A few months ago I started to think about what to do for Bryan for Valentine’s Day. Bryan and I both like to be creative when it comes to gift giving, and we don’t believe in NOT making a big deal about our anniversary, our birthdays or Valentine’s Day. These are all occasions that we love to celebrate. There have been a few times that circumstances, family needs or finances have prohibited us from being as generous as we would’ve liked to be, but usually we try to find a fun and slightly unusual way to make each other feel special. As I considered Valentine’s Day this year, I went back and forth on a couple of options, but I finally settled on something that has been on my “bucket list” for several years now: a boudoir photo shoot.
Now, before I go any farther, I recognize that there may be people reading who find this shocking or who may even disapprove. After all, isn’t our culture already over-saturated by sex and immodesty? Yes, but I believe it is quite different when people pridefully parade their naked bodies in public than when they privately, confidently and lovingly share their bodies with their spouse. (Which is why you won’t see any photos of me in lingerie on this blog post, although I would be happy to share them with my curious female friends privately).
The book of Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is comprised of poetry which praises the beauty and intimacy of King Solomon and his wife. Here is just a small excerpt from that book:
“Your hair is like royal tapestry; the king is held captive by its tresses. How beautiful you are and how pleasing, o love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, ‘ I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.’ May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.” (Song of Solomon 7:7-9)
That’s pretty sexy and romantic stuff, yes? The reason that I feel it’s important to frame sexuality and nudity in this context is because we are being taught conflicting principles from culture about sexuality. If women are not encouraged to love their husbands boldly, fiercely, confidently, joyfully and that it’s okay to do this and still be a holy, godly wife, then where will we start learning how to minister to our husbands in a God-honoring way? From Cosmo? From Ariana Grande? Kim Kardashian? And how confusing are those messages when compared to God’s plan for sexuality?
The reason that I was drawn to boudoir photography was primarily to bless my husband with sexy images that are perfectly fine for him to lust over and enjoy time and time again. I wanted to look tantalizing, but not sleazy. I searched the web for a boudoir photographer in Raleigh who took tasteful photos while making her clients look like centerfolds. I found one named Cari who had beautiful shots on her website and described herself as a “minivan mom of three children, and happily married for 30 years” with a ladies-only operation, who photographs women of all ages, shapes, sizes and walks of life. (Her website showcased boudoir photography of women aged 20-60!) She was precisely what I was looking for.
I took the next few weeks selecting lingerie that I felt was most flattering to my figure and putting it together with the right hosiery, jewelry and shoes. The package I purchased included photos in two different outfits, and some with a white sheet. In the end I chose a navy blue bodysuit and a panty/bustier set–the very bustier that I wore under my wedding dress.
The day of the shoot I took my oldest child to school and then dropped my younger two off at one of those FANTASTIC drop-in childcare places, because my kids don’t go to preschool and are always with me, and mama wanted two hours to be a supermodel! The studio space that my photographer owns is an old house in the center of downtown Durham, NC. Save for a couple of tufted couches and beds with pin-tucked duvet covers, the rooms are sparsely furnished but have windows on all sides to allow plenty of natural light. Cari double-checked the lingerie that I brought and confirmed whether she thought it would photograph well and then she handed me a glass of champagne, and I sat down in front of a brightly lit mirror where a professional make-up artist spent an hour on my hair and make-up, transforming me from mom to vixen.
Now, I must pause here because I realize the above paragraph sounds very spoiled and self-indulgent. The only other time in my life that I’ve put as much focus on hair, make-up and time in front of a camera was for my wedding. But another reason I chose to do this now is because: a) I am finally finished having babies and my body is back to a size and shape that I like, and I want Bryan and myself to remember it this way, and b) in the last year I feel like my hormones have finally recovered from having children to the point that I feel sexy again and think about sex for reasons other than preserving my marriage or making babies, so I was in the right frame of mind to do this.
My photographer Cari and my make-up artist Joanne were fantastic–we listened to Bruno Mars on Pandora and just chatted while Joanne did her magic, so by the time Cari pulled out her camera I felt like I was amongst girlfriends. We shot all over the house and Cari coached me on poses, facial expressions, what to do with my hair–she made me feel very comfortable and we laughed throughout the next hour. The following week I returned to see the 94 shots she had to show me, and to decide how many to purchase for the album. Watching the slide show she prepared was very powerful–I couldn’t believe that some of the photos were actually photos of me! Like most women, I work with what God has given me, and most of the time I’m pretty happy with my appearance. But, every once in a while I don’t feel so pretty, and I wonder if Bryan still likes the way that I look. He gets frustrated sometimes when he has to regularly assure me that he is still attracted to me and yes, of course, still thinks I’m beautiful. But, again like many women, I don’t always believe him, and I’m overly critical of myself.
But what this boudoir experience really did for me was show me the way that Bryan already sees me, and it gave me more confidence and boldness in sharing myself with him, even if my body does look different after 10 years of marriage and three children. It was not inexpensive, but it was an investment in my marriage and self-confidence that I think was worth every penny, and one that both Bryan and I will enjoy for the rest of our lives. (And he knows all about the album now, but I will present it to him on Valentine’s Day–I can’t wait to see his face!)
If you are considering investing in boudoir photography as a wedding gift, for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or other special occasion, I’ve included some helpful tips below:
-Find a photographer that suits your style, has multiple package options to fit your budget, and who makes you feel comfortable.
-Schedule a phone consultation with your photographer about two weeks in advance to ask questions, get lingerie and shoe recommendations, and to arrange the shoot.
-Decide what kind of product you’re looking for: how many photos you would like; whether you’d like to turn these into a calendar, a quality photo album, or receive digital images to print as you prefer.
-Schedule an appointment for a pedicure, manicure, and possibly waxing. Do this 2-5 days prior to your photo shoot. (If you get bikini-waxing, leave at least two days between your appointment and the photo shoot to allow time for redness to subside.)
-Raid the lingerie that you received for your lingerie shower–if none of it works, it’ll still be fun to try it all on again and will give you a reason to clear out stuff that is too old or doesn’t fit. Some websites that my photographer recommended for lingerie were: