Engagement Session Style Guide
What Every Bride Needs to Know
The engagement session is one of my favorite parts of our time together. It gives you both a chance to be in front of my cameras (yes I have two… ) before you get married. This 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 am so excited to capture the only time in your life when you get to be each other’s fiancés. I have put this engagement session style guide together for you and packed it with all my best secrets.
Styling Your Session
Want your engagement images to look more editorial? Bring a little extra something with you! A freshly-picked bouquet for you to hold or fresh flowers to put on something else. Bring other things like a bicycle, tree swing, picnic basket, rowboat or an antique couch. This is a fun way bring a little extra romance to everyday objects.
Whether it’s larger items like classic cars, or smaller ones like blankets or hats, even incorporating just one extra styled item, could be a fun way to make your session more unique.
If you have chosen me as your photographer please know that I am always down for an adventure. So if there is an item you are dying to get into your session with you I will do my best to help you make it happen!
Style Tips: For Her
Because you’ve been waiting your whole life for this.
Dress It Up
Have you thought about rocking a sequined gown, tulle skirt or flower crown but just never had an occasion for it? This is your chance to do it up! Remember: There is no such thing as “too dressed up” when it comes to your engagement session. Don’t be afraid to have some fun! If you don’t want to add a new permanent piece to your collection, a lot of my brides love Rent the Runway for their engagement photos. This way 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!
The Client Closet
I also have been building a CLIENT CLOSET that you are welcome to utilize if there is something in there that strikes your fancy. This is a small collection of dresses that I have been working on building and is ever growing! Just ask!
Quick Tip: There’s no such thing as too dressed up.
Say Yes to the Dress
Long, flowy dresses and skirts look amazing on camera because they bring extra movement to the photos. Cute, shorter-length dresses photograph beautifully as well. Dresses and skirts tend to look most stunning on camera because they really flatter the female body! I recommend avoiding pants and shorts for your engagement session, and saying yes to a dress or two!
One or Two? It’s Up to You!
Most of my brides who choose two outfits will 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!
Coordinating the Looks
As you’re coordinating your outfit with your fiancé’s, keep in mind that your outfits should coordinate, but don’t necessarily need to “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). Your fiancé could wear a navy coat with gray pants, paired with brown leather shoes and maybe even a blush pocket square. Now he has his own dominant color (navy) while still incorporating a few touches of your color palette. Most brides choose their dress first, and then put together their fiancé’s outfit based on that. That’s why I have created a section for each of you.
Flattering Your Features
In my experience, 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 complement your natural features 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. If this area is worrisome to you be on the lookout for an option with a longer length sleeve. You could also bring a cute jacket, blazer or cardigan along, too. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so keep this in mind whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms. Heels elongate women’s legs, making them look fabulous. These little tricks make all the difference!
Quick Tip: Bring a pair of flats to wear when moving from place to place. Your feet will thank you later!
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.
Go Pro: Hair & Makeup
Professional hair and makeup looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready for your engagement session on your own. 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 I’ll be shooting in, so it’ll give you the best expectation of how it will translate on camera. It might feel like “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 my brides always love the final result. If you need a recommendation for hair and makeup, I work with the best in the business and have a go-to team that I work with! They’re sweet as pie, talented as heck, unbelievable professionals and wonderful people. You’ll LOVE them!
Quick Tip: Confidence. It’s always the best accessory.
A Little Extra Polish: Don’t forget, your ring will be center stage. Give yourself permission to get it cleaned and your nails done, too!
Skip the Spray Tan
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I recommend that you do not get a spray tan before your engagement session. It tends to photograph orange even when it’s applied subtly and by a professional. Your actual skin tone will photograph the most beautifully.
Fashion Tips: For Him
Because dapper and debonair never go out of style.
As Long as He’s Got That Suit & Tie
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 thousands 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. Pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye. Don’t want a full suit? You can pull off a sport coat and jeans and still look beyond handsome!
Quick Tip: There’s no substitute for a well-tailored suit.
Mix It Up
Many of my grooms love to mix 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 hot outside, trust me when I say that it’s worth an hour or two of discomfort for photos that will last you both a lifetime. Adding another layer will bring extra dimension and visual interest to your photos. Blazers, vests and coats up the level of any look. If the temperature permits, he could even 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 his 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 and sandals at home. Suit pants, dress pants or dark jeans work best. Brown leather dress shoes complement almost every look.
Ties, bowties, pocket squares, colored socks, belts, tie clips, suspenders, vests and watches are sharp complements to any suit. I’m a sucker for the bowtie personally but if that’s not your style it’s totally ok! 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 complement both of her dresses without doing a full change during the session. So, either way, you win.
How to Prep Your Man
Most men aren’t overly excited for their engagement session, 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 your three favorite sessions that I’ve done, explain why you love them and express to him how much it means to you. Trust me, he’ll light up the camera for you!
The most common thing I hear from guys before engagement sessions is this: because of 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 I’m done, though, they can’t believe how fast it went and just how much fun they had!
After the Session
Don’t forget to plan a dinner date or something fun. You’re already going to be all dressed up! Why not take advantage of it? I 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.
One Final Note
I know that I just gave you a lot to think about. I created this engagement session style guide to help make your 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. I want your engagement session to be a time for you to just be yourselves and enjoy it. Have fun together. Laugh a lot. And I’ll take care of the rest!
Some of my favorite places to find dresses other than Rent The Runway are the following:
Have other questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me! I am happy to answer any questions you might have!
Are you looking for more wardrobe inspiration? Check out some of these other features on the blog!