How our engagement photos dispelled my self image fears

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 | Photography by Emma Mullins Photography
How our engagement photos dispelled my low self-esteem fears about being the center of attention
Photos by Emma Mullins Photography

If you've been around here anytime since 2011, you've likely seen my name at the top of a lot of the posts on this site and our sister site, Offbeat Home & Life. I've been editing real weddings and wedding inspiration for seven years now! Now I'm engaged and getting married next May in Chicago. It's exciting and it's also overwhelming because, as someone who looks at offbeat weddings on the daily, I like to say I've seen enough to know I've seen too much. But I digress… it's been really fun seeing things from the other side for once.

One of these new “other side” things is apprehension about being the center of attention. It's something I actually love but am very much not used to. I haven't even had a birthday party for myself since I turned eight. So while I'm super looking forward to the love and excitement and celebration of something about us for a hot minute, it's making me nervous, too. See, like you and you and you over there, oh and that guy right there… I'm NOT super confident. I know, it's a wild concept. But in all seriousness, I've always struggled with my weight, have had bullying moments in adulthood, and generally just haven't felt all that rad about my self image for most of my life. And weddings tend to hardcore highlight those feelings.

One of the first things I wanted to do was an engagement session. I'd read (on this site!) that they were great for breaking the ice with your photographer, getting you used to being in front of the camera (which I am SO not), and give you great fodder for save-the-dates and wedding websites. I really wanted ours to have a fun, casual feel so that our guests would know this would be a less stuffy event than they were potentially expecting.

Catherine Steven Engagement 33 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

So when I contacted my amazing photographer, Emma Mullins, I made sure she was game to go adventuring with us to capture some fun shots. When the time came, my partner and I requested that we head over to our favorite beercade (bar meets arcade) in Chicago, Headquarters. It's got a great backdrop of color, a vintage cassette tape wall, old TVs, and of course, tons of arcade games. We also trekked over to a really great Felipe Pantone mural in the Fulton Market district of Chicago that looked like a game of Tetris, a bunch of huge pixels, or some Pantone swatches, all of which are totally us. We were psyched by the spaces.

Catherine Steven Engagement 94 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

My partner and I fretted with our nerves going in. Would we look stiff and weird? Would we frustrate Emma with our goofy poses and non-model looks? Would our dumb faces ruin every shot? As we progressed through the shoot, Emma assured us it was all going well and coached us into feeling WAY more comfortable as it went along (she is an insecure couple's dream!). By the end of the seriously fun shoot, we were less worried, but still apprehensive.

By the time we received all of the photos from Emma, it was clear our fears were totally unfounded. She had somehow delivered over 150 photos, all of which looked AWESOME. You could definitely tell how much more comfortable we were by the end of the shoot which proves the point that you'll waste a lot less time getting comfortable with the photos on your wedding day if you've already done a shoot previously. You'll have become pros by then! Plus, you'll get used to those “flaws” you always see in photos and they won't seem so bad anymore. This was a pretty big deal to me since I hate [fill in the blank all of the things nobody else would notice but me]. You hate those things about yourself, too? I knew it.

Catherine Steven Engagement 90 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

And now that we're pro models ready for the runway (haha), I do actually feel more ready to act less weird and awkward in front of the camera and just have an awesome time on our wedding day. And now we have SO many options for photos we might get printed, or turned into a save-the-date, or plaster all over our wedding website, or made into profile pictures until the end of time.

Catherine Steven Engagement 57 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

Do I recommend an engagement, boudoir, lifestyle, whatever kind of shoot? Hell yes I do, especially if it's included in the package. Don't skip it — find a place in your area that you love, and go to town feeling like weirdos. Trust me, you'll look way much far more gooder than you think you will thanks to both your photographer's mad skills and how awesome you actually are.


A bonus to your shoot: you maaaay end up running into a horror-themed party of some kind with an empty ticket-taking booth that you can hijack, and then someone random pulls up in a car to offer you Chucky and Bride of Chucky Tiffany dolls with which to pose. And you get this shot…

How our engagement photos dispelled my low self-esteem fears about being the center of attention


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Comments on How our engagement photos dispelled my self image fears

  1. Awesome post, Catherine!! I love that this session was so helpful – you two rocked it! Really couldn’t have asked for more perfect locations – and those Chucky dolls…?! I mean, COME ON 🙂

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