Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Melissa van Ruiten’s blog here.

The short answer is yes, absolutely.

As an engagement and wedding photographer, that’s probably what you’d expect me to say, right? I mean, I’ve photographed engagement sessions all over San Francisco’s Bay Area, but there is always one thing that stays with me: The couples that have chosen to include an engagement session are almost always more comfortable in front of my camera on their wedding day.

Here are a few reasons why engagement photos should be high on your wedding planning to-do list.

It’s the best opportunity to slow down and be yourselves.

Wedding days are hectic. That’s not really a secret. Even days that seem like they’ve got a good schedule cushion built-in can still end up feeling like a whirlwind. An engagement session gives you the opportunity to take your time, explore, and relax. You are able to choose a location(s) that is meaningful to your relationship—first date locale, favorite hiking spot, cute cafe, etc.

You can plan outfits that fit your personalities. While you’re at it, why not throw together a fun, lovey-dovey playlist? I’m always down for music, and well, jamming to some favorite tunes can really put those awkward butterflies at ease. Planning a wedding can leave you feeling frazzled, so an engagement session is the perfect time to really connect with your partner, and show off how in love you both are!

It gives you a chance to get to know your photographer (and vice versa).

Here’s the thing, as your photographer, I want you to be as comfortable as possible when you’re in front of my camera. If you’re not, it’s going to show. Nobody is born knowing how to act in front of a camera. And the hands, oh the hands. Your engagement session will allow you to see how I work, and it allows me to figure out your quirks and make them shine! We will chat and joke, and there will be lots of laughter because that’s how I do. By the time your wedding day rolls around, we will totally be BFFs, which is good, because we’ll be spending a lot of time together on the big day!

You can use the images for all things wedding related.

Are you looking for the perfect save-the-dates or a totally personalized wedding invitation? Maybe you’ve got a whole wedding website to help your guests with all the details of your big day. Why not fully customize it with professional photos of you and your fiance? This is what Jen did, and she couldn’t be happier. She says, “The photos helped make our invitations more personal and we have a set of gorgeous photos that capture the excitement we felt about getting married.”

We live in the age of social media. Rather than posting random, couple selfies with your wedding updates, you’ll have a complete, curated gallery of photos to use. Don’t get me wrong, candid shots definitely have their time and place, but for something like custom guest books, or gift table displays, you’ll want something that looks a bit more “finished.”

All in all, engagement photos are just, plain fun. In the midst of wedding planning chaos, they are the perfect opportunity to step away and celebrate the amazing love that you and your partner share.