Several years ago, when I was single and on the verge of accepting a life of celibacy, a new trend hit my news feed that sent me into an irrational spiral of rage. As if the new-born baby spam and those so called intelligent dating ads weren’t enough, I was now faced with smug pictures of newly engaged couples, giving each other piggybacks and prancing about in fields like Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. It wasn’t just the excessive display of affection or the annoying wedding hashtags that bothered me – they all just seemed so staged, and incredible cheesy. Pictures ranged from the moderately tolerable (the classic ‘pre-snog shots’, mouths wide open, noses-grazing etc) to the positively absurd (Why are you hiding behind that tree when we can obviously all see you? And, no. You do not need to cup your hands together in the shape of a heart to show us you’re engaged. The 20 + photos of your engagement ring do that perfectly thank you).
The irony, of course, is now that I’m engaged and at the height of marital bliss, I’ve gone and done exactly this. The only difference is that I’ve swapped Julie Andrews for Russell Crowe and taken the ‘wistfully-brushing-my-hand-over-grain-fields-whilst-walking-in-the-sunset’ approach (which was wonderful by the way). But here’s the thing. As with all situations in life, our observations as a spectator are usually very different to how we experience them as a participant. And now that I’m in happy-valley, I understand why couples are keen to brag. Not only are these photographs stunning, but my fiancé looks like a total hunk. Every time I look at these pictures, I fall in love with him all over again, so yes I want to spam everyone with my happiness, I’ll just do it all over this blog rather than Facebook…!
Portrait session with Lelia Scarfiotti
Many photographers provide ‘engagement or ‘pre-wedding’ shoots in addition to their standard package, but Lelia voluntarily offered to do a portrait session with us for free. It was a lovely gesture and shows how much she values getting to know her clients to get the best possible photos, as well as ensuring they feel comfortable. We set-up a date to coincide with our final pre-wedding trip to Italy, and I managed to schedule my hair and makeup trial just before the shoot.
We met Lelia in a small town just outside Siena, and after a quick coffee and a change of clothes, we headed for the famous rolling hills of Tuscany. She told us the first 10 minutes would be awkward, and they were. At one point I’m sure my fiancé was trying to strangle me rather than wrap his arms around me lovingly, but it was all quite funny and helped lighten the mood. My fiancé turned out to be a complete natural but it took me a little while to unwind. In the weeks leading up to our trip, not a minute went by when I wasn’t thinking about the wedding. It was our last physical visit to the venue and the final opportunity to meet suppliers face to face, so there was a lot to prepare and organise. I’d also invested a lot of time and energy trying to look my best for the shoot (going to the gym, looking after my face, deciding what to wear etc) so by the time it came around – and after the hectic week before – despite being excited I was pent-up and tense. In additional to feeling like a plum, I also couldn’t stop thinking that I looked nothing like Lelia’s usual clients (just go to her blog and you’ll understand). I became consumed with fear that she’d have nothing good to work with which was silly really because she’s clearly a magician. But because of this and all my other anxieties, it wasn’t until about halfway through the shoot that I finally started to relax. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, don’t fret, though perhaps opt for a strong G&T instead of a coffee and the fun will start a lot sooner…!)
It was a real pleasure spending time with Lelia that day. She gave us enough direction to make us feel comfortable and kept things flowing naturally, but what was obvious throughout, was her desire to keep things fun and lighthearted, and to get to know us better as a couple. I’ve no idea if people will be able to interpret our personalities through these images, but despite having only met us twice, I think Lelia’s captured our relationship rather well. We’re not a sophisticated or serious couple; we tend to spend most of our time in active wear (my fiancé is a tennis coach and I’m #sweatingforthewedding at every possible opportunity). Neither of us have high flying careers, we don’t own a house and we definitely don’t have a five year plan. We’re just two little romantics, very much in love who spend a large amount of time hugging and laughing, usually at each other’s expense. I like to think that comes through but maybe I’m just biased!
The benefits of having a portrait session
Having engagement or pre-wedding photos are not a new right of passage that all of us need to do, and they certainly don’t need to be cheesy. It wasn’t until I got engaged, discovered Rock My Wedding and came across this achingly gorgeous shoot that I realised it’s not just about feeling comfortable in front of the camera and knowing what to expect on the day; it’s also about having a bit fun with someone you love and hopefully getting a few frame-worthy pictures as a souvenir.
We won’t be using these photos for Save the Dates cards or our wedding website, and we don’t intend on sending them to family or even framing them in our house (who am I kidding – they’ll be up on every single wall by next week). Spending time with Lelia was a great opportunity to understand her shooting style and has definitely removed a lot of anxiety I had, but what I loved most was spending time with my fiancé, having a bit of a giggle and for the first time in ages, focusing on each other rather than the million other things we had to do. This of course isn’t a justification for doing one of these sessions, but alongside the practical benefits, it’s a lovely bonus.
Being engaged is chapter of your life that’s different to all others. It’s exciting, it’s full of change, and it’s a feeling you won’t be able to repeat again (hopefully)! So if you have the opportunity to capture just a snippet of it, when emotions are high and you’re at the height of marital bliss, I highly recommend you do.