The Engagement Photo

Traditionally, when a couple announced their engagement they or a relative sent the pertinent information and an engagement photo to the local newspaper. This was the best method of spreading the word to friends and family.

Despite the onslaught of other media forms—television, radio, Internet—newspapers still exist. In fact, in many small towns, the local paper is the only real source of community news. But even if the engaged couple lives in a big city and has never read a paper newspaper, there are still many reasons to take an engagement photo.

An engagement photo can be attached to the otherwise mundane global e-mail announcing the good news. In fact, if the engagement is announced through a global e-mail, the couple might be sending the information to people they haven’t seen in years, and the photo will help jog memories.

Similarly, the engagement photo can be posted on a wedding Web site, such as TheKnot.com, eWedding.com, and WeddingWindow.com. Friends can be directed to the site via a global e-mail or a personal note.

An engagement photo can be printed on cards or magnets with a simple “save the date” message for people you intend to invite to the wedding.

A high-resolution engagement photo can make a beautiful poster to help guests find your engagement party (or other wedding-related party) in restaurants and other locales with private party rooms. The engagement photo—with the couple’s names—is a much more festive and personalized greeting for your guests than the standard message boards used by many hotels and restaurants, where your special event’s listing might get lost between the three-day oral hygienist convention in rooms D, E, and F, and the state CPA exams held in conference room B.

And, of course, an engagement photo should be sent, with the appropriate fill-in-the-blank information or a short couple-written announcement, to the local newspapers serving their current domicile, their childhood hometowns (to reach old friends), their parents’ towns, educational institutions that publish such information in their alumni newsletters, and the newsletter publisher for any other civic group to which either of the newly engaged people belongs—houses of worship, social clubs, etc. When in doubt, scan past issues to see whether a publication prints engagement announcements, or contact the publisher directly.

And remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. If a publication is pressed for space, they might rather present your beautiful photo with a simple caption announcing your engagement.

Realistically, with all the modern uses of an engagement photo, it could be seen by thousands of people. That kind of audience can be a little intimidating, but if the engaged couple sticks to the five basic rules of engagement photos, they should be happy with the end result.

Five Basic Rules of Engagement Photos

  1. The engagement photo is of the engaged couple. Other people are simply not included—not your parents, not your best friends, not your pets, and in most cases not your children. Children and pets are naturally adorable and will unwittingly steal the spotlight. Unless the photo needs to include children who need assistance feeling a part of the soon-to-be family, keep the focus on just the engaged couple. (Please note, just a few decades ago the engagement photo only depicted the bride-to-be. Nowadays, most publications expect a couple photo.)
  2. Keep it simple. Photos reproduce better in printed publications if they are uncluttered. To keep it clean, wear solid colors, not stripes or patterns. Avoid any props. Again, the focus should be on the couple—not the jewelry, the background, or clothing.
  3. Think ahead. How will you use the photo? If you want to display it next to your own parents’ engagement photo, perhaps you should consider a similar or complimentary pose. If you plan to blow the photo up to life-sized proportions, make certain the photographer realizes this and uses the highest resolution equipment available. If the photo will be the front page of your wedding Web site, pick clothing colors that you will like using as the site’s background and trim colors.
  4. The engagement photo does not have a standard format. If the couple wants “the prom pose,” frequently seen in engagement photos of yesteryear, any professional photographer can take that photo. However, not everyone looks good in a photography studio or feels natural dressed up. Daylight looks better than makeup on many people, and comfortable clothes can relax the people being photographed much better than a photographer saying, “Relax, unclench, now smile.” So long as the photo makes the engaged couple happy, there’s no need to stick to a standard pose, background, or color scheme.
  5. Take several photos and pick your favorite to use. Even if a professional photographer is paid for a photo session, there’s nothing forcing the engaged couple to use a particular photo as their engagement photo. In fact, they may want to use different engagement photos for different purposes: one for the save-the-date cards, one for newspaper announcements, twelve for the wedding Web site, and so on.