What Every Couple Needs to Know
The engagement session is one of my favorite parts of our time together because it gives you both a chance to be in front of my camera before you get married, which is going to make your wedding day experience feel so smooth, seamless and comfortable. Not only that, but we get to create something so special together. You’re going to be married for over fifty years, but you only get to be engaged for this short period of time. I'm so excited to capture the only time in your life when you get to be each other’s fiances. I created this guide for you, and packed it with all my best tips for getting the best out of your engagement experience. My goal is to create images that are natural, candid, fun, and represent you as a couple.
This is definitely not a rule book. I created this guide to help make your engagement session experience something you’ll look back fondly on for years and years to come. At the end of the day, though, the location you choose and the outfits you select won’t matter nearly as much as the memories you make together. Your future marriage is the most important thing to me, and I want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy this time! Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
CHOOSING TIME & DATE
I LOVE natural light because it allows us to create images that feel fresh, timeless and natural. We will begin all engagement sessions about 90 minutes before sunset, during “the golden hour" when the light is the dreamiest. There’s just something intimate about that warm, romantic sunset light! Remember the sun sets much earlier in the cooler months and much later in the warmer months, so make sure you factor that in when choosing your engagement session date, especially if you’re taking time off work or have evening plans afterward.
To get the most out of your session, please plan a buffer when getting ready in case of traffic or unforeseen delays. It’s perfectly alright to be early, but you don’t want to be late - because any tardiness takes away from the time we’ve scheduled during the remaining daylight. And be sure to arrive in your first outfit! (If you’re wearing linen or any material that will wrinkle easily, save that for your second outfit or arrive early enough to change.)
Quick Tip: Our weekends fill up first and far in advance. You can have your engagement session done in Spring, early Summer or the ideal Fall dates for scenic color by scheduling for mid-week.
SELECTING THE RIGHT LOCATION
The location of your engagement session is up to you! If you have a specific location in mind, or vision for the look you want, let us know! If not, we can always suggest some of our favorites! We have locations that we love for each season, depending on what elements you love. We are also constantly scouting and searching for new locations to use! The location of your session should be some reflection of your personalities. We’ll settle on a location that fits you as a couple!
HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER:
Think outside the box. Is there a place you like to go to on date nights? Sometimes this can be a great location! If it’s a business we can try and get permission to shoot inside. Favorite Coffee shop or Brewery? Or maybe you like to grab desert or ice cream from somewhere downtown? I encourage you to also brainstorm some unique locations you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you or someone in your network of friends/family/co-workers, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private property or country club. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar!
Nature: If we’ve settled on a location out in nature (i.e. forest, lake, ranch or farm, park, etc.), be sure to come prepared for that specific location. If we’re heading out into the woods on a hiking trail or mountainside, be sure to bring bug spray and shoes you don’t mind getting dirty.
Traveling: If you want to shoot somewhere that isn’t local to Knoxville, just let me know and we can discuss travel info. Keep in mind that travel fees might apply!
So first of all, let me say I really don't love denim. Unless it's super dressed up with a nice top, accessories, and nice shoes. Guys, I know you want to be comfy, and you probably wear jeans all the time... So what better reason than to do something different, go all out for your bride-to-be, and for photos that you'll look back on for years to come! I always tell couples, you're investing in a "Luxury" style service - and as your wedding photographer, you're trusting me for amazing photos! What you're wearing will be a part of the outcome. My style is relaxed and natural posing, but with an elegant and sophisticated look and edit to the images. If you're open to some input from me on what will look the best, just keep an open mind! :) If you're pretty set on wearing jeans - Please make sure they're a darker shade, not faded or torn, and wear a button up shirt and tie or bowtie, or a button up with a sports coat or vest. If you plan on tucking in a shirt - Wear a belt!
Of course - If you feel more comfortable, and more yourselves in denim - go for it! We want these photos to be fun, and show your personalities. Just keep in mind - the darker the better, no fading/rips other than what's supposed to be there - such as the new style of worn-out looking rips around the knees for ladies. (Not the guys!)
TIPS FOR HER
(Because you’ve been waiting your whole life for this!)
Dress It Up
Have you thought about rocking a flowy gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your engagement session, so don’t be afraid to have some fun! Wedding Photography is a luxury service, and I like to think of these engagement sessions before the wedding as a "Luxe" session also!
If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of brides love Rent the Runway for their engagement photos because you don’t have to spend a lot to feel like a million bucks. Plus, you can send the outfits back when the session is over. Other brides love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!
Say Yes to the Dress
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like the lake, forest, fields or the mountains. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well (just above the knee to mid-thigh). Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the female body — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits! We recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your session, and saying yes to a dress or two! I LOVE the site www.lulus.com for beautiful dresses that are very versatile and beautiful! (Also, you'll want to remember that you'll be sitting in a few photos for variety... so make sure you're comfortable sitting or walking in whatever you choose! So not too revealing or short, and also stay away from keyholes or sheer panels in the torso area. I do love back keyholes and sheer panels on the chest/neck, back, or bottom of a dress.) (I also love Belk, Cato's, Altr'd State, DressBarn, and Kohl's for dresses!)
One or Two? It’s Up to You!
If you choose to wear two outfits, bring one “wow” dress, and then another shorter sun dress or cocktail dress for a more casual “us on a date” feel. But if you want to bring two “wow” dresses and forgo the more casual dress altogether, give yourself permission to do it! The camera loves runway-esque apparel and so do I! Remember, though, you don’t have to bring two looks if it’s too stressful or you’d rather just stick to one fabulous look. One outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love and another you’re not very excited about. So, one or two? It’s really up to you! And if you prefer a casual look to your outfits, that's totally fine! Keep it on the dressy side, turning an outfit with denim or colored pants into a stylish casual outfit with a statement necklace, layers, cute shoes, etc.
When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting solid colors, or more muted shades. Choose the colors you feel that you look the best in, based on your skin tone, hair color, etc. By avoiding ultra-bright, bold colors, it will help bring all the attention to your faces and let the image focus on the way you feel about each other. The camera loves shades of soft pink and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light neutrals like heather gray, creams, leather brown and white. That softer color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments, and especially compliments an outdoor, natural location.
Darker, muted colors and rich color palettes also look great year-round, creating amazing contrast! Don't be afraid of patterns, but remember to consider our location. For urban sessions, you can definitely go with a more bold color like black, navy, red, or the jewel tones (which i LOVE). But for the more natural scene, subtle floral patterns and soft colors will look the absolute best! I absolutely love the "jewel" tones anywhere! "Grass" green or yellow don't look good in a natural setting, because there's already so much of those colors in nature.
There are exceptions, of course: A burnt yellow in the fall as an accent color looks great, and muted shades of green like a hunter green for an urban session or a light mint green for a summer session are ok, or as an accent color (even better!) in your accessories. Also, dark brown is my least favorite, as it never looks good for an urban session (blends in too much with the surroundings) or in nature unless it's a base color for a more colorful palette of coordinating pieces.
Coordinating the Looks
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiance’s, keep in mind that your outfits will look the most cohesive on camera when the color palettes coordinate, but don’t necessarily “match.” You should each aim to wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress, soft blue earrings and nude heels (blush being your dominant color), then he could wear a navy coat with gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square or tie. Now he has his own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating a few touches of your color palette. Most of my brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiance’s outfit based on that. That’s why I have a section for each of you. I know from experience it's always harder to find my own outfit for my own family photos! It'll be much easier to find his wardrobe pieces based off yours.
FLATTERING YOUR FEATURES
In my experience, almost every woman, regardless of her shape has an area of her body that she’s self-conscious about, so recognizing what that is in advance is key. Choosing flattering silhouettes and colors that compliment your natural features/complexion is the best way to ensure you’ll love the way you look in your photos. Three-quarter length sleeves create an awesome slimming effect on all arms, so be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too (season appropriate, of course). Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so we recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms and more feminine shoulders. Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. Closed-toes heels in particular look great on camera because they carry out the line of your leg all the way down to your toe. If your toes are showing in a peep-toe heel, you might want to schedule a pedicure before your session so you don’t regret letting your feet show. These little tricks make all the difference! If our location is somewhere that you feel may be too soft of ground for heels, consider a really beautiful wedge! (If you're like me and clumsy in heels, try a sturdy wide wedge or a beautiful, either colorful or neutral pair of strappy sandals!)
Quick Tip: If our location involves a lot of walking, bring a pair of flats or sneakers to wear when moving from place to place. Your feet will thank you later! (make sure they're quick & easy to slip on and off!)
Make a Statement
Pairing an accessory or two with your outfit can really help bring some extra dimension to your images. Big statement necklaces bring a lot of pop to the photos, while the smaller, delicate ones are not be as noticeable on camera. Belts, bracelets and earrings bring great visual interest, so choose one or two that don’t compete for attention. Fresh florals in a crown or bouquet can be a really romantic touch as well. I especially love floral crowns in a natural setting! So feminine and really sets a luxurious feel to the photos, and transitions great if you're using your images in your wedding decor!
Go Pro: Hair & Makeup
Professional hair and makeup is on the top of most of our brides’ checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. Whether it’s professionally applied makeup (false lashes look amazing in photos, btw!) or simply blown-out hair, professional hair and makeup will give you an extra boost of confidence in front of the camera, and it always photographs like a dream. If you’re working with a makeup artist, have her apply your makeup in natural light, if possible, so that it looks fresh and not too heavy. Plus, that’s the type of light we’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. Most of our brides feel like their makeup is “too much” at first, since it’s more than you would wear on a normal day, so if you feel that way at the beginning, don’t worry! Good makeup artists know how to get it just right for the camera — and our brides always love the final result.
A FEW MORE TIPS…
Have your ring cleaned! It’ll be center stage during your session, so give yourself permission to get your nails done too!
Skip the spray tan. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, we recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your session, even a few days prior, because it tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully. The camera is very sensitive to orange and yellow tones, and skin will always look unnatural on camera after a spray tan.
Avoid clothing that might show bra straps, undergarments, or tags. It is very limiting and stifling when we have to keep ensuring that these are not showing. Help us out!
Avoid clothes with logo or branding.
Be sure you’ve tried on your outfits multiple times and seen them both together in natural light, so you know you’ll look great!
What you choose to wear has to be comfortable! You don’t want to be fidgeting the entire session, trying to keep your clothes in place. So be sure you wear something you can easily move around in, sit in, and lastly, something that makes you feel awesome!
STYLE TIPS FOR HIM
(Because dapper and debonair never go out of style.)
From James Bond to Don Draper, men look most striking in a well-tailored suit. If he doesn’t have one, now’s the perfect time to invest in something he’ll wear for the rest of his life! The best part? It’s a lot less expensive than you might think! While custom suits can cost hundreds of dollars, some of the most well-known brands have off-the-rack suits in their stores for a fraction of the price. Solid shades of gray or navy are a strong complement to most women’s outfits, whereas pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. Check out department stores such as Dillard's, Belk's, or even JC Penney's for some sharp looking suits! For tailored suits, we love Joseph A. Banks or Men’s Wearhouse.
Mix It Up
I love the look of mixing a suit coat, blazer or sport coat with a different pant color. It adds some extra visual interest, and can be more fun than wearing two full suits in a row. I'm a big fan of this fresh take on a timeless classic!
Next time you walk by a store like J. Crew, you’ll notice the male mannequins and models are always wearing several layers at once. Layers on men look great on camera, so even when it’s a bit warmer outside, trust us when we say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. (Where seasonally appropriate, of course. A sweater in the summer would be miserable! not to mention confusing for anyone seeing your Bride-to-be in a summery gown, and you in a sweater!) Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. During cooler months, consider adding a v-neck sweater with a pop of color from a long-sleeved collared shirt and tie underneath. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with layers!
It’s All in the Details
Long pants and closed-toed shoes are the most sophisticated and masculine looks for men. They draw attention away from your legs and feet and place it where you want it: on the face you fell in love with. So, for your session, it’s best to leave the shorts, sandals and jeans at home, too. Suit pants, dress pants or colored pants work best. Brown dress shoes compliment almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a blazer and colored pants. Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp compliments to any suit. If you bring two suits to the session, you can start with a traditional necktie and belt, then switch to suspenders and a bow tie for your second look. If two suits are too stressful, no problem! One look will do the trick! You can still mix and match accessories to compliment both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. Or simply open your suit jacket, take off the tie, unbutton the top button, and voila! Second, more relaxed look, but still so nice! So, either way, you win! And I promise she'll love you even more for it!
A FRESH HAIR CUT IS A MUST!
Things to avoid:
Logo or Branded clothing
LADIES, PREP YOUR MAN!
Most men aren’t overly excited to take photos for 90 minutes, because they don’t have an expectation of what’s to come and why it’s so important to you. Take fifteen minutes to educate and empower your guy. Tell him why you chose me and my style of photography. Show him a few favorite sessions or weddings that I’ve done, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust us, he’ll light up the camera for you! The most common thing we hear from guys before engagement sessions is this: they’ve had a bad experience in the past, they don’t like taking photos or don’t think they’ll be good at it. By the time we’re done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had! I have tricks, games, and prompts that I like to incorporate into the session to take your mind off the camera and just have fun, and that always makes it fun for the guys too! And every time, we get images that are true to your personalities and how you love one another - rather than a set of poses and practiced smiles. :)
THINGS TO CONSIDER
TURN-AROUND TIME: The turn-around time for us to deliver your engagement session is 2-3 weeks.
SAVE THE DATES: These should usually be sent out around 4-6 months prior to your wedding. Invitations are sent out 4-6 weeks before; Or if you have a lot of guests traveling, flying, or needing overnight accomodations, consider sending Invites out 6-8 weeks prior.
GUEST BOOKS: If you aren’t planning on using your engagement session images for your Save The Date or Invitation, but would like to use them at your wedding (for example, as a guest book or signing canvas), add at least a month longer for delivery to be able to design, revise and order these items.
WEATHER: If possible, let’s avoid scheduling your engagement session in the heat of summer, or in the evening when thunderstorms are likely (June/July). Sessions are generally rescheduled if there is a 50% or more chance of rain on the day of a session. Living in TN, the weather is unpredictable. We’ll stay in touch leading up to your session and make this decision together the days leading up to and sometimes the day of your session.
AFTER THE SESSION
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date. You’re already going to be all dressed up! Why not take advantage of it? We know the wedding planning process can feel all-consuming, so take some time after the session just for the two of you to relax and have some fun together. You deserve it!
Just like your wedding, the more you plan and invest in your engagement session, the smoother it will go and the more fun we’ll have! Don’t leave the details of your session to the last minute. This will only create stress and will take away from what it’s supposed to be - FUN!
Engagement Session Checklist
1. Confirm date, time and location with Stephanie :)
2. Review guide for style tips.
3. Schedule hair and makeup appointments if desired (or even schedule your "trial run" for wedding day makeup!)
4. Choose your outfits (Be sure to check out the pinterest board I've created for your Spring/Summer session here: https://www.pinterest.com/BlushCreative/springsummer-engagement-sessions-what-to-wear/) OR Fall/Winter Sessions here: https://www.pinterest.com/BlushCreative/fallwinter-engagements-what-to-wear/
5. Get your nails done!
6. Clean your ring (Your jewelry store will most likely do it for you at no cost!)
7. Pack a bag with:
- Flats or sneakers for walking between photo spots if needed!
- Outfit two (including the right bra for the outfit, if different, as well as shoes and accessories) Leave on the hanger or in a garment bag so as to not wrinkle! I do have a pop-up changing tent we can use if you need it! Just let me know, and I'll be sure to bring it!
- Touch-up makeup
- Water bottle (for warmer sessions)
- Jacket (for cooler sessions)
8. Pick a fun post-session date night spot!
I can’t wait to see you soon! Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to text me photos of what you find, if you want my input or any suggestions on how to accessorize!