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You’re Engaged! …Now What?


YOU SAID YES! You’re officially engaged! If you’re like I was, now you’re asking yourself “Now what? What’s first?” I remember all too well just how many things are running through your head after the love of your life pops the question. What do I need to do first? Do I have a budget? How far in advance should I book my photographer? How do I even FIND my photographer?

Being a wedding photographer, I get to see it all! I’m with my couples from the very beginning and I help a lot with the planning process. Personally, I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t share my knowledge and help ease the stress that comes along with this huge life step! I genuinely love helping people, regardless if you’re my client, my friend, a follower on social media, or a complete stranger.

This free informational page is for you no matter what stage of planning you’re in. I hope you find this information helpful, whether it’s what to wear, location ideas for your engagement photos, helpful tips, or what to look for when hiring your vendors. If you have any questions that are not addressed in this post feel free to email me! I would love to chat.

Finding A Venue

Besides celebrating with your love and making a fun announcement to all of your family and friends, its time to get to work. CJ and I were engaged for a year and a half. Even then I was worried we would have a hard time finding our venue. I started searching right away! I had heard too many horror stories of brides who couldn’t book their wedding date, because they waited too long.

Whether you’re having a castle wedding, ballroom wedding, or garden wedding; finding the right venue for you can be difficult. One website that saved me HOURS of work was WeddingWire. Besides being able to look at venues local to you, their website is amazingly helpful when it comes to planning your day. You can actually contact venues directly from the site and set an appointment in the same day!

Finding Your Photographer

One of the first things I recommend to any bride is finding your perfect match when it comes to your wedding photographer. I’ve been so blessed by my #ValBrides. We’ve been able to bounce ideas off each other, be our true selves, and communicate openly. Many of my brides continue to be my close friends to this day. However, I’ve heard the horror stories from people who haven’t been so lucky. Taking the time to really get to know who you’re hiring is SO IMPORTANT! Your wedding photographer will spend more time with you on your wedding day than your significant other! It’s good to make sure that you choose someone you like.

As your photographer I do everything in my power to make sure that you’re comfortable both on AND off camera. What plays a big role in that is taking the time to get to know each other beforehand. I want your engagement session to feel like you’re hanging out with a friend!

Remember that this day only happens once.

Recently, I did a poll on Instagram to get ideas on what to mention in this blog post. The top response that I got was from brides who regretted settling on lower priced photographers. I personally was a budget bride. I have to be honest with you… If there was one thing I could go back and change about my wedding day, I would go back and hire a photographer who charges 3x what I paid. I’m a wedding photographer and I don’t have any wedding photos that I want to share. The vendors at your wedding are an investment, and specifically with your photographer, you tend to get what you pay for. Remember that this day only happens once. Think of it as an investment in the memories that you’ll look back on for the rest of your lives.

You are the reason we are able to do what we love as a job, so you should be treated like it.

Along with taking the time to find the right photographer, make sure that THEY invest their time into YOU as their client. We have all had bad customer service experiences. You do not want that on your big day.

When I start the booking process with a client the first thing we do is go out for coffee together to talk through what a wedding day looks like with me. Not only that, but I want to get to know you! I want to hear all about your proposal story, how you met, and what things are most important to you on your wedding day. Once we’re official I’ll send you my custom bridal guide magazine that’s filled with 70+ pages of helpful tips to make wedding planning a breeze.

I’ll also help create the perfect timeline for your wedding day! That was something I needed the most help with while planning our wedding. I didn’t know where to start! Let alone how long things would take. So for every couple I create a timeline to make sure they get the best out of their wedding day. We’ll plan out your engagement session at either sunset or sunrise to get that beautiful dream-like glow behind you.

One month before your wedding I’ll send you a questionnaire to make sure we’re all on the same page. Sure I know the timeline and not to miss the first kiss, but I don’t know everything! This will be your chance to let me know about special family members that are visiting from out of town. Or that your jewelry is a family heirloom passed down for generations. By filling out that questionnaire you’re helping me make sure to capture the most important aspects of your day!

You’ve Found Your Photographer! Now Let’s Shoot.

It’s time to take your engagement photos! I LOVE engagement sessions because they’re so fun. They allow you to really celebrate that you are newly engaged! Plus you get to send out announcements to all of your family and friends! But where do we start? What do you wear?

What To Wear

In my experience, every woman (regardless of her size or shape) has an area of her body that she’s self conscious about. Recognizing the areas you’re self conscious about when selecting your outfits 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. If your dress has shorter sleeves (or no sleeves) consider bringing a cute jacket, blazer, cardigan or pashmina to incorporate into your look.

Skinny straps or strapless dresses have the opposite effect on arms on camera. For most women, skinny straps actually make arms look BIGGER. So I recommend avoiding those whenever possible if your goal is slimmer-looking arms. If it’s colder outside, I suggest bringing a warm coat (the longer, the better!) to wear when we’re not shooting so you don’t freeze in your dress.

Color Recommendations

When choosing colors for your outfits, I recommend selecting lighter, neutral tones and more muted shades. Bright, bold or neon colors are distracting and take the focus away from where it should be: you two and how much you love each other. You can never go wrong with light neutral colors like cream, taupe, camel or light gray. The camera loves shades of soft pinks and muted blues, mixed with sophisticated light-colored neutrals. That softer, more pastel-leaning color palette fits beautifully into almost all natural outdoor environments.

Coordinating Your 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 palette and wardrobe pieces coordinate, but don’t actually “match.” You should each wear a different dominant color, but stay within a similar color palette family. So if you’re wearing a blush dress 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.


The location of your portrait session is completely up to you! As you’ll see throughout this post, most of my couples love showcasing the natural beauty of my home state to give their out-of-town guests a fun preview of what to expect when they travel here for the wedding. For most of my sessions, outdoor, open-air environments are always my first choice. I love shooting in wide-open natural spaces because the light is divine, especially during golden hour. There are great options all around the state, so even if you’ve never seen me photograph in a specific place before, I’m always up for exploring a new spot together!

Think Outside The Box

When it comes to choosing a location, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! I encourage you to brainstorm unique places that you might have special access to that most people don’t. For example, maybe you (or someone you know) have access to an amazing location that would otherwise be off-limits, like a beautiful private estate, family ranch, exclusive country club or luxury resort. Spend a few minutes thinking about it and checking around with people in your personal and professional network. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with! If something seems out of reach, just remember: you never know until you ask! You can also consider Airbnb or other property rental sites. In the past, my couples have secured permission to shoot in some pretty incredible places!

Downtown South Bend

Having your engagement session in downtown South Bend is the perfect way to get that urban feel. I love the look of South Bend’s buildings. This session was done at sunset which really made the colors pop!

To find accommodations in South Bend, take a look at some of my personal favorites here.

Silver Beach | St Joseph, Michigan

I know, I know, Silver Beach is a very popular spot for photos. But it’s for a reason! It’s SUCH a beautiful area, you can’t go wrong with photos there.

Lake Michigan has some of the most gorgeous beachfront stays. Follow the link to see my top recommendations.

Potawatomi Conservatory

This is one of my FAVORITE locations for engagement sessions! There are always fresh flowers and greenery, even in the dead of winter. Plus its climate controlled! So we don’t have to worry about if it’s too cold out or storming. As an added bonus the lighting here is absolutely perfect. No harsh sun in your eyes!


I wish you nothing but joy, happiness, and NO STRESS on your beautiful day! I hope this post is helpful to you and your fiance. If you have any questions about locations, venues, or photo services please submit the contact form below. I would love to hear from you!

With love, Val

Interested in having me as your wedding photographer?

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