close-up photograph of hand holding, near a table with scones and tea, highlighting the woman's engagement ring

Over a glass of lemonade, I tell each couple who sits with me in my sunny office the two reasons why I encourage couples to have an engagement session. Having portraits taken during this special season prior to marriage is both practical and a gift.

Exterior shot of The London Tea Room, through the window a couple is laughing

Painted heart with crown on a textured wall near Tower Grove Park

First of all, it gives the couple an opportunity to get to know me with a camera and what that experience is like. It can be daunting to have someone following you all day with a camera on your wedding day. This gives us a chance to grow more comfortable together so you can better enjoy your wedding day. And on the flip side, I get to know you better and how you photograph. I learn things like if you blink a lot, or if you giggle with the attention. I can learn that you need a lot of direction or you naturally fall into poses. These things help your wedding day go more smoothly since we’ve had a low-stress chance to practice together.

Tea, cream, and biscuits at a tea shop in St. Louis

Aerial view of a biscuit with jam and butter on a white plate

Secondly, I get to photograph you in a special part of your life, with special details that you’ll want to look back upon with fondness. I help you plan a date or location that holds meaning to you and helps tell your story. Some couples have recreated first dates or favorites. Some check things off their bucket list. And others aim for something more simple.

A man, sitting at a table in a cafe, smiles at his fiancee

Well-dressed man smirks while his partner leans closely during a date

I’ve accompanied people on boat rides, watched people make brownies and throw popcorn, and taken others for hikes. I love the variety of the couples I photograph!

African American woman smiles at her fiancée

Couple poses for indoor engagement portrait in Tower Grove Park area of South Saint Louis

I love the chance to make sure that during this busy time of planning a big event and planning a future, often with finding a new apartment or house and sometimes a big move, you get at least one awesome date. You can look into each other’s eyes, laugh, and hold hands. You get to connect over something that is uniquely you, and — BONUS! — then you get record of it for keeps.

Black couple conversing over tea and biscuits in front of a window

Curls falling into the face of a young woman laughing

Recently, just a week before their wedding, when things could have felt busy and overwhelming, Justin and Rachel said “Pause!” and enjoyed breakfast together. Rachel had just moved back to town and the wedding was just about to happen, but I joined them at The London Tea Room where they enjoyed tea and breakfast. They said that cream was so good it was worth the splurge!

White teapot with cream pitcher

A woman pours tea for her fiancé

Black and white photograph of a woman holding a tea cup, wearing an engagement ring

Couple embracing through a window with reflection of urban scene

Looks like a special friend or your sister is getting married. Maybe you’ve done this 14 times in the last 3.4 years, or maybe it’s your first time. Being a bridesmaid is a special job.

I have a few tips on being the best bridesmaid you can be.

First of all, your job, and the reason you have been asked to be a bridesmaid in the first place is to honor the marriage of your friend or sister. You are standing up in front of perhaps a crowd of witnesses to say, “I support this marriage. I witness it happening, and I am happy to encourage them in their future life together.” To me, that’s a pretty big deal and it carries some weight. There are often showers and parties and celebrations as the wedding approaches and certainly those are delighting. However, in my eyes, the biggest responsibility is being there. Being at the wedding and continuing to support that marriage over time.

Seated portrait of groomsmen and bridesmaids alongside bride and groom in wheelchairs

Secondly, you are there to help the bride on her wedding day. Help her make sure she’s got everything she needs. Slip her bags into the car for her. Make sure she’s eaten breakfast. Pray with her, take deep breaths with her, and bring her fresh lip stick.

Bride laughing with bridesmaids outdoors, holding pinecone bouquets

Train time. One of the bridesmaids, usually the maid or matron of honor helps the bride with the train on her dress. If you are in a wedding I am photographing, I’ll help you learn how to lay the train out during the ceremony. In general, a little bit of air to fluff it into place is all it needs and keeps attention where it needs to be. You can also help her carry the train if it is long or heavy, or help her find the loop under the train for the bride to carry it herself. Many trains have a loop that she can slip right over her wrist. Lastly, after the ceremony and photos, often a bridesmaid or the mother of the bride will help to bustle the train. This means that the train will become neatly tucked up into the rest of the dress with buttons, ties, or hook and eyes to allow the bride to dance and move around freely without tripping. Often the seamstress can help you learn how to bustle the dress before the wedding day.

Wedding party portrait, with groomsment in vests and bridesmaids in pink dresses, holding flowers

Carrying a bouquet. No matter how many times a bridesmaid carries a bouquet down the aisle, I always do my best to remind them how to hold them. When you are walking in heels down an aisle in front of people, it can be awkward to know how to hold the flowers. They tend to creep up higher as you walk and next thing you know, they are up front of your face like a microphone. Keep your arms low and relaxed. Forearms near your hips.

Pro tip: Have a few paper towels handy when you take the flowers out of the water and blot the ends. You don’t want the cut tips to seep water onto your dress.

Bridesmaids applying makeup before wedding

Bring a change of shoes. When you are carrying bags or gifts out to the car, or you have been in heels all day for the first time in a year, you’ll be glad you had a pair of flats or flip flops. You’ll be in a better mood to help until the end of the day when you are prepared.

Take your hairband off your wrist.

Celebrate!