Ah, the age old question — what the heck should I wear for our engagement session?! I swear as we get older, finding something to wear only gets harder… and when it’s for something as special as engagement photos it can feel totally daunting. When Matt and I took engagement photos before our wedding, I spent weeks upon weeks agonizing over our outfits. There were countless Pinterest boards, online orders, in-store returns, and hours of frustration that resulted in wanting to call the whole thing off. Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but just know that I get it! Choosing your outfits for your engagement session can be a pain, and sometimes it’s tough to even know where to start.
There are a few key things to take into consideration when selecting your engagement session attire, so keep reading to find out!
1. Choose light, soft, neutral tones.
This is totally a personal preference, but my style of photography lends itself best to lighter, airier tones — like white, beige, and taupe — and pastels — like dusty blue, blush, etc. I find that neutral outfits are so romantic and timeless, and help to keep the focus on you! Brighter, more vivid colors can detract focus and make the viewer’s eye go right to your clothing instead of your beautiful faces, and darker colors like black and navy can make the photo look heavy and unbalanced.
Again, this is completely a personal preference and if you have your heart set on wearing a gorgeous black dress with stunning lace detail, totally go for it! Your engagement session is about YOU and should reflect your style and taste, not mine!
2. Coordinate, don’t match, with your partner.
Now we know that in the 90s it was cool for the entire family to wear that classic jeans + white turtleneck combo — but we’re better than that! Don’t match your partner in a way that looks cheesy and overly planned. Instead, you’ll want to coordinate. This involves wearing colors that complement each other, and it’s helpful to first understand the types of tones and how they work together.
Examples of cool tones are blue, green, purple, and gray. Warm tones are pink, orange, red, and beige. Try to pick outfit color palettes that live within the same tone family to create a more cohesive feel in your photos. This is not a hard and fast rule — sometimes a dusty blue and blush can pair beautifully together, it just all depends on the shade of the colors you’re choosing.
3. Dress in the same level of formality.
If you’re not sure what that means, picture this — your partner is wearing a full suit complete with a tie and dress shoes, and you’re wearing jeans, flip flops, and a t-shirt. Chances are, you would literally never be going to the same place together wearing such drastically different wardrobes.
This same concept applies to engagement photos! You each want to be wearing something the same level of “fancy” so that it makes sense to the viewer. If you’re going for a more formal look for your Central Park session, amazing! Women could opt for a mid- to floor-length dress with heels (if the height difference allows!) and men could choose dress pants, dress shoes, a button down, and maybe even a sports jacket. Want something more casual to run around the beach? Perfect! Women could wear a flowy sundress and sandals, and men could opt for a short-sleeve button down and shorts.
Now if you’re having trouble deciding exactly what vibe you’re going for — formal vs. casual — that brings me right into my next point…
4. Change outfits halfway through.
It can be hard to decide the look and feel of your engagement photos! On the one hand it’s fun to get dressed up and feel your best, and most couples don’t do portrait sessions very often so it’s nice to have dressy photos of the two of you together. But on the other hand… I don’t know about you, but being dressed to the nines doesn’t feel very “us” to my husband and me — more times than not we’re wearing sweatpants lounging at home, so formal attire doesn’t exactly encompass who we are as a couple.
For that reason, I love offering the option to change into a second outfit halfway through engagement sessions. Although not every engagement session location offers the convenience of somewhere to change (sometimes it’s just gotta happen in the car!), most couples do like having the choice to change into something that feels a little more casual and a lot more “them.”
All that being said, if you only have the mental capacity to choose one outfit that is also TOTALLY fine — and in truth, we only did one outfit for our engagement photos because I couldn’t put myself through coordinating a whole other wardrobe change, and we still loved the result!
5. Wear what makes you comfortable.
Everyone has insecurities when it comes to themselves, myself included! When you’re selecting outfits for your engagement session, think about the outfits you already have that you love and find the most flattering. At your session, you are not going to want to be worried about hiding your arms or suffocating in your spanx. Having little sleeves is a great option, and heels will help elongate the legs (although personally I can only last about 15 minutes in heels, and am nearly the same height as my husband, SO I get it if you’re not a heels gal). Just know that the more comfortable you feel, the more confident you will look!
There were soooo many dresses I tried on before my own engagement session that I loved, BUT I only loved from certain angles. This is the kiss of death for engagement photos! Your photographer is going to photograph you from ALL angles to give your gallery more variety, and if you don’t like your outfit from the side… well, I’ve got bad news because a big part of your gallery will probably be from the side!
That being said, it’s also helpful to let your photographer know ahead of time about any insecurities you might have so they can be cognizant while shooting! Your own insecurities are rarely anyone else’s focus, so it’s important for your photographer to be aware ahead of time otherwise they will probably have no idea. You want to love your engagement photos, so it’s important that you do what you can ahead of time and your photographer will do the rest!
6. Dress appropriately for the weather.
Engagement sessions can be done year round, and although I don’t shoot as much in the winter I do take a few weddings and sessions from December through March — and let me tell you, it is COLD! Please, please, please think about the weather before your session! I am totally guilty of thinking, “Pain for beauty, let’s just suffer and do it for the photo,” but being outside in the winter in a little tiny dress freezing your butt off is just never the vibe. Dress for the season, and for your comfort, because if you’re frozen and miserable in your photos it will show in your gallery! Warm jackets, cozy scarves, and hand warmers are your friend.
Similarly, shooting in the summer is HOT! July, August, and even September can be borderline scalding here in the northeast — but they are some of the most popular months to do engagement photos. Dress in light, breathable material and think about showing any existing tan lines. Also think about your hair! If it’s humid and your hair doesn’t hold a curl well, it will probably fall out within the first few minutes of shooting. If you’re at the beach and it’s windy, you face a similar problem! Your environment informs a lot of decisions about your engagement session look, so always be sure to take that into consideration ahead of time.
Recap: Dos & Don’ts
1. Soft, light, neutral colors
2. Well-coordinated outfits
3. Outfits of similar formality
4. An outfit change into something casual
5. Something you’re comfortable in
6. Clothes appropriate for the weather/setting
1. Bright, harsh, neon colors
2. Matching outfits
3. One outfit too casual with one too formal
4. Only formal outfits if you want casual too
5. An outfit you don’t love from every angle
6. Clothes too light for winter or too warm for summer
If you liked this post, check out my favorite NJ and NYC engagement session locations.