September 16, 2016
I had literally just started working on ideas for this post when I got an email from one of my brides with an upcoming e-session. In essence, she wrote the frequently asked question that I hope to answer today: what do I wear to my engagement session?
Engagement sessions are important because they allow me to get to know my bride and groom-to-be. It’s during this session that I see how the couple interacts, as well as how comfortable they are in front of the camera. Also, this is the time when my clients will get the chance to experience how I shoot, pose, and interact with them while taking their photos. Without this session, the wedding day pictures could possibly feel a little more awkward for the both of us, just because we’re still getting to know each other! This is why engagement sessions are key. That, and because you need these photos to tell everyone your exciting news: you’re getting hitched!
Engagement sessions are relaxed and very fun. I want to create an experience that my bride and groom-to-be can really enjoy during the session and realize that they need to take this same kind of time during their wedding day to stop, enjoy, have fun; slowing down and taking the time to relax and get comfortable in front of the camera together is often the recipe for getting those amazing shots.
I think picking outfits for an engagement session seems easy until you start laying all the options out. Then, suddenly, you feel like you have too many options but also need to go buy some more options, too. You want something that makes you look great, but also something that defines you as a couple. That’s a tall order to fill. So, after gathering some inspiration images of engagement session outfits via Pinterest, I wrote out my best tips to keep in mind when dressing for your engagement session!
Choose a Theme or a Color Palette: Maybe this sounds a little intense, but I use this concept every time I’m planning a styled session and it really helps me to figure out a vision for what I’m wanting. Having a theme or color palette in mind can really help you narrow down what kind of outfit elements you should be looking for or trying to match up. For example, if your engagement session is happening soon this fall, maybe you want to go with something rustic that reflects you and your fiancé’s love of camping. You could consider this your “theme” and go from there, picking out a color palette of natural, earthy colors like browns, oranges, and greens. Or, a more general theme might be something as simple as the word “elegant.” From there, you could just look through your closet and try to find items that seem to fit this theme. When looking for a color palette to match your outfits to, try to just pick just two to three colors from that palette to work with. You don’t want to overwhelm the scenery with your clothing choices.
Incorporate Neutrals: In my opinion, you need to have some neutrals in your outfits. Whether it’s your guy’s light tan slacks or his cream colored shirt or your long, alabaster tulle skirt, there’s got to be something. I’ll get technical about why I say this. In art, they teach you about something called “whitespace.” Also known as negative space, this is the part of the artwork that is unmarked. Rather than seen as just boring, blank space, this part of the artwork is an element of the design– it is actually what enables all of the other parts of the art to exist at all. (Technical art talk over). Think of your outfits like a canvas. You’ve gotta have the whitespace so that colors can pop and so people don’t get distracted by the color wheel on your body.
Pops of Color and Pattern: While you do want to have some of those neutrals in your outfit, don’t be afraid of a pop of color. The key word here is “pop;” while you don’t want to overwhelm the scene with various bright colors, sometimes having a nice bold red makes an image stand out. Likewise, throwing in a pattern can also look awesome matched with a more subdued, plain piece of clothing. My personal favorites are a striped shirt, or a floral pattern. The unique, feathery pattern in this example image really makes this image eye-catching.
Casual vs. Formal: If you know you like to get fancy, an engagement session is a great time to do so! Go ahead and pick out your nicest dress and heels or suit. If you’re not about that life, it’s okay to dress down. Just don’t get too cozy. These are images that you will be sharing on Facebook, with family and friends, and probably at your wedding. You want to look nice! A great option if you’re not sure if you want to go formal or casual is to do both! I see couples do this a lot. We’ll start out with the more formal option and then change into the casual option so that they have different image choices. You never know what you might love best. The number one rule though when considering whether you want to go formal or casual is to make sure you and you’re fiancé are dressing on the same level of formality. If you’re all decked out but he’s in tennis shoes, it might look a little off!
Consider Layering: Adding layers is a great way to add interest to your outfit. And, the best part is that with layers, you can always remove something like a cardigan or outer shirt and have another look. Layering items can vary from button up shirts, jackets, scarves, cardigans, to suit jackets. I would even consider hats a kind of layering element! You don’t want to “bulk up” your outfit or put on items that don’t work with each other, but instead, find items that pair well together and can look cohesive with your outfit without being necessary for every single shot.
Side note for the guys: my wonderful, future photo shoot men, I know that finding the perfect outfit for you is just as important as finding your woman’s! If there is one tip I can suggest for you to look especially dapper, it’s this one! Skip the tennis shoes or baseball cap and opt for something more formal. If you’re more of a casual guy, try a v-neck with nice jeans, but then bring a jacket in case we need to spice things up. Beanies are always fun if you’re a little more rugged, but most importantly, wear nice shoes! And don’t be afraid to look on Pinterest for inspiration… Or just let your lady pick your outfit for you. 😉
Coordinating Colors: Often, when couples think about matching outfits, they tend to think about wearing the same color but in a different form of clothing. The problem with this is that it can look a little too obvious, which can then possibly become distracting depending on how rich of a color we’re talking. Sometimes it looks awesome, and sometimes it’s just too much. When in doubt, bring a second option to your shoot and let the photographer help you decide. If you feel like you want some coordination to your outfits as a couple, consider making it something small. For example, if your fiancé is wearing a blue shirt, maybe you could slip on a bracelet or some shoes that is near the same shade. However, realize that you don’t actually have to wear any matching colors at all. Colors that are complimentary to each other (think about those palettes) work just as well. Also, please never ever both wear plaid. Please.
Keep It Simple: I know after all of these tips that maybe none of this process sounds simple, but keep in mind that the biggest engagement outfit mistake is simply that the couples’ outfits are distracting. Like, you can’t even focus on their happiness and love because all you see is the craziness adorning their bodies! By choosing each element of your outfit with some thoughtfulness, you won’t feel like you’re bringing your whole closet to the shoot, and more than likely, your images will translate better because they will be focused on you, not as much what you’re wearing (even though that part is still important, too!).
Choose What Gives You Confidence: You should look like you in these photos. If you like a little boho, throw in that flower crown. If a tie makes you feel dapper, wear one. If heels make you act a little more “I’ve got this,” then break out the stilettos or whatever. Wear something that makes you feel special and stand tall that day, because you are the beautiful centerpiece of this session!
Make it Timeless: These photos are once in a lifetime. Hopefully, you will be showing these images to your children and grandchildren someday. Who knows, maybe they will be in frames at your 50th anniversary! With this in mind, choose something that is timeless. Trends are fun and can make for a great image, but be sure to include an outfit that you know you will love in thirty years just as much as you do now.
I hope this helps in your venture in finding your perfect engagement session outfits! Have fun and enjoy the process!
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We're Shelby & Jared, Springfield MO wedding photographers passionate about meaningful living. We document timeless moments for free-spirited, elegant couples across the Midwest and beyond. As fine art photographers, we strive to create work that will leave a legacy of love for years to come.
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