“We fell really fast for each other and, I knew Emily was the one the January after we met,” Ian said. “I had met her family by then and she had met mine. We were having a great time at a party in Decorah and late in the night I think we both said we loved each other. Even though we did distance dating in college, it suited us because we both had demanding degrees, hobbies, and passions that we knew were important to pursue individually.”
“I think I told Ian ‘I could marry you’ one night after about 4 months of dating. I laughed and said that I was coming on really strong, but it just felt right,” Emily said.
I have known Emily (and her mom) for a while now as they are both regular attendees in my weekly Pilates class. I got to photograph the Starman family last fall and I knew that a proposal would be coming since Emily and Ian had already locked down a wedding date for 2023 at Walker Homestead. They officially got engaged this past December.
“We had always talked about staying at the fancy hotel in Decorah for a get-away and I finally booked it for a Saturday night,” Ian said. “I had the ring for about two weeks and knew this was the weekend. I planned to go on a hike in the bluffs and propose some where along the way. I had also told my best friend EJ this was when it was going to happen. We were playing Wordle on my phone at lunch and EJ texted me, ‘Have you done the thing yet?’ Emily obviously saw the text pop up. We made eye contact and really just didn’t say anything and kept eating our lunch.
“I played it cool the rest of the day as we went to shops and got drinks. We mutually decided a hike was a no-go with it being below zero with the wind chill. I had absolutely no plan at this point and was going to take the shot when I had it. We had an amazing dinner at a local bistro and it was packed; no way I was going to do it in there! We then got drinks across the street and ended up talking to the bartender and staff for 2 hours about where we were from and other Midwest banter – not apt for such a romantic move. Finally, at the late hour of about 9:15pm, we went back to the hotel room and in true Emily style she said, ‘Well, are you going to propose?’ And then I said, ‘Yes, obviously.’ and I ‘did the thing!'”
Emily is finishing up dental school and they are moving next month for her to start her pediatric dental residency so, even though they’ll be back, we knew it made sense to get their engagement session in before they move. We had the best afternoon and I love some of the spots we found on the east side of downtown–an area most couples don’t think about when picturing quintessential Iowa City/campus–before we went over to Hickory Hill Park.
I asked them both what they admire most about the other. Ian replied, “Emily Starman astounds me still on her genuine passion for helping other. She is becoming a pediatric dentist because she gets excited about helping family become healthier. I would find that exhausting, but she always has a smile and laughs about the crazy things she sees in a day. I have also seen her organize and commit to volunteer events in the middle of the most stressful parts of her life. It’s so easy for our generation to skip these types of experiences, but she truly flourishes in them. Just wow!”
Emily admires Ian for “His vision. His appreciation for his family. Even though his parents are divorced, he sees the best in both of them and what their lives are today, which is so different than what they used to be. Ian and I are able to dream together.
“Whatever we do we’re going to have fun with it,” Ian said. “Life’s way to short to get bogged down with the serious things! We both wants kids eventually, but are enjoying our couple-time. Big plans to travel and visit other friends around the country and world before psuedo-settling down. There’s a lot of unknowns on where Emily will be professionally in the next years so we’re biting off life with curiosity and enthusiasm. We also joke about how funny a couple we’ll be when 100 years old.”
Emily is a runner and Ian is a cyclist so at the end of their session, we made sure to get some photos of them with her running shoes and his bike.