standing in front of all your friends and family and the minister is asking “Who gives this woman away in marriage?” Having a moment prior to the ceremony for just the two of you is a great way to connect on this important day and an amazing memory to tuck away in your hearts.

A bride and groom talk together during their first look, Horseshoe Bay Resort, Texas

3. More time for bride and groom portraits

There’s also a pro for the first look as far as your wedding photography is concerned. If you chose to have a first look and have a really efficient wedding day timeline, this allows for a mini photo session of you two prior to the ceremony. Your photographer will be able to capture some awesome bride and groom portraits, as well as knock out all the bridal party portraits and maybe even some of the family portraits before the ceremony even starts. Then ensures all these heirloom images are done and allows everyone to get to the reception quickly immediately after the ceremony.

Now a great wedding photographer will be able to get all these portraits done in a timely manner after the ceremony and get everyone to the reception before cocktail hour is over. In fact, we’ve worked out a system to ensure our Sweethearts who don’t have a first look get these heirloom images in record time. But if having a lot portraits of you and your groom on your wedding day is a high priority to you, you may want to consider having a first look to allow for the most time to capture those important images.

3 major pros of keeping things traditional

A groom smiles at his bride as she walks down the aisle, Moon River Ranch, Satin, Texas

1. It’s tradition!

Having the bride not be revealed until she walks down the aisle to marry her husband is tradition, and there is something to be said for keeping with tradition. We actually chose to say the traditional marriage vows to one another at our wedding instead of writing our own because we loved the idea of repeating what countless couples before us had said. And that same sentiment can apply here. So if you find yourself really drawn to traditional aspects of wedding ceremonies, choosing to not see one another until you walk down the aisle is definitely the way to go.

2. Everyone will get to see your reactions to seeing one another for the first time

Some of our sweethearts really want to have an intimate moment when they see each other for the first time on their wedding day. And others want everyone they invited to share in their wedding day to be a part of the big reveal. Witnessing a groom respond in an emotional way to seeing his bride for the first time is a very sweet moment after all. We’ve had previous Sweethearts specifically choose not to do a first look because the bride knew the groom was going to cry when he saw her and they wanted to save that moment for when she walked down the aisle. So if you know your response to one another is going to be emotional and you want to share that with your family and friends, keeping things more traditional and not doing a first look is the perfect way to do that.

A groom cries when he sees his bride walking down the aisle, La Rio Mansion, Belton, Texas

3. Still time for intimate bride and groom portraits at sunset

Even if you don’t do a first look there is still great opportunities to be had for heirloom images of you two on your wedding day. All portraits that can happen with you two separately can be done prior to the ceremony, and the full bridal party, family formals and even couple portraits can happen between the ceremony and the reception. But depending on the timing of your ceremony, there’s also some great opportunity to sneak out of the reception with your photographers at sunset to get some amazing and intimate portraits of you two in your beautiful venue. In as little as 10-15 minutes you can have a mini portrait session to capture beautiful images your children and grandchildren will adore, while still keeping with tradition and not doing a first look.

A compromise - The First Touch

Maybe after reading this and considering the pros of both sides you still find yourself on the fence...or one of you prefers a first look and the other prefers the tradition of not having a first look. A great compromise to consider would be a first touch, a time where the bride and groom touch and connect in some way prior to the ceremony without seeing one another. A first touch allows you to speak with one another and have an intimate moment to calm your nerves while saving the big reveal of the bride in her gown for the walk down the aisle. 

A bride and groom hold hands during a first touch, Carleen Bright Arboretum, Woodway, Texas

You've probably seen portraits of couples' "first touch" moments on Pinterest or online. One common way to do this is to have the bride and groom hold hands around an open door or corner of a building. Other options include having the groom blindfolded while holding the bride, or having the groom stand around the corner of an open doorway from the bride while he reads her a letter or plays her a song on his guitar. There are many ways to do a first touch and your wedding photographer will have great ideas of how to do one that suites your personalities.

A first look, a traditional walk down the aisle, or a first touch? What do you plan on doing? Leave us a comment below to weigh in on the conversation!