Equestrian Wedding Photography: 8 Tips for Bridal Portraits With HorsesPosted on June 15, 2016
I’m going to say something unpopular. Ready? Here it goes: engagement pictures are silly.
Here’s why. When thinking about most relationships at the stage where you’re about to get married, you can probably say something similar: “I’ve been with this dude for X number of years, and we’ve taken approximately X million pictures of ourselves. Now you’re suggesting we take even more pictures of ourselves right before the day where we take literally millions more pictures of ourselves with me wearing a white dress?” Just seems like a waste.
However, engagement pictures are now a pretty standard part of the wedding photography package whether you want them or not. So instead of taking engagement pictures, which my future husband and I had no real interest in taking, we decided to take pictures of me and Derby…with the dress…after the wedding. Similar to the idea of “trash the dress”, a trend where brides destroy their dresses after the wedding for the sake of unique images (e.g. setting the dress on fire, rolling around in mud, etc.), we decided to use the engagement pictures after the wedding to take pictures of me wearing the dress around Derby without fear of ruining it. He could step on it, I could walk in poop, saddle oil could stain it; all without a care.
We got married at Lauxmont Farms in Wrightsville, PA, where there are already horses, hundreds of acres, and the perfect backdrop for an equestrian theme. Our photographer, Katy Trefry, owns the property along with her family, and had many ideas on how to incorporate Derby and the dress into the scenery. A couple of months after the wedding on a beautiful early fall day, we returned with Derby and the dress.
I’m going to go ahead and say the day was a complete success. Looking back on these pictures, almost six years later, I’m still in love with how they turned out. Here are my tips for making your equestrian wedding photography session memorable:
1. Don’t bother cleaning the dress until after the wedding AND horsey photoshoot. The dress was already dirty from the wedding, which was outside on earth and stone. After the pictures with Derby it was even dirtier, and returned from the cleaners with a note/disclaimer that not all stains could be removed. The stains are all on the underside of the dress, so I’m not worried about it. My future daughter can still wear it to her horse-themed wedding 30 years from now along with her OTTB (no pressure!).
2. Let your horse take a good look at the dress before putting it on. Derby isn’t afraid of much, and my dress wasn’t very full, but we still did a formal introduction before I put it on, and then allowed him to watch me walk in it before approaching him. Being the complete gentleman he is, he was careful not to step on it as I led him.
3. Bring props. Our props included: horse show ribbons (only blue, red, and championship ribbons, naturally!), a black bridle, a brown bridle, brown Walsh halter, and saddle.
4. Wear those tall boots, baby. Sergio Grasso was made for bridal.
5. Only do what your horse is comfortable with. And then take full advantage of his generosity, because you’re never doing pictures like this again! Katy wanted to do shots of me laying on the ground with Derby standing nearby. She was concerned he’d step on me, but that was a risk I was willing to take (as a young teenager I’d slept in his stall unharmed, after all). Derby carefully stood beside me, smelled my face (“Wake up, girl!”) and then licked me like a dog.
6. Bring lots of helpers. On hand were my mom, dad, and husband. Katy and her daughter also helped.
7. Let the scenery do the work. Much like on your wedding day, having a beautiful, colorful, texturally diverse environment will make your pictures that much more brilliant.
8. Thank your partner. Thank the person who gave up the opportunity to have their picture taken so you could have pictures with your horse. The horse who ultimately will take you away from them every morning, evening, and weekend for the rest of your marriage. Ah, true love.