The Engagement Sessions | What to Wear

Your engagement session is on the calendar and we’ve picked out the PERFECT location for your shoot. In your excitement you run to your closet to plan your outfits, but as you hurriedly sort through all of your clothes, you become fairly certain that everything in your closet was actually purchased for a human you’ve never met. Your once-favorite top now looks plain and you’re not sure if that incredible pair of bright red pants you just snagged actually go with anything in your closet. So you accept your fate: you have nothing to wear.

Wait. Stop. Breathe. I’m here to tell you that’s just not true!

I won’t be the one to stop you from an engagement outfit shopping spree (I mean, has there ever been a better excuse for shopping than this?!), but I do have a few tips that will likely help you realize that the pieces you already own will serve you well! I share these tips with every single one of my couples before their engagement sessions. They’re so important to making sure my clients know how to plan for their shoot—after all, they’ve very likely never done this before! These suggestions provide a starting point without demanding any certain kind of style. Nowhere below will you read, “All guys are required to wear button-ups,” or, “Girls, if you don’t bring along your favorite pair of boots, then you’re doing it wrong.” Everything about your engagement session should be a reflection of who you two are as a couple, including your own style! (Although, I do love a good pair of boots…)

The Rules of Engagement (Outfits)

1. I have only one real rule when it comes to engagement outfits, and it’s this: NO MATCHING ALLOWED. (For the full effect, imagine that written Little Rascals-style above this post.) Instead, you two should coordinate together! This means that you really don’t need to wear a white top and denim jeans—we’re not taking family photos on the beach, I promise. Instead, coordinate your colors to compliment or play off of one another. Pair up different shades of teal or have his navy shirt play off of your coral dress.

Mallory’s classic teal and navy combo? SPOT ON. And can we just take a moment to swoon over the back of her dress? Yes, yes we can. Swoon. msfb-1 msfb-3 msfb-4

2. Don’t be afraid of bold. Some of my favorite outfits in the past have been when my couples pulled out unexpected details, especially in the form of color! Get a little adventurous and think about wearing that incredible red dress or a bright yellow top. It’ll add a ton of color-pop to your images!

If you’ve followed the blog for a bit then you know I’m crazy about Jiae’s yellow pants! I also LOVE that she coordinated her shoes with John’s burgundy shirt. e-JiaeJohn-101 e-JiaeJohn-111 e-JiaeJohn-14 e-JiaeJohn-46

3. It’s all in the details. When planning your outfits, don’t forget about accessories! A bright, bold necklace, a great pair of purple heels, your signature hair bow… all of these things create a ton of interest in your photos and make them uniquely yours. On the flip side, ignoring these details can often take away from the overall look of your images. If you’ve dressed the to the nines and your fiancé is wearing his favorite old pair of tennis shoes, something is going to look a little off when you’re standing next to one another. Think through your entire outfits before your shoot—especially the details!

Megan’s headband, teal Toms and adorable necklace paired with Dave’s rolled jeans and hoodie sweater? Detail LOVE! whipple_dam_engagement_photos_0026 whipple_dam_engagement_photos_0029 whipple_dam_engagement_photos_0051 whipple_dam_engagement_photos_0050

4. Speaking of little details, if you’re planning to wear stripes, flannel, or patterns of any kind, it’s generally best to go bigger. Small patterns, especially stripes or checkers, create something called a moiré effect in your images, and it just generally doesn’t look all that great in your finished images. Keep it big!

I loved both of Loretta’s dresses, but her bold zebra print was so perfect! And can you spy her fantastic earrings? ldfb-3 ldfb-1 ldfb-4 ldfb-5

5. For the ladies, really consider getting your hair and make-up done professionally for your shoot. It’s not that I don’t think you’re beautiful without it (you are!), but let’s face it: a professional touch for your make-up and having your hair styled by someone who has some serious skills with a curling iron tends to give us girls a little extra confidence boost, and that confidence translates into your pictures! You don’t have to go crazy—scheduling your usual haircut on the morning of your shoot and hitting up your local MAC counter is really all you need! But a professional will know exactly what tricks to use for photo-ready make-up. You could even schedule it as your trial run for your wedding day!

Chelsea’s flawless makeup, boots, and gorgeous accessories paired with those coral pants of Hayden’s… there’s nothing I didn’t adore about their outfits. winery_at_bull_run_engagement_0050 winery_at_bull_run_engagement_0047 winery_at_bull_run_engagement_0025 winery_at_bull_run_engagement_0005

6. Can’t pick just one favorite outfit? Good! I actually recommend that you bring along two different outfits for your session, it gives you more variety in your final photos! Most times, couples will choose to go with one dressier outfit and a second more casual combo. I love that this gives you more flexibility when showing off your style, and outfit changes are often the perfect mid-shoot half time break. While you’re changing, I’ll stay busy by snapping a few ring shots for you (don’t forget to have that puppy cleaned before your shoot!).

The best part about Mallory and Richard’s outfits? Both pairs actually coordinated with each other! Also awesome: Mallory borrowed her white dress from! Such a great resource if you’re really feeling like you have nothing to wear! dc_national_mall_engagement_photos_0032 dc_national_mall_engagement_photos_0013 dc_national_mall_engagement_photos_0035

7. And lastly, I just have to say it again, the most important thing that you can remember when planning your outfits is to be you! Sure, you might love a session that you saw in which she was decked out in jewels and stilettos and he was rocking a bow tie and suspenders, but if you’ve never worn stilettos a day in your life and your guy hates ties, then that’s probably not the look for you. You should feel comfortable and amazing in whatever you choose to wear!

Nicole’s dress was so fabulously her that I couldn’t not use hers and Kevin’s outfits as an example here! The 50’s vibe was just perfect for her. Bonus: I love that she and Kevin weren’t afraid to mix polka dots with plaid! Patterns for everyone!
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BONUS TIP: Still stuck on what to wear? Pinterest is an awesome resource for planning your ensemble! Start pinning images of outfits that you really love and that reflect your own style. From there, we can work together to find a look that is completely you. Oh, Pinterest… what did we ever do without you?


  • April 14, 2014 - 6:07 pm

    alison dunn - Love this post Steph! It’ll be so great to share with your brides!ReplyCancel

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