THE BLOG
10/18/2012 12:24 pm ET Updated Dec 18, 2012

The Art And Soul Of Engagement Photographs

"Will you marry me?" he asked, or she asked. Well, someone asked and the answer was a resounding "YES." There is undoubtably a ring, perhaps tears, or laughter, or both. Kisses, lots of kisses. Phone calls. And then at some point the wedding planning begins. You have now entered your "engagement" period.

Now you know, for sure, that this is the person you are going to spend your life with. Maybe you had an inkling of it along the way, but now you KNOW. There is a beauty, a peace in knowing. Whether a brief or very long engagement, this is a very special time in every couple's relationship. Chances are many discussions and most of your focus becomes the plans for your big day. And certainly a wedding is a wonderful, heartfelt celebration.

But what about your engagement? A wedding is a day in our lives, a special day to be sure. But in comparison to an engagement, it is a brief moment in time that, as we all know, is most likely going to be very well documented. Of course, as a wedding photographer, this is a very important part of my life. To be absolutely clear I LOVE weddings. I am a true romantic and love the variations of affection and vows and decor from couple to couple. I feel very lucky to photograph so many weddings. I just feel the need to point out that an engagement is just as important as a wedding. It is, in my humble opinion, a right of passage. And as such must be honored and treated with respect. It is not merely a "waiting" period, but rather most couples are navigating the treacherous terrain of each other's families and customs and seating preferences, oh my. Couples that stand side by side through this process, and remain reasonably unfettered, are laying the foundation for a strong marriage. For we all know how complex family dynamics can be (if you don't believe me, just wait til you have children). Anyhow, my point is this....

ENGAGEMENT is to MARRIAGE

as

PREGNANCY is to PARENTHOOD

I think we all can agree that pregnancy is a significant part, for many people, of becoming a parent. And birth, all though a rather important moment in all our lives like a wedding day, is just a moment. The life of a child and our journey as parents is most like a marriage, it is longer and more complicated than anyone can really imagine or explain. (I realize some people adopt and become parents in different, beautiful ways, I'm merely trying to make the point that an engagement period is an important one). With that said....

Your engagement is a vital, magical part of your relationship. I believe that documenting this time in your love story is absolutely worthwhile. If you are able to set aside the time and are financially able, by all means hire a professional photographer to capture engagement photographs of you and your betrothed. If you are not, do not throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak, and scrap the idea of engagement photos all together. Instead, recruit a friend or family member (preferably someone you feel comfortable showing your affection to each other in front of) to take engagement photographs of you. Treat it like a special occasion. Carve out some time, so you do not feel rushed. Be thoughtful about your outfit. Pick a place that is beautiful, or has special meaning to you. So something that celebrates this incredibly meaningful time in your life....please...

I speak not only as a photographer, but as a former bride who did not do any engagement photographs. At the time of our engagement, life was busy, plus I was trying to scrape together every penny we had to put towards our wedding (which was indeed magical). But I could kick myself for not taking the time to do engagement photos. It was such a happy time for us, and seriously I have so many friends who are photographers. What was I thinking???

Let me leave you with this: no matter how beautiful and amazing your wedding is -- and your subsequent wedding photographs are -- you can only blow up and frame so many images from your wedding before you freak your friends out. Engagement images have a more day-to-day feel and you can display them here and there with more freedom. On a more personal note, after our wedding, on a trip to France, a dear friend took some sweet photos of my husband and I embracing. Last year I framed one and gave it to my husband as a gift. It now sits on his bedside and we both see it every day. The image captured a tender moment between us, one that reflects the sweetness of days gone by that are reminiscent of our courtship. Which, as most married couples will understand, has now been replaced by the demands of day-to-day life and the realities of marriage.

Now don't get me wrong, our marriage is wonderful, but it does lack some of the subtle -- and not so subtle -- sweetness of courtship. I secretly think that seeing this photo of us hugging every day before we go to sleep and again when we wake up in the morning helps us remember to "hug" everyday. And please don't tell but, I pretend it IS our engagement portrait.

xoxo....elizabeth

Click through the slideshow below to see some of Elizabeth's gorgeous engagement photos.

PHOTO GALLERY
HuffPost
BEFORE YOU GO
Engagement Photos
PHOTO GALLERY
Engagement Photos

If you want to stay connected with Elizabeth and her lovely details you can follow her award winning blog www.kissthegroom.com, and keep up with her day-to-day musings on Twitter @kissthegroom and Intsagram @elizabethmessina. She is the author of a beautiful portrait book, "The Luminous Portrait".