Updated: Jul 21
THE ENGAGEMENT SESSION STYLE GUIDE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT EVERY BRIDE NEEDS TO KNOW
HOW TO CHOOSE A DATE & TIME
SELECTING THE RIGHT LOCATION
BRING YOUR PUP
STYLE TIPS: FOR HER
WHAT TO WEAR
COORDINATING COLORS & LOOKS
FLATTERING YOUR FEATURES
HAIR & MAKEUP
THE FINAL TOUCH
FASHION TIPS: FOR HIM
PREPPING YOUR MAN
AFTER THE SESSION
ONE FINAL NOTE
ENGAGEMENT SESSION CHECKLIST
WHAT EVERY BRIDE 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 the 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. This guide was created for you, and it’s packed with all the best secrets for getting the best out of your engagement experience, so let’s dive right in!
CHOOSING TIME AND DATE
I'M A NATURAL LIGHT SPECIALIST BECAUSE I believe that natural light, from the sun and its reflections, creates photographs that feel fresh, timeless and true to you as a couple. I begin all engagement sessions two hours before the scheduled sunset during “the golden hour,” when the light is the dreamiest. Use a sunset calculator online to determine the scheduled sunset for the date and location you’d like to do your session. Then, just subtract two hours to figure out your start time. Remember, the sun sets much earlier during the colder months of the year and much later during the warmer months, so make sure to 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 so you can arrive a few minutes early. We’re only able to shoot when natural light is still in the sky, so we’ll want to take advantage of every minute we have together before the sun goes down. If you’re wearing two outfits, save your favorite one for the second half, and if you’re wearing only one, arrive in that.
QUICK TIP: The weekends fill up first and far in advance. You can get a Fast Pass to the front of the line by scheduling mid-week.
SELECTING THE RIGHT LOCATION
THE LOCATION OF YOUR ENGAGEMENT SESSION IS UP TO YOU!
The first thing to decide what you’d like to feature in your session. Like you see throughout this guide, most of my couples want to showcase the natural beauty of St. Louis. Areas such as Forest Park, and Lafayette Park are popular choices. I especially love shooting in these places because it’s so beautiful and the light is divine. There are also other great options around the state, and i’m always up for exploring a new spot together.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
THIS IS THE TIME TO THINK outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you, or someone in your personal or professional network, can secure permission to a location that would otherwise be off- limits, like a beautiful private estate, country club or resort. Maybe it’s a family ranch, upscale hotel or even an airplane hangar. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around. You’ll
be surprised with what you come up with. Plus, if something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask! My couples have secured permission to some pretty amazing places in the past.
If you get stuck or need inspiration, check my Facebook & Instagram Page and keep browsing through this guide. I have some great go-to locations around town that we can always hit, too. Just let me know which photos you love, and what type of location you’d like to feature, and we will go from there!
BRING YOUR FUR BABY
WANT TO INCLUDE YOUR FUR BABY? Absolutely! I’m a HUGE dog person and love when people bring their pets to their engagement session. I know what you’re thinking... maybe your dog gets excited (sometimes too excited) with new adventures or you’re worried about them misbehaving. Trust me, I’ve got all the tricks up my sleeve. In my house, dog hair is an accessory. Incorporating your pup is a fun way to make your session more special and unique.
A few things to bring with you:
1. an extra person not in the photos for an extra set of hands 2. a squeaky toy 3. yummy treats 4. a towel in case they get muddy paws!
(Photo of my dog.. because... she's adorable!! )
STYLE TIPS FOR HER
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, so 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 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 just love having a great excuse to bring a new permanent piece (or two!) into their closet!!
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. Especially when juxtaposed with nature, like magnolias, woodsy areas, or the beach. 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 — which is probably why the red carpet is always full of so many dresses and not very many pantsuits!
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. Other brides go for a more casual feel and choose one dress and one outfit comprised of well- fitted pants (typically skinny cut) and a cute top!
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. Just one outfit that you love will be so much better than one outfit you love paired with another you’re not very excited about. So, one or two? It’s really up to you!
WHEN CHOOSING COLORS FOR YOUR OUTFITS I recommend selecting lighter tones and muted shades. By avoiding bright, bold colors, it will bring all the attention to your faces and 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 all natural outdoor environments.
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. 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 there’s 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 area 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, 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. Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera, so I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is a set of slimmer-looking arms.
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!
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 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.
HAIR & MAKEUP - GO PRO!!
PROFESSIONAL HAIR & MAKEUP IS ON TOP OF MOST OF my brides’ checklists because it looks amazing and removes the stress of getting ready on your own. Whether it’s lash extensions or 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. Most of my 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 my brides always love the final result.
It s always the best accessory
A LITTLE EXTRA POLISH
Don’t forget, your ring will be center stage, so 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 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 and naturally.
FASHION TIPS FOR HIM
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 compliment to most women’s outfits, whereas tiny, tiny pinstripes or plaid patterns tend to distract the eye.
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, too. Suit pants, dress pants, colored pants, or dark well-fitted jeans work best. Brown leather dress shoes compliment almost every look, whether he’s wearing a full suit or a more casual button down and slacks.
A BIT MORE CASUAL
MANY OF OUR GROOMS LOVE TO STICK TO THE CLASSIC button down and well-fitted pants with a casual dress shoe. This is a timeless classic and it’s super easy to coordinate with your outfits!
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 we 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!
HOW TO - PREP YOUR MAN
MOST MEN AREN’T OVERLY EXCITED TO TAKE PHOTOS FOR ONE hour, 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 some of your favorite photos 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! 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!
PHOTO DELIVERY TIMELINE
Social media sneak peek with some of my favorite photos
Online gallery with all of your final, retouched, high-resolution images
ONE FINAL NOTE
I KNOW I JUST GAVE YOU A LOT TO THINK ABOUT.
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 us, and 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!
ENGAGEMENT SESSION CHECKLIST
SET DATE, TIME AND LOCATION
REVIEW GUIDE FOR STYLE TIPS
SCHEDULE HAIR AND MAKEUP APPOINTMENTS
CHOOSE YOUR OUTFITS
GET YOUR NAILS DONE
CLEAN YOUR RING
PACK A BAG WITH:
Flats or flip-flops for walking between photo spots
Outfit two (including shoes and accessories)
Water bottle (for warmer sessions)
Coat or cover-up (for colder sessions)
8.PICK A FUN POST-SESSION DATE NIGHT SPOT
SEE YOU SOON!