Engagements

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Wedding photographer, Dunkin' enthusiast, and lover of all things romance and weddings.

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After photographing dozens and dozens of engagement sessions in Richmond Virginia, the mountains, Washington DC and beyond, over the years I’ve found myself coming back to the same few ways to add a special touch and flair to engagement sessions. And not only will this blog post give you inspiration and ideas on how to elevate your session and make it yours, but also I’m sharing 10 of my favorite engagement session locations in Virginia!

In the course of your relationship, your engagement will probably be the shortest phase. Maybe you’ve been dating for years and planning on a 1-2 year engagement and of course, decades to come as a married couple. Myself, we went from dating to married in the span of 8 months (hey, when you know, you know.) so our engagement was never really a stage for us.

It’s worth celebrating, right?! This sweet but oh so brief stage in your relationship when you’re each other’s soon-to-be spouse. Engagement sessions are the best way to capture this time and it’s a great way to showcase your love the way you are now, the way you are together. It’s not just pretty photos in a cute dress in a pretty location. Let’s elevate it a little and make it a little more intentional and a little more YOU.

I. Incorporating your story

What I mean by incorporating your story is take a moment to reflect on your relationship. Where did you meet? What do you like to do? What are things that are important to you? How can we incorporate your love story into your engagement? Imagine you went to college off in the mountains and you met your sweetheart there. You’d have picnics on campus, share pastries and cold brews at the local cafe and go hiking on the Blue Ridge when there was a free weekend. Let’s incorporate pieces of those things into your session. A sunset picnic at one of the most picturesque overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway and bringing the dog you both got together the moment you graduated college. It’s adding those little details that were happy memories in your love story that helps really elevate your engagement session.

II. Your Style

Clothing is a big part of elevating your engagement session from just cute photos in a field to the dreamy portraits of your dreams. If you can, two outfits is recommended and my preferred choice for engagement sessions because it adds variety to your images. A dressier more formal outfit for your save the date invitations and just because hey, how often do you get to dress up with the love of your life and get that documented? Use this as your reason to splurge on that gorgeous Reformation dress you’ve been eyeing. Or if you’d still like to be a little extra while saving some money, Rent the Runway is one of my favorite options for beautiful dresses you can rent and return after your session! And just because someone’s style is classic and timeless doesn’t mean that you have to lean that way. If you want to wear the most poufy tulle dress and leather jacket for your high fashion engagement, let’s do it! Heart shaped sunglasses and feathered heels? Yes please!

III. Picking The Location

Location can really set the tone for your session. I love doing engagement sessions in Richmond VA because of the wide diversity in locations. Think of your wedding aesthetic and vibe and consider if you’d like to keep your engagement aesthetic similar in location. A wedding in the city may call for a fun engagement in the city too to keep it similar OR could merit an engagement in the mountains, in a garden surrounded by blooms and nature for variety in your galleries. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! If there was a cafe or bar you visited for your first date or a place you go often, let’s see if we can go. If you walked your dog on warm spring afternoons in the Fan, let’s head there and wander. If you both love being on the water, let’s head there and get on a boat to enjoy the waves and capture it.

IV. Curating Props (that AREN’T cheesy)

Remember 2010 pinterest with cheesy “&” signs at engagement sessions? (and calling myself out because I suggested this for one of my very first few engagement sessions oof!) There’s a way to include props that aren’t cheesy. Fresh flowers are one of my favorite things, it also helps give you something to hold. Champagne is always alwaysss a winner. Picnics of small treats like a mini charcuterie board and something to cheers with (hellooo champagne!) Vintage bicycles or cars to give your session a little extra oomph!

V. Turning It Into A Memory

Make it a date. After your engagement session, go celebrate with a romantic dinner date. Have your engagement session in the mountains and rent a cute AirBnB for a couple nights as a break from wedding planning and enjoy the time together (and even take some photos at your AirBnB, snuggled up infront of a bonfire making s’mores!) We can go all out and make it memorable by renting a sailboat for a few hours and going for a quick swim. Let’s travel to a fabulous destination and make an adventure out of it. Ever dream of romantic wind swept portraits from Top of the Rock in New York City? Turn it into a memory and have the engagement session of your dreams.

The opportunities to create an elevated engagement session experience is endless. From unique and gorgeous outfits, to locations close to home or far away, there’s so many ways to make it yours.

And as final note because I know there’s a lot of think of, here’s a free resource for you! 10 of my favorite engagement session locations in Virginia (and a little extra!).

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5 Ways to Elevate Your Engagement Session

© MJ MENDOZA PHOTOGRAPHY 2022

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