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January 29, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

We got to shoot Laura & Matt’s snowy engagement session just 2 days shy of the one year anniversary of their first date. They had met online, but they both felt so drawn to each other, it was only a week later that they met in person at Pullman’s for lunch. “I knew I wanted to meet [her] in person, and soon. I was very happy she wanted to meet so soon too. I felt the butterflies even more than I normally felt when meeting a new woman and when Laura got there, the butterflies increased. She was even cuter in person! After we got past the normal meet and greet things, we kept talking about anything and everything that came to our minds and really got to know each other well. After three hours of fun, engaging conversation, it was time for Laura to leave. I didn’t want the date to end,” Matt said.

“I walked away knowing I would never have a first date again,” Laura recalled. “I called my mom and told her to get the invitations ready. I just knew. I had known about halfway through the date. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is the man God created for me.’ I told him not even two months after being with him that I was going to marry him and he was over the moon. I still remember his grin.”

Once they knew they were going to get married, Matt’s first thought was to propose in Disney World. They were already excited to be going there for Laura’s work conference so it only made sense to him to propose too. “After I got the ring from our jeweler (which was a close call getting it done in time), I knew everything would work out. I planned to propose in front of Cinderella’s castle and have the Disney person taking our pictures.”

Laura knew it was coming–in fact, I had talked with them right before they left and I had told them to text me a picture afterwards!–but she said she was still surprised and overjoyed. “I cried with happiness because it was such a beautiful moment. I was bouncing and smiling and I just wanted to hug him. People were clapping for us and just writing this, makes me cry those happy tears again.”

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I love finding out what my couples admire most about each other. It’s always such an intimate look into their relationship beyond just “we love each other.” Laura said, “That he cares so much about what is important to him. His faith and the way he looks at and love me are what I really admire. He makes me feel very cherished and isn’t afraid to show emotion or talk about feelings.”

In turn, Matt said, “Out of all the attributes I love about her, the one I admire most is her drive. When she puts her mind to something, she will not stop until it’s done. I’ve learned a lot from her about this and feel like I’m becoming a more driven person because of her.” He also went on to add that she is the most loving person he knows and is sweet beyond measure.

They knew they wanted snow for their engagement session and so we had to reschedule from a few weeks ago when we were supposed to get snow, but instead got only ice. Thankfully, I was pretty sure that by the end of January we’d have snow and so rescheduling was pretty easy. It was definitely cold out (hello 30-degrees!), but they were such troopers and I just adore how their love shines through in all the photos!
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January 22, 2020

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

It was a quick little weekend trip down to Arizona for Alice and Abhijeet’s engagement session, but it was the loveliest time of year to do it! (My flight out of Iowa left in the morning just a couple of hours before ice and snow hit and I spent that afternoon hiking in the sunshine and high-60-degree weather.) As I’m writing this, I’m bundled up in a hoodie, drinking coffee, and my toes are cold.

Alice and Abhijeet met online. Their first date–at The Living Room, where we started their engagement session–was on a Sunday. “He picked me up at my house and we went to dinner. We sat and talked on the restaurant patio for 6 hours. Eventually, they closed and they had to ask us to leave. Even though we come from totally different cultures, we found that we have a lot of the same values. Three years later and we are finally engaged!”

As for the proposal itself, Abhijeet asked her to be his wife this past September. “We were supposed to go to India at the beginning of September, but we decided not to because of flight costs and the fact that I could only take a week off of work. Since we were not going anymore, my parents came to Phoenix for ten days to visit. Abhijeet and I had been talking a lot about how we wanted to move to the next step sooner rather than later. I knew he had a plan, but was getting antsy. We went to Sedona with my parents and rented an AirBNB. The morning we had to check out, he and I went on a hike. I could tell something was up because he was acting nervous and he brought a back pack with him. We were barely talking while we were walking. He stopped because he wanted to take a picture and then I was looking at a mountain and he got on his knee and said, “Well, Alice…will you marry me?” I have no idea what exactly I said, but I said yes at some point! We video-chatted his family on the way back and then when we got to the house, I didn’t say anything to my parents and waited for my mom to notice the ring. She saw it within 30 seconds of looking at me and started bawling. My dad wondered, “What’s wrong?” Then he also realized and said, “Do we have something to celebrate?” It was nice to share that moment with my parents. It was so so special.”

I was so excited to meet Alice and Abhijeet! We’ve been doing lots of email communication and planning for their wedding this fall in Iowa, where Alice grew up. And while they are from different parts of the world–Alice from Iowa and Abhijeet from India–they have both lived in the Phoenix area for many years and so I particularly love that for their engagement session, I could capture them in the place they call home! The other bonus to the location was that we could include their dog, Hilton, for a few photos.

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November 20, 2019

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

We flew into Puerto Rico on Thursday and got up bright and early Friday morning to head to El Yunque, the national rain forest that takes up a large chunk of land on the eastern side of Puerto Rico. It served a dual purpose since we wanted to hike there and we were also going to be doing part of Nicole & Braylen’s engagement session there in the afternoon. A few trails (and one waterfall that I was particularly hopeful to see) were closed off from lingering hurricane damage, but most of the park was open and accessible so we started the day with a hike up to Mt. Britton Tower and then hit as many other smaller trails as we could. All throughout the day, I was scouting for locations to take pictures later on. We got hit several times with outbursts of rain–being in a rain forest after all–sometimes torrential, sometimes misting, but thankfully, it all cleared out by late afternoon when we were taking these pictures.

We ended up with 3 different spots that I wanted to use: a true trail in the rain forest, an old lodge building that Kevin stumbled upon after venturing further than I did on a muddy trail, and a bridge over what used to be–many years ago–a swimming pool in the forest! Logistically, my biggest issue was (ironically) the same thing I deal with here in Iowa: the early sunset. Because we had just flipped back from daylight saving time the weekend before, sunset was happening at 5:45ish and as soon as it sets, it gets dark quickly. So we started the session in the rainforest (where we’d need the most light) and then ended it at the beach (where we’d have open access to the sun and the sand acting as a natural reflector). And all in all, despite the fact that we had to play it by ear just a bit, it ended up being absolutely perfect and so so beautiful!

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As a little sidebar: I have couples ask me all the time when they should do their engagement session and I always say that there are zero rules about that! This is a perfect example. They wedding was on Sunday and we did their engagement session on Friday afternoon. The only time that you absolutely must do your engagement session 6+ months in advance is if you want to use photos for your save the date cards. Otherwise, it’s all fair game! The best way to think about your engagement session is that it’s a practice run for you. I get to see how you two interact with each other (the goal, of course, being that I’ll be able to capture you most naturally); you get to feel how I direct you in and out of poses and all of that works together to make for a smoother wedding day when you have already practiced and are old pros at it! El_Yunque_Puerto_Rico_engagement_emilycrall_photo_1267.jpg
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October 18, 2019

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

When they first began talking, she was going to grad school in Lincoln, Nebraska and he was working in Columbus, Nebraska. “I remember him saying he was from Iowa and I couldn’t believe our home towns in Iowa were an hour apart!” Sara was really busy in grad school so they continued talking, but didn’t go on their first date for another two months. They ate at Applebee’s–both say it was the best restaurant option Columbus had–and then went back to his place to watch a movie because “my home theater system was better than the Columbus Theater,” Josh said. They discovered early on that they both love watching movies and still, five years later, say they do a lot of dinner-and-a-movie dates.

Since their first date, they have moved back to Iowa and call Pella home. I loved getting to hang out with them in downtown Pella before we traveled a few miles out to Lake Red Rock, a place I had honestly never heard of before, but have since found out that it’s actually Iowa’s largest lake!

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Josh had a rough outline planned to propose to Sara, but Iowa was hit with the polar vortex last winter (you guys, do you remember how brutally cold that was?!) so he had to move things along a little quicker than he had planned. Sara said, “So we had planned an evening in January (used it as an excuse to celebrate our dating anniversary) to go see Harry Potter in concert in Des Moines. There weren’t any events really going on around our anniversary so we decided to go that weekend instead.

“I kind of had my suspicions but I didn’t want to get my hopes up and have nothing happen. After the concert, he asked if I wanted to walk around the courtyard next to the event center. He knows I like Christmas lights and they still had the lights up in that courtyard. Not thinking anything of it I agreed. After I gracefully fell into a snow bank (I’m a klutz), we walked around talking about how we couldn’t believe it had already been 4 years. I remember him saying, ‘You know I love you, right? And because I love you, I am finally doing this.’ He got down on one knee and, after that, it was all a blur as I have never been so happy in my life!”

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October 7, 2019

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They are from the same home town and grew up within a mile of each other. They both went to the same grade school, high school, and college. They even worked at the local Quizno’s. “Yet the first time we ever spoke in person to each other was on our first date when we were both in our late 20s,” Matt says. “Our first date was at Big Grove. Best first date of my life, we ended up staying at the brewery talking for about 4 hours. When I was walking into the brewery there was a girl in front of me that I was pretty sure was Nicole, but was going to wait until I got in to say anything. She tripped and almost face-planted about 20 feet in front of me. Right then and there I knew she was special, but it was more a series of events that really solidified her as the one I wanted to spend my life with. A couple examples were her meeting my parents for the first time without me because I had to take call that night and couldn’t attend. Another was her making me a care package of snacks and energy drinks when I took a vacation day to play a video game on the day it came out. I love how empathetic and caring she is. She is the kindest, most gentle person I know. She makes me a better person and I aspire to be more like her in a lot of ways. She has the biggest heart and goes out of her way to make everyone around her happy.”

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Nicole and I first met last summer when she was a bridesmaid in another wedding I was photographing (hi, Kaitlin & Alec!) and, since that time, her and Matt have gotten engaged and moved from Iowa City to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Because of their busy work schedules and the travel arrangements they needed to make to come back here, we’ve had the date planned for a while for their engagement session. So when the forecast wouldn’t budge from the gloomy 80% rain, we made a last-minute plan to switch locations completely and try to shoot indoors. Matt, ever the optimist, was like, “It’s not going to rain; it’ll be fine.” And you know what? While it did rain, it also uncharacteristically passed over so we ditched the umbrella and were able to get shots I had given up hoping for! And honestly, even if it had rained the entire evening, I wouldn’t have minded because these two were so much fun and I knew the second we started that we were all going to make it the best we could given whatever we had to work with.
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October 3, 2019

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They were getting ready to go to Italy when he sat her down and told her the proposal wasn’t going to happen on their vacation because he couldn’t get the ring done in time. “We went all week in Italy, having an amazing time and I never even thought about it because he had told me he didn’t want me waiting all of our vacation for an engagement that wasn’t going to happen [there] and we just needed to enjoy the trip,” Jessica says.

“The place I wanted to go in Italy was the Amalfi Coast. While we were at the Amalfi Coast, we took a walk up a hill that overlooked an amazing view. Chase asked me if I wanted one of those ‘Instagramable pictures’ with the pretty background and I joked, ‘Duh, I love pictures of myself.’ So I turned around and he posed me, told me where to place my hands, said he was waiting for the wind to blow my hair the right direction, and fixed my jacket. I was just taking it all in when he said he finally got it and I turned around he was down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I, like the child I am, jumped up and down in excitement and said yes. We celebrated at a local outdoor restaurant up the street a little bit with champagne!”

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Jessica and Chase met back in 2009 and one of their first official dates was a concert at the Iowa State Fair. When he asked her out that night, she actually initially said no. “I thought we didn’t need a label; it was just going to be a summer fling. Whoops.” But that very same weekend, she realized he was the one. “We were supposed to go to his grandparent’s home in Missouri and I thought we should still go. We went and had a great time, however, I got a kidney stone and he had to take me to the emergency room. On the way there, I kept screaming in pain and he looked at me and said, ‘You probably have a kidney stone and if you puke from pain it’s okay.’ I claimed I wouldn’t do that, but within seconds, I threw up all over his new car.

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