Our Santa Barbara Engagement Session: Part One

I am so excited to share the first batch of our Santa Barbara engagement photos. Nick surprised me for our one-year anniversary with a trip to Santa Barbara for an engagement photoshoot with my amazingly talented friend and photographer, Jose Villa. My dear friend and incredible videographer, Miguel Garcia came to capture us on video with only a 24-hour notice! Working in the wedding industry for years, I’ve set very high expectations for any wedding event or activity. I have seen it all and done it all! Every decision during wedding planning has been hard to make but for some reason, our engagement session was a complete no-brainer!

booking our engagement photographer

Nick is literally the most incredible man on this planet and truly made for me, so he was down for whatever when it came to planning our engagement session. While I was at Engage! in Lake Como, Nick reached out to Jose to schedule a surprise engagement photo session for us in honor of our one-year anniversary.

I have known Jose for years from my days as an editor at The Knot and couldn’t have been more overwhelmed with the excitement that we were getting to spend the day with him. I remember one of the first engagement sessions I ever saw of Jose’s took place in the rolling hills of Santa Barbara and I kept that in the back of my mind, knowing that it always seemed like the perfect shoot location.

Ahead of the shoot, Jose and I worked together to come up with a shot list for our evening together. He asked if I preferred film or digital (or both), as well as the style. As we began brainstorming locations and ideas for the shoot, we kept coming back to the hills of Santa Barbara. Jose shoots there a lot, so I knew he’d be in his element there, while still being able to make the images special and unique to us. With a little work, he was able to get us onto a property that he had only ever shot at once before, so I knew it was going to be the best of both worlds.

deciding on my engagement shoot looks

Jose and I texted back and forth about outfits and attire so he was able to weigh in on what outfit suited each location best. To pull together the perfect bridal look for the occasion, I tapped my good friend (and industry powerhouse) Gabrielle Hurwitz, a bridal fashion stylist, for her help. Gabrielle spent so much time working with me putting together my fashion for the day, including the gorgeous floral dress below from The Brock Collection, which she paired with earrings from Oscar de la Renta. I have linked the looks below, and you can also find them on my Instagram stories.

road trip!

Nick and I decided to take a road trip from Arizona to California for the weekend, so we packed up the car with our favorite snacks and hit the road. We stayed in Solvang at The Landsby and had dinner at our favorite place SY Kitchen with my best friend from college, Lauren, and her husband, Austin.

The next day was a bit of a blur because I was so excited with anticipation. I didn’t have a hair and makeup artist, since the trip was a bit last minute in terms of scheduling. However, Janet Villa was able to squeeze me in and I could not have been more grateful—she really created a look that was exquisite and made me feel so beautiful.

our engagment shoot with jose villa

Jose captured our love so perfectly! He had us laughing the whole entire time and made us feel so comfortable. By the end of the photoshoot, Nick and I were pros and felt ready for any future close-ups!

Our shoot got started during golden hour and this is where Jose really shined. I can tell people all day long how to pose, how to act and see in my head exactly how the shot should look, but when I was the one in front of the camera I got a little in my head (not to mention I totally caught myself thinking Oh my god, Jose Villa is literally taking my picture right now!). Luckily, Jose was constantly directing us into the most natural and beautiful poses. When I get nervous, I fidget with my hair—he told me to fix it before every shot because he picked up on my habit immediately. That small detail made me feel like he was really paying attention and I then began to relax. Meanwhile, Nick was a total pro, perfecting what he and Jose joked was his “looking off into the distance” face in no time!

By the end of the engagement shoot, we were seasoned pros. We are so ready for our wedding photos and are really excited to continue the tradition of having our photos taken on our anniversary every year so we can see how things change and have special memories to look back on.

Stay tuned for the next round of images soon along with a video from Miguel Garcia Studios.

Santa Barbara Engagement Shoot
Santa Barbara Engegement Session
Engaged couple kissing
Black and white photo of an engaged couple
Outdoor engagement photo of a man and a woman holding hands
Engaged couple walking in a field in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara engagement photoshoot
Santa Barbara engagement session
Couple laughing during their engagement sessions
Engaged couple laughing


Photography: Jose Villa

Videography: Miguel Garcia Studios

Styling: Gabrielle Hurwitz

Makeup: Janet Villa


Dress: The Brock Collection // Earrings: Oscar de la Renta // Shoes: Cult Gaia

// Lipstick: Chanel

xo, Sarah