DEAR TKB: “DIY and Cheesiness Are Four Letter Words to Us…” | Plus, an exquisitely vintage, romantic session that proves my answer. | Photography by BrancoPrata

AAAAAAAAND we’re BAAAAAAACK!  *said like Jimmy Fallon in that Z105 sketch from SNL in which he uncharacteristically managed not to crack up at himself during the sketch*

Sooo… ‘ja miss me?  I missed you.  … Wait no, not you… YOU… yeah… you, over there… yeah… no wait, no, not youYOU.  Yeah, YOU, right there.  I’m pointing at you.  Right.  I missed you so much!

Anywho, on this beautiful late Monday afternoon, aka our first day back from a week’s vacation, I think I’ll start off excessively strong and super inappropriate.   In other words, promptly return to business as usual.  Ok HERE WE GO, with a…


If you and your beloved’s initials are something like, say, “T + A” or “D + P” consider – just considerswitching them around if you’re going to be using said initials on things like your invitations, your favors, your cake, etc.  If you don’t understand where I’m coming from, don’t worry about it, just y’know, consider heeding my advice.  I have your best interest at heart.  Of course, you’re free to do what you want with your initials, just please be prepared for people like me giggling throughout your event.  People like me, we can’t help it when we’re thrown lobs like that.


Sorry.  I’m sorry.  I’ve been holding onto that one for way too long.  Ok, now getting serious… promise this time…


Dear TKB:

I don’t know if we’re in the minority or the majority, but a DIY-capable couple we are not.  I can’t craft even if it was to save my life and the lives of my unborn children AND my dog (I know you feel me on that), and I don’t know the first thing about what to do in front of a camera.  My fiancé is the same, potentially to an even farther extent.  We also don’t take many pictures of ourselves because it just doesn’t occur to us until later, when we’re home and we’re like “we should have brought our camera tonight.  We’re probably not going to dress up and look that put together for at least another two months.”  Hopefully you’re catching my drift.  It’s not like we roll out of bed and go to our respective places of employment in our pjs, but we don’t know how to ready ourselves for a photo shoot in a field or wherever (seeing a lot of fields lately), nor do we feel very comfortable in front of the camera.  We also don’t want to look cheese-faced the whole time.  Should we do an engagement shoot REGARDLESS, and sort of hope for the best?  Because even though I may sound like a hater in this email, one thing we both really want is nice photos of ourselves before our wedding, which we’re both pretty excited about actually.  

We both read and love your blog.  Not sure if you have a lot of male readers, so know you have a loyal male follower in my FH.  And he doesn’t do blogs.

Thanks for your help!


Dear J,

I think you should totally do an engagement session, no doubt.

If you choose a talented photographer (← this is pretty much the first step to most everything in my opinion), and wear outfits you feel that you look attractive while wearing, you’re already 75% of the way home.  The rest is about allowing yourself to relax (which a great photographer is good at helping you do, by the way) and just act yourself with your sweetheart.  Act a fool, even.  It’s just all about letting loose, once you’re there, in that field, in front of the camera.  And you don’t need to DIY anything for your shoot.  DIY elements are just beautiful little additions that – depending on what the prop is - make a shoot that much more colorful/meaningful/fun/easy-because-you’re-holding-something-so-you-don’t-have-to-figure-out-what-to-do-with-your-crazy-hands/interesting/message-holding-for-your-Thank-You-Notes/silly.

Also, search around on various photographers’ sites, and peruse the faces of the couples in their portfolios/blogs.  If they look relaxed and normal, that’s an excellent start for you in your search.

Also also, don’t take anything too seriously, and don’t constantly be thinking of whether or not something is looking cheesy.  If you try to avoid cheesy SO HARD, you’ll end up looking *the cheesiest*, and, if I’m reading you right, I’m pretty sure you’re trying to avoid that.

This shoot below is a stellar example of just what you’re facing.  They never even wanted to do a shoot.  But look at what they got out of it.  P.S. – colorful sunglasses and balloons are the anti-DIY-crafts of shoot props.  Highly recommended in your case.

… I’m turning it over to you guys…. what are your thoughts?


I’m thrilled to share this beautiful piece of work shared with me by Sofia and André of Brancoprata.  If you’re not yet familiar with Sofia and André, prepare to fall in love with their uniquely soft and exquisite work.  And if you ever have the pleasure of meeting them, get ready to fall head over heels for their kindness and professionalism. :)

I simply adore this duo.  They’re a stylist and photographer team, and they’re flawlessly matched.  Just check out these bangin’ pics of one lovely little couple who didn’t even want an engagement session in the beginning!

Here are some words from our bride, Cátia:

Before we started seeing the wonderful e-sessions that are all over the Internet, we did not even think about doing one of our own, as we are not big fans of posing for photographers and around here most of the sessions look a little bit cheesy. But then the idea started to grow when we saw a very cute engagement session from some close friends who got married a few months before us. By then, we already knew that if we were really going to do it, it had to be BrancoPrata – we knew that they would capture exactly what we wanted: a young, fun, relaxed love session!

Since we live outside the country and did not have much time, we arranged everything and did it just two days before our wedding. It’s very easy to see how happy and in-love we were (and thank you André Teixeira for not letting the photos show how tired and stressed we were!). We told André and Sofia that we wanted a place that looked like we were in the country side, since we could not actually go there, and they picked this awesome park, in the middle of the city, that created exactly the effect we wanted.

All the clothes and details were chosen to pass on a very vintage and romantic feeling (and still being us), as only pictures from the ’40s can. And BrancoPrata completely nailed it!

↑ Peeps.  How adorable is that shot.

If you said, “Maximum Adorable,” congratulations, that’s the closest answer.  If you said anything else… thank you for playing.

“… how sweet it is to be loved by you.”

So, my loves…

1) Any thoughts or advice that you’d like to give regarding our question from a reader?  Also, did/do you feel concerned about looking cheesy/awkward/funny/weird in your e-shoot photos and/or wedding photos?

2) How perfectly perfect is this shoot by Sofia and André???  And remember, this couple didn’t even WANT TO DO A SHOOT.  Look what you can get when you just jump in and do things you never even thought you’d enjoy!

xoxo!  - Alison

Brancoprata is member of TKB’s Vendor Love. You can explore more of Brancoprata in our guide!

Kitteh via the vast internets, but probably originally via I Can Haz Cheeseburger

Label(s): "DEAR TKB..." Advice Column, {Engagement}

Love all of this...


  1. Claire Martine on September 26, 2011

    Absolutely Absolutely Absolutely. Get your love documented in front of the camera as much as possible. We all want to swoon over it.

    And by the by, it’s not inappropriate but our initials have to occur C + J because I’m not a big Jesus Christ everywhere type of gal, nor the cockandjunkkk-errrr how was your trip lady? Welcome back!

  2. Ann on September 26, 2011

    So glad you’re back :) Hope you enjoyed your time away!

    To answer the reader’s question…definitely felt awkward/cheesy/nervous about the photo shoot. I think it’s because we don’t take pictures together often and it’s someone else taking pictures. What broke the ice was taking pictures at a place we love. It made it seem more “natural” because the surroundings were familiar (not some place that was random or a field). It helped with the nerves because we knew where we were…we just had someone following us. LOL. I think that’s the best nugget of advice I have for “Reader J.” Choose a place that will make you feel comfortable and is memorable to the both of you…it’ll make the picture taking experience less cheesy and awkward!

  3. Sarah on September 26, 2011

    A) Awesome engagement shoot – I LOVE the sunglasses shot

    B) Where is the McPuppyPants shot?

    C) I have no idea what those initials stand for and now I feel silly. I’m guessing it’s something that doesn’t translate

    D) Our initials are S & P. I’m almost tempted to make a feature of it and have adorbs salt and pepper shakers on each table.

  4. Koru Kate on September 26, 2011

    I second Ann’s comment above. Location, location, location. We chose our favorite hometown park because it’s beautiful, meaningful & comfortable. We walked to the park & our photographer took photos the entire time as we walked through our town. I don’t think we would have gotten such fabulous shots anywhere else. & don’t worry if some of your fav spot isn’t a typical photo op- our photographer made a cobblestone alley look incredible!

    Try to just smile & have fun!

  5. Katie on September 26, 2011

    Oh my goodness, yes! Do a shoot! It was so important to DH and me because we had a LDR our entire relationship, a long distance engagement, and then were going to tackle a long distance year of marriage 6 months after we got married, so we couldn’t pass it up!

    We did ours in 8° weather, a few days before we go married (cause that’s literally the only time we could). We couldn’t feel our faces, so worth it! Just be yourselves, act like yourselves. There is no pressure, people make up pressure with shoots.

    We did our e-shoot at our family estate, which is my sanctuary, so I was very comfortable there, and knew of some places that would make really great pictures.

    Also, schedule some time to sit down with your photographer and have a meeting with him/her, get to know them, too! If you aren’t comfy with your photographer, you won’t be comfortable being a couple in front of them :) At least…I wouldn’t, ha!

    Have FUN, and good luck!

  6. Ilana on September 26, 2011

    @Sarah – Salt and Pepper?! YESS!! …”we go together like…” AAhh, so cute I can’t even believe…

    In other business, we’re on the fence about engagement shoots, too. But I’m not really sure why.

    And, in OTHER business, our initials are I+N which is kind of like “in” and I’m having a mental fit about how to actually have the order of our names in other things because I have noticed that *usually* the female name precedes the male name (as I have noticed with all my relatives) but my “Ilana and Nick” makes me crazy because all I hear is “IlanAH-AND nick” and that creepy glottal throat attack makes me want to pierce my eardrums. So I guess we’ll be odd and Nick can go first.

    Welcome back! I missed you all last week, too! and all day today before I was overjoyed to see your late afternoon post.

  7. Claire Martine on September 26, 2011

    Ilana, I would do ” I & N ” for aesthetic reasons. “N & I” leaves the I off the end while the N kind of gives a sturdy end to the statement. If that makes ANY sense what. so. ever.

    Check out these block letters.

  8. Mindy on September 26, 2011

    Welcome back!

    @Sarah – YES to Salt and Pepper! I know two couples who did similar “food” things – An “A+W” with A&W root beer, and “P+J” with the last name B so they did PB&J – peanut butter and jelly. SO CUTE. Definitely do a Salt and Pepper thing!

    @Ilana – Are you guys Monty Python fans? You could be the knights who say “NI!” ….. anyone? *crickets* Ahem, well I think your initials look fine either way!

    As to the reader question, I second what Ann and others said – it’s all about location! I was so nervous for our shoot and FH didn’t want to do it AT ALL. We are getting married at the Disneyland Hotel so we chose to take e pics inside Disneyland. Lots of pretty backdrops to choose from and we rode some rides, too, which kept FH from falling asleep. Yes, I felt like a cheeseball through 90% of the shoot but the pics came out fantastic. It’s also a great way to get to know your photog before the big day. So my suggestion is to pick a place that has meaning to you, and the rest will come naturally. We didn’t have any props or anything – they are cute but not necessary, IMO. But definitely do an E shoot – ours was so much fun!

  9. Didi on September 26, 2011

    I think you should definitely do the engagement session! It is very helpful in getting to know your photographer for the wedding! You will feel a million times more comfortable, trust me!
    And if you want props, you don’t have to make them yourself! Look on Etsy for already made DIY stuff hahaha. Props can also be accessories like TKB said, sun glasses, scarves, shoes, etc!
    I am very awkward in front of the camera as well, and we hired a photographer who made us feel like we were just friends hanging out!
    it was a great experience! :)
    hope yours is great as well!

  10. Kristine {In Love, Engaged} on September 26, 2011

    Brancoprata cannot be beat. Daily I lament the fact that they don’t live in the US of A. They’re amazing. Ah-mazing. But that doesn’t mean there doesn’t exist equally amazing photographers HERE, or where you are, J. So, do your research. Ask your friends. Read some reviews. And find a photographer who will a) make you feel like you’ve known each other for years (therefore making you feel completely comfortable and YOU on the day of the shoot), b) create a story that is so perfectly you and your FH, and c) take beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime photos that will, most certainly, last a lifetime. Don’t pass it up!

  11. Chelsea on September 26, 2011

    S + M? C + B? Anyone? Anyone?

    Anyhow, super cute engagement shoot.

  12. Katie on September 27, 2011

    Welcome back! Thanks for the initials tip. Mostly because I’m so one of those inappropriate people that would be giggling during one’s lovely ceremony.

    J – You are too cute! (already a good sign that you can totally do this engagement shoot thing!) Don’t worry, you are not alone! While I was reading your question all I could think was “Thank God, we are not the only ones!” (and “Do I know this girl? because if not, I really should, I think we could get along pretty good”) because we are not DIY people, horrible at taking pics and usually leave the camera at home for this reason. Then the thing about the field, I died laughing, because while I personally love the idea (and all the great photos I have seen), just imagining my sweetheart and I in a field trying to take pictures that make people like me swoon sounds ridiculous. But you know what, we are going to go for it anyway! It’s a practice round for the BIG day and if nothing else I will have something that for the rest of my life will make me giggle and probably crack up like I do when I see T + A and D + P.
    Good luck! You are going to do great!

  13. Lindsay on September 27, 2011

    @Sarah – the play on the salt and pepper is absolutely a great idea!

    As for the question – I think it’s important for everyone to do an engagement shoot – it doesn’t always have to be DIY. Do something that makes you feel like you’re in your element.

    If you are the most comfortable by your backyard pond with your two dogs – then take pictures in your back yard with your dogs! If you happen to really like going to the park down the road, and if you like to jump on a swing – take your pictures there.

    Hope you find something fitting for you and your fiancee!


  14. Lena on September 27, 2011

    I think if you don’t feel comfortable in front of the camera, you could not GET a better practice run than an engagement session. If the photos are great, horray, and if they’re not so great, you know what to avoid-who doesn’t want a practice run before you put on a big white gown. After all, recreating your wedding is significantly more expensive than recreating a field. Or a parking lot, because who says you have to get your photos done in a field?

    And that shoot? So glad someone talked those two into engagement photos, because those are gorgeous.

    So glad you’re baaaaaaa-aack!

  15. Kerry on September 27, 2011

    Firstly, I have to say that every time i see a shoot by BrancoPrata it just makes me want to die, its so beautiful, those guys are out-of-this-world talented and these photos are proof of that!

    secondly, i’m feeling like a bit of a noob, because I have no idea what the hidden meanings are behind the initials… this takes me back to junior school when i felt like such a nerd because i had no idea what oral sex was… turns out no-one else knew either, but they were better at faking their coolness than me…

    awkward… anywho… welcome back!

  16. Elle on September 27, 2011

    So I know this might be kind of a no-no, but I’m too excited to not share!!!

    So, I have been super busy with FSIL new baby news and school, so I have been absent for a week or two. BUT I just got an email this morning telling me our invites were gracing some blogs:

    I will be submitting all our stuff to Alison first (I didn’t even know our invites were out and about) because I love knotties the best, but I couldn’t help sharing my excitement.

  17. jacin {lovely little details} on September 27, 2011

    highly recommend engagement shoots for nothing other than to PRACTICE taking pics before the big day. i feel busted in a bunch of my wedding pics, and wish i had time to get the feel for being followed by paparazzi all day before the wedding day actually came.

  18. Another gorgeous shoot by Branco Prata! Thanks for featuring them. I also see what Sofia means about those fabulous eyes (not your common blue)!

  19. Colleen {Soundtrack To I Do} on September 28, 2011

    GORGEOUS shoot. Truly amazing. And I say YES for any form of in-front-of-the-camera fun. (Ok maybe not any form… but I digress.) Jacin makes a good point about the need for practice, especially if you already feel awkward about being in front of the camera – that way you’ll get used it and hopefully forget it’s there and just be natural. Ready, go!


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