Don’t wait for the wedding to have your photos taken – engagement shoots are the new fashion.
An engagement photo shoot is now among the list of must-haves for couples tying the knot - an emerging trend fuelled by social media and what's hot in the United States.More engagement photographs are appearing on Facebook as brides and grooms-to-be seek to impress friends and flaunt their happiness.
Auckland wedding photographer Jeremy Hill said he began offering engagement photo sessions five years ago, but they had become popular only recently. And though he's never done it himself, he knows photographers who offer proposal shoots, for which the proposer - usually the groom - organises a photographer and videographer to capture the special moment.
Mr Hill said the trend began in the United States and engagement photography was taking off in New Zealand.
"It's what couples are demanding more and more. Everyone just wants more."
Often the shoots are offered as sweeteners to get couples to sign with a photographer.
"It's included in the wedding package a lot of the times these days," Mr Hill said.
"It's a good warm-up to the wedding day. It's good for your relationship and good for them to have an experience in front of the camera, and it shows you know what you're doing."
If a shoot is not part of the wedding package a photographer might charge anywhere up to $1000 for it. Mr Hill felt proposal shoots were "social media gone crazy".
"I think some things should be private. But that's what young people are doing. What's next? The first kiss?"
Wedding planner Lisa Hill of Beautiful Events said engagement shoots were more common than they were even five years ago. Photography blogs had helped increase their popularity.
"It's definitely more common now than it ever was before. It's something that was added as a bolt-on, a sweetener."
And the attraction was simple, she said.
"Why wouldn't you want nice pictures of you and your fiance, especially if it's part of the package?"
Chris Loufte of The Wedding Photographer in Auckland said couples were using engagement photos on wedding invitations and wedding websites tailor-made for guests.
"They do their own little galleries and they're putting them on wedding websites and now they can populate them with beautiful photographs.
"It creates a buzz and gives the couple a lift, and some confidence."
Bride-to-be Aimee Houston used her engagement photos on her wedding invitations and has put them on her wedding website.
From Belfast in Northern Ireland, Miss Houston said the first time she saw engagement photography was at a friend's wedding in Auckland.
"I went to a wedding a couple of years ago and during the service they had their engagement shoot on the PowerPoint slides just before the bride arrived.
Her own engagement photos were taken at Ladies Bay after a re-enactment of the proposal at nearby Mission Bay.
The 28-year-old health professional said friends and family who saw the photos appreciated them because it created excitement about the upcoming nuptials, and the shoot also acted as a rehearsal for the big day.
"It prepares you for the day when there's going to be constant cameras."
Engagement pics a good 'trial run'
The engagement shoot photos of Alisha Van Dyk and fiance Frank Merriman will feature on their "save the date" cards.
The cards are a precursor to wedding invitations and go out a few months in advance to give guests plenty of warning before the couple's December 2015 wedding.
The same photos will also be used at the Mt Maunganui couple's engagement party next month.
"We want some of the photos on display there," Miss Van Dyk said.
The 22-year-old said she and Mr Merriman, 24, used a good friend, Melbourne-based Kiwi photographer Katie Cook, for the shoot at McLaren Falls near Tauranga.
Because their wedding will be held at vintage venue Old Forest School at Pongakawa in the Bay of Plenty, the scenery at McLaren Falls was chosen to tie in with the forest theme of the big day.
Miss Van Dyk, an early education teacher in Tauranga, said she and Mr Merriman, a fitter and welder, only heard of engagement shoots about six months ago through friends and social media.
"We know friends of friends who have done them. I definitely think it's become more popular these days."
She said it was a good chance for a "trial run", even though they would use a different photographer on the day of the wedding.
"We wanted to have some practice runs."