Ericka Engen loves sports. This Rice University graduate student gives private basketball lessons and is the Houston Texans’ # 1 Fan. Her competitive experience served her well as she successfully battled to be the next Billboard Bride.
She met her fiancée, Garrett Graham, at the University of Wisconsin where he was a tight end for football team; she played basketball. Early dates included games of “HORSE” and tossing a football. Things evolved. When he was drafted into the NFL, she knew she would be moving with him.
“Garrett and I were so excited when we found out he would be playing for the Houston Texans,” she says. They were sitting with his family in his hometown, Brick, New Jersey, when they found out. “We were both so nervous and anxious to find out where we would be living.” They love it here in Houston.
Shortly after the conclusion of last year’s football season, Garrett popped the question at Brenner’s on the Bayou. He uncharacteristically wanted to go for a walk on the luscious grounds. It was there he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
As the new billboard bride, Ericka was surrounded by wedding professionals, each maximizing their specialty to make Erika’s photo shoot a success. Photographer Akil Bennet’s skills were called upon to capture the perfect shot. His casual studio in the Heights was the perfect setting to put Ericka at ease and get her used to smiling for the camera.
For many brides-to-be, it all starts with the gown. Our billboard bride is no exception. When the team at Ventura’s Bridal saw Ericka’s blonde hair and brown eyes they knew they had to have something fabulous. They chose two looks for the photo shoot. The first gown is Maggie Sottero from the Sottero & Midgley line. It features over-the top bling with a Swarovski Crystal encrusted bodice with full tulle skirt. According to Jessica Bennett, bridal consultant at Ventura’s Bridal, this special gown is one of the first gowns Princess Kate chose to try on during her gown selection experience. “We chose this gown because of the heavy embellishments. We thought it would really pop,” she says.
One quick costume change and Ericka’s look was completely different. “We loved the idea of the black belt and black gloves on top of a romantic lace dress,” continues Bennett. This look really encompasses the hopeless romantic look.
The floral bouquet is a key element to the billboard, providing a touch of color. “Flowers should express who the bride is,” says Sarah Cain of Sarah’s Florist. “This is the newest trend in color. Lavenders and pinks with shades of purple are on trend for 2012,” she says. Flowers such as roses, freesia, dahlias, and assorted garden flowers bring this work of art to life. As an added bonus, special jewels are added to enhance the stem.
The second bouquet is for the strong-minded bride. The colors are strong and can also be quite elegant. This bouquet features Cymbidium orchids, calla lilies, hydrangeas, gerbera daisies, roses, and cockscomb. “The touch of Swarovski Crystal jewels ads a real pop for the bride,” says Cain. The band featured on the stem can be worn as a bracelet after the wedding.
Robin Wormington of Airbrushed by Robin was tapped to transform Ericka’s hair and make-up. Robin created a modern look with dramatic eyes and a softer, more natural face. To fight Houston humidity, the hair is teased and curls are intertwined. “We believe in the perfect blend of beauty,” says Wormington. She uses airbrush makeup with traditional cosmetics to achieve a natural, flawless look. The airbrush spray foundation lasts 14-16 hours and is water and sweat resistant. “I truly believe you should be comfortable with your hair and make up artist. We are there for you,” she says.
Overall, the experience of being the billboard bride was once in a lifetime for Ericka. “This has made my wedding planning experience day even more special,” she says.
Get this look:
Airbrushed by Robin
Akil Bennett Photography