We, at Abella Studios, have shot thousands of engagement shoots throughout the NJ area and have noticed a pattern, as we continue to return to the same locations time and time again. I thought it may be helpful to provide some of our favorite engagement shoot locations.

ASBURY PARK BOARDWALK

Asbury Park, New Jersey


If you're in love with beach pictures, but you want something a little bit different, something funky and fun, then Asbury Park Beach and Boardwalk is the place for you. Asbury Park offers wide open beaches, fun graffiti walls, and a rustic, seemingly abandoned boardwalk that just cannot be beat. Take a stroll on the boardwalk, smooch under the rustic gate, write your names in the sand, and even walk into the water if you dare.

ALLAIRE STATE PARK

Wall Township, New Jersey


If you love fall vibes as much as we do, Allaire State Park is the way to go. Simple in its beauty, Allaire State Park offers countless photo-ops from rustic buildings to nature trails: and they even have a train museum too! It's the perfect combination of train tracks, vibrant wooded areas, and beautiful rustic buildings. Grab your picnic basket, a bottle of Moet, and let's have some fun.

CENTRAL PARK

Manhattan, New York


In our area, I don't think anything is as diverse as Central Park. Lakes, gardens, fountains, castles, fields, wooded pathways, and city streets galore! This park remains a very popular choice for an engagement shoot because of it's unique and diverse features -- the only spot where you can mix New York City vibes with nature trails. Any time of year is great for pictures here!

HAMILTON PARK

Weehawken, New Jersey


If you are looking for a view of New York City, this is one of the best around! Hamilton Park lies just north of the Lincoln Tunnel on a cliff overlooking the NYC skyline. This small park has manicured landscaping and unique features, giving you a garden setting, with a city view. Schedule an engagement shoot here in the early morning and watch the sun rise over New York City.

THE BOTANICAL GARDENS

Ringwood, New Jersey

The Botanical Gardens in Ringwood is one of the largest and varied landscapes in the area. Over a dozen formal gardens surround the Skylands Manor, which was built in the 1920s. No two photo shoots are the same here because of the enormous variety these gardens have to offer. Visit this state park spring through autumn for a gorgeous engagement shoot backdrop.

FRANK SINATRA PARK

Hoboken, New Jersey


Views on views. Frank Sinatra Park offers a view of the New York City skyline that just cannot be beat. But that's not all. Frank Sinatra Park is rich in photo-ops. From the Hoboken streets to wooded trails, Frank Sinatra Park has it all -- except for the beach, of course. A late day engagement shoot will provide perfect lighting and mood. Hoboken is the birth place of Frank Sinatra, and this park is dedicated to his memory. It's located on Pier A, at 1st Ave and Sinatra Drive, stretching out into the Hudson River.

VERONA PARK

Verona, New Jersey


Located on the corner of Bloomfield Ave. and Lakeside Ave., it's close and easy to get to, which makes it one of the most popular parks for engagement and wedding photography in the area. Verona Lake is surrounded by fields, trees, beautiful bridges, and long winding pathways. Take a walk around the park, or rent a paddle-boat and head out onto the lake!

BRANCH BROOK PARK

Belleville, New Jersey


Located in Newark and Belleville, Branch Brook Park has the largest collection of Japanese cherry trees in the United States. With over 360 acres, and 4,000 cherry blossom trees, this park offers endless opportunities for photography. The perfect time to visit Branch Brook Park is in mid April, when the trees are in bloom, the beautiful pink and white blossoms will make a perfect background for your engagement pictures.

LAMBERT'S CASTLE

West Patterson, New Jersey


Built by business tycoon Catholina Lambert in 1892, Lambert's castle is one of the area's most popular places for engagement and wedding day pictures. This small but versatile location offers unique architecture, surrounded by beautiful trees and an excellent view of New York City. This location is great for any time of the year, visit in the summer for lush green scenery, or come in the winter time and have a snowball fight!

SPEEDWELL PARK

Morristown, New Jersey


Take a walk off the beaten path and into the woods of Speedwell Park in Morristown. Summer time here offers a lush green canopy, which changes to a vibrant, colorful background in the fall. Trails run through the park's 1100 acres, and make for a fun and unique engagement shoot. Bring your hiking boots!


Full disclosure, I’m a photographer so I’m bound to be a bit biased when it comes to the question of whether or not you should do a first look. But, I am not here for my own personal satisfaction; I want you to get the most out of your wedding day! I know what you might be thinking -- seeing each other as you walk down that aisle is the only way that you can have that special moment, and a first look would take away from that. Let me tell you that nothing could be further from the truth…



So, should you do a first look? Well, that is entirely up to you, but I would be happy to help you make that decision…


Here are some pros of doing a first look:

1. Calm your nerves and enhance your excitement...


On your wedding day, the only person who knows exactly how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking is the person who is in the same exact position as you, the person you are going to share your life with -- your spouse-to-be. The first look is your chance to separate yourselves and enjoy a moment of privacy -- a moment to take a breath and share a few words among yourselves.


The first look gives you and your partner the chance to share in your mutual excitement and to hug-out your overwhelming nerves just before the bride walks down the aisle. What’s better than that?




2. Get your pictures out of the way and enjoy your day...


Your wedding day will be busy. You will have to greet guests, take photos, mingle, dance, and so much more. And remember, photography requires time, especially when lots of people and little children are involved! We typically recommend setting at least 60-90 minutes aside on your wedding day for group, family, and bride/groom portraits. That being said, wouldn’t you like to get your wedding pictures out of the way before the frenzy commences? Wouldn’t you prefer to ease through your portraits calmly before the tears wipe away your eyeliner, before the wind impacts your perfect curls, and before the champagne weighs-down your eyelids? Well, the traditional wedding ritual -- seeing the bride and groom for the first time as the bride walks down the aisle -- unfortunately doesn’t allow for any of the above. Afterall, you cannot take pictures with your partner if you cannot look at one another! However, when couples do a first look, they can finish their family, group, and self portraits right afterward. In other words, the first look allows you to get all of the must-have shots out of the way and dedicate the rest of your day to having an amazing time!




3. Enjoy the most important moment of your day in privacy...

That may have sounded a bit misleading… Put frankly, there will be no privacy on your wedding day, all eyes, lights, and cameras will be on you. However, a first look will separate you and your partner for a moment, and although your family and friends might not be too far behind, the only people who will be there with you during that special moment are the photographer and videographer who will capture it. And that is why we define the first look as an improvement to the traditional wedding ritual that enhances the sentimental nature of viewing your spouse-to-be for the first time by taking away the nerves, the noise, and the crowd of guests from your special moment.



4. Actually make it to your cocktail hour...


Cocktail hour is for signature drinks and pigs in a blanket, not for family photos. If you plan to take all your photos during cocktail hour, you will not go that that cocktail hour, and neither will your bridal party, or your family. In addition to that, if your photographer is spending the entirety of cocktail hour taking group photos, there will be little time for detailed photos of the ballroom, centerpieces, cake, sweetheart table, etc.


By doing a first look, you are giving yourself the time that is required to accomplish all of the photography goals that you have for your wedding day. You will have more time, better results, and you will be far more relaxed. A first look means that you get to enjoy your day more, and you even get to make it to your cocktail hour!