How to Style a Formal Engagement Portrait

Are you or is someone you know recently engaged? If the answer is yes, then it is likely that one of your early tasks as fiancés will be an engagement shoot, to be used for “Save the Dates,” a personalized guestbook, or other reception details. To create those Pinterest-worthy shots we all love, you’ll need to thoughtfully style your outfits but–trust me–it’s simpler than you think!

Full disclosure, many of you know that I am already married. The tips in this post apply to anniversary and family portraits as well (holiday shoots are just around the corner), so don’t stop reading just yet!


How to Style a Formal Engagement Portrait

First things first: choose a color palette.

Choosing a color palette is the first and arguably most important step when it comes to coordinating your looks as a couple. If you feel like you have no idea where to start, pick out a pre-made palette and then find pieces in your closet that fit the scheme. As long as your chosen clothing remains within that palette, you can’t go too wrong.

My advice? Opt for neutrals. Black, white, and grey can be classic, modern, or minimal for urban sessions. Navy, beige and wine are rich and warm for rural landscapes. Bold reds can be very flattering, as can soft pastels. Depending on where you’re shooting, try to choose colors that won’t blend into the background (for example, avoid deep greens if shooting in the woods or a grassy area).  Want an even better option? If you are familiar with the location you are shooting at, consider the background colors as part of your palette when selecting the pieces from your wardrobe. That way, the outfits and the background will complement, and not conflict with, one another.

wellesley and king-formal engagement-fashion blogger

Tips for Selecting His Outfit Details

  • A Well-Tailored Suit

    Every man should own at least one well-tailored suit.  Suits and suit separates purchased off-the-rack may seem easy and appealing, but it’s always worth the few extra bucks to take those pieces to a tailor and have the pants hemmed or the jacket sleeves shortened to just the right length.  These minor alterations make all the difference: you want your shirt sleeves to peek out of your suit sleeves ever so slightly; you want the break (where your pants meet your shoes) to land just right.  Unless you happen to be the model upon which the suit manufacturer based their measurements, this is going to take some tailoring.  Of course, if you’re willing to really splurge–and a wedding/engagement photos might be just the time to do so–you can opt for a fully custom-made suit, but bear in mind that custom suits can take weeks, even months, for a tailor to make.

  • The Right Shirt and Tie (or No Tie at All)

    Choosing the right shirt and tie is just as, if not more important than, wearing a proper-fitting suit.  First, consider the fit.  Make sure to buy shirts with the proper sleeve length, as well as the proper collar size.  Second, choose a collar-type that flatters your facial shape.  It may come as a surprise to many guys to learn that not all collars are made the same.  For some ideas on how to style different collars, a quick Google search will lead you to a number of helpful pages, like this article from Men’s Health.  Lastly, pick a tie that pairs well with your suit and collar-type, or go tie-free, for a more casual look.  One thing to remember when choosing a tie: don’t overdo it.  Don’t mix one crazy pattern on top of another crazy pattern.  The outfit will end up looking like a Magic Eye poster, and those went out in the 90s.

  • Matching Shoes and Belt

    Wear shoes that match your belt, duh.  Additionally, wear the right color shoes and belt with your suit.  This means, generally, black shoes with a black suit, brown with blue, and grey can go either way.  When it comes to selecting shoes, remember that the less patterned the shoe is, the more formal.  What that means is, if you’re going for a highly-formal tuxedo-like look, wear plain-toed shoes, as opposed to wingtips.

  • Extras: Cufflinks, Watch, Printed Socks

    Details are what make an outfit.  If a watch and cufflinks are a part of your outfit, be consistent with your metals–silver watch, silver cufflinks; gold watch, gold cufflinks.  Avoid novelty cufflinks–no dice, anchors, or skulls–unless it correlates to a particular theme you are going for.  Lastly, socks make appearances in more photos than you might think, so invest in a pair that matches the suit and the theme.  A perfect photo can be easily ruined by that cotton white Nike check peeking out on your guy’s ankle.

wellesley and king-formal engagement-fashion bloggerwellesley and king-formal engagement-fashion blogger

Tips for Selecting Her Outfit Details

  • Opt for Floor-Length Dresses

    Maxi-length dresses are the most flattering and forgiving when it comes to being photographed. There’s a reason that most bridal gowns are floor-length; they camouflage the areas we’re a bit insecure of and elongate our entire bodies so that we look tall and lean. (FYI -This does not have to mean a formal gown. If your portraits are on the casual side, there are tons of comfortable maxi skirts and dresses that work just as well.)

  • Choose Understated Accessories

    I say this for two reasons: (1) because you and your fiancé shouldn’t have to compete with oversized accessories for the camera, and (2) because wearing trendy accessories is the fastest way to date your photos. Aside from your wedding photos, these may or may not be one of the only times you get professional photos as a couple. As much as possible, you’ll want them to be timeless. Simple, understated accessories will keep the focus on the two of you, while still adding the littlest touch of sparkle.

  • Go With Comfortable Heels

    Engagement shoots can be long. You’ll probably be on your feet for at least an hour (maybe two), so choose shoes that won’t leave your toes numb by the end of the night. Also, depending on where you’re shooting, the perfect shot might mean posing in areas that are not heel-friendly. In these photos, I’m wearing haggard, old wedges that I didn’t care to trudge through mud or fields in. (Another reason why it helps to be wearing a long dress!)

  • Leave Your Makeup to the Pros

    If you’re not used to having photos taken of you (because, unless you’re also a fashion blogger, who the heck is?) then you may be surprised with how you look in your photos once you get them back. In most cases, your everyday makeup will be virtually non-existent on camera. My blog makeup is much heavier than I would ever wear for daily life. Professional makeup artists understand what it takes to apply makeup that will photograph well. I love to use Sephora in these situations because your makeover is complimentary with a $50 purchase, which means you can use the opportunity to stock up on your favorite products.

wellesley and king-formal engagement-fashion bloggerwellesley and king-formal engagement-fashion blogger

These photos were taken in our beautiful hometown, by my lovely friend Tabitha, of Adliv Collective (of whose work I am the biggest fan). 



wellesley and king-formal engagement-fashion blogger

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