Chicago Engagement Session and How to Prepare

Engagement session - many couples hear that term and have a million questions.

What is it?
Do we need it?
Do we really have to be in front of a camera more than just the wedding day?


In a word, YES. Yes, you do need it and yes, you do need to be in front of your photographer's camera before your wedding day. Most couples haven't spent much time with a professional photographer, so it's a great opportunity to get comfortable before you put on your wedding dress and tux. It's also a great way for your photographer to get to know you! The more they understand what works and doesn't work, the better off you'll all be on the big day.

I also hear a lot of couples say they don't think they'll ever use the photos, but I beg to differ. My favorite engagement sessions are those done in the couple's home, their favorite coffee shop or restaurant or with their pets. Use this opportunity to get some photos in a place that's special to you that won't necessarily be a part of your wedding day. And anyway, trust me, you will love these photos 10-15 years down the road. I can just hear you saying, "Remember when..."

  Photo courtesy of  Ashley Bosnick Photography

Photo courtesy of Ashley Bosnick Photography

I'll get off my soap box now and let the experts step in.

So excited to get some insight on how best to prepare for your engagement photo session from our friends over at Gerber & Scarpelli Photography. They've been at this for years and certainly know how to get couples in the right frame of mind to have some fun!

  Photos courtesy of  Emilia Jane Photography

Photos courtesy of Emilia Jane Photography

Engagement Photos-Chicago Engagement Session-Chicago Wedding Planner-Chicago Wedding Coordinator-Clover Events-Emilia Jane Photography

We get it!  Not everyone enjoys being in front of the camera.  For many couples, Engagement Sessions seem like an overwhelming and unnecessary part of wedding prep.  For us, an engagement session is a great opportunity to meet our clients, learn your dynamic as a couple, and see how natural you are at posing and being photographed.  We love the opportunity to spend some time with you and get all the photo-related butterflies and awkwardness out of the way long before your wedding day!

Here are a few ideas to help you prepare and get in the mood to look and feel your best during your engagement shoot:


Eat well and hydrate!  Drink plenty of water in the days before your shoot to make sure your skin looks its best.  Try to avoid salt, lots of sugar, and alcohol the day before your session.

Get a full night's sleep!  Easier said than done, we know.  The more sleep you get before your shoot, the more relaxed and rested you'll feel.

Choose your clothing carefully!  We advise clients to avoid clothing that has a certain time or style specific quality.  Just look at a photo of your parents in bell bottoms and polyester, and you'll know what we're trying to avoid.  Solid colors, classic styles, and the occasional pattern are safe ways to go.  Make sure to coordinate your outfits as a couple so you don't end up wearing conflicting colors or patterns.

Embrace movement!  Ladies, flowing dresses, scarves, or tops are a great way to guarantee some dynamic movement in your photos.  You'll look and feel like a movie star when the wind starts to blow.

Get a little crazy!  We've met enough couples over the years to know all couples are weird in their own way.  Show off your particular brand of weird by getting a little crazy with the one you love.  We love a couple with a sense of humor and we promise your photos will be unforgettable.

Get ready for some close ups!  Ladies, try to get your engagement ring professionally cleaned before the session and make sure those nails are camera ready!  You'll be glad you did when you're showing off your bling!

Don't be afraid of early evening or winter sessions!  We don't need warmth and sunshine to make beautiful pictures.  We love a dramatic shot framed by Chicago at night.  Fall leaves or winter snow can be fun and beautiful settings for your shoot.  Grab a stylish coat and let's take some photos!

  Photo courtesy of  Gerber & Scarpelli Photography

We want you to look like you!  You don't need to wear tons of makeup to look great in your photos.  Choose colors and styles that feel comfortable and normal for you.  If you choose to wear a darker shade of lipstick, make sure it won't rub off when you kiss!

Bring along your fur babies!  We get it, pups are family.  Not only will they help make your photos feel more special, but they'll help you relax and have more fun in front of the camera!

Highlight special locations!  When we're scheduling your shoot, make sure you let us know if there are any significant places you want to visit to help make your images even more meaningful!

We love a costume change!  For more variety in your photographs, consider preparing two outfits each.  Try switching out a formal look for a casual one.  Need advice on what to wear?  Feel free to ask us!

Brush your teeth right before the session!  Everyone looks and feels better with some fresh pearly whites!

Relax and be in love!  We're all here to capture your love and your story.  Try to forget the camera is there and enjoy some time to snuggle up with your honey in a beautiful location!

  Photo courtesy of  Sarah Postma Photography

Photo courtesy of Sarah Postma Photography

Dressing for the Occasion: Advice from a Chicago Wedding Planner

With wedding season descending upon us (and the weather getting a little warmer), it’s a great reminder to start thinking about dress code options for your own special day. This may be one aspect you didn’t think you had to plan, but no one wants Uncle Jim to show up to your glamorous Art Deco wedding in blue jeans and Converse. When it comes to wedding dress codes, we think it is to keep it cohesive! You want it to make sense in the context of the overall style of the party and that means taking all aspects of your day into account - from your wedding venue, the type of menu you serve your guests, and the look and feel of your event design and decor. 

Dress codes for you, your wedding party and your guests should feel like they fit with the rest of the party. For example, if have chosen to serve a 5-course meal at an elegant downtown hotel, you will likely want to see your guests in formal attire (think tuxes and floor-length gowns). On the flipside, if you’re planning an outdoor, beachside wedding, more casual attire may be appropriate and more comfortable (think linen suits and sundresses). We’ve broken down dress code options down from the most casual to the most formal!

  Photo courtesy of  Emilia Jane Photography

Photo courtesy of Emilia Jane Photography

Casual
What it means: Anything goes!
Play it safe: Summer dresses for ladies, dress pants and polos for the gentlemen.
Where we see it: Parks, community halls, backyard gatherings, low key events.
Where we shouldn’t see it: Hotels, golf clubs, historic venues.

Cocktail (also known as semi-formal and dressy casual)
What it means: A safe zone right in the middle of casual and formal.
Play it safe: Ladies break out those mid-thigh to mid-calf length party dresses. Gentlemen go for the suit and tie (no tux!).
Where we see it: Restaurants, hotels, golf clubs, historic venues, anywhere!
Where we shouldn’t see it: Luxury hotels.

Island/Beach
What it means: It’s warm and tropical and you don’t want your guests to melt!
Play it safe: Ladies go for the flats and sandals paired with a gauzy and breathable fabrics (bright colors a plus). Gentleman grab your boat shoes or loafers and pair that with a lightweight suit without a tie.
Where we see it: Tropical destinations.
Where we shouldn’t see it: everywhere but the beach

Formal (or Black Tie Optional)
What it means: It is an elegant affair, but you don’t expect everyone to have a tux and a ballgown. Elevated but contemporary.
Play it safe: Ladies mid-length cocktail dress or evening gown (avoid heavily sequined or elaborate). Gentleman can break out their tux but can absolutely wear a tailored dark suit and tie.
Where we see it: Hotels, historic venues, luxury venues.
Where we shouldn’t see it: backyards, beaches, parks.

Black Tie
What it means: A formal evening event.
Play it safe: Ladies should wear embellished mid-length cocktail dresses or full length evening gowns. Gentleman should wear a tuxedo with tails, white vest, and white bowtie.
Where we see it: Hotels, historic venues, luxury venues.
Where we shouldn’t see it: Backyards, beaches, parks.

White Tie
What it means:
The most formal of formal events. Expect to see someone famous. 
Play it safe: Ladies should wear full length evening gowns. Gentlemen, break out the tuxedo, black bow-tie, and vest!
Where we see it: Hotels, historic venues, luxury venues.
Where we shouldn’t see it: Backyards, beaches, parks.

  Photo Courtesy of  Perregeaux Photo

Photo Courtesy of Perregeaux Photo

No matter the direction you go, it is super important to communicate the suggested dress code to your wedding guests.  Weddings are an opportunity for people to celebrate and not everyone dresses the same for a celebration. You’d be surprised about who shows up in jeans and a t-shirt, and who wears a dress fit for the club. Communicating this to your guests can be done very literally on your invitation or your wedding website, but it can also be communicated through the style of your invite.

If you want to help guests understand what that guest code means, feel free to send them to this post!