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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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October 1, 2019

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

Neither of them can remember first meeting and this is a sweet result of growing up in the same school. They have just always known each other. Their first date was basically accidental. Greg was at his parent’s house and sent out a Snapchat inviting some people over to go four wheeling, not thinking anyone would actually come. But Natalie showed up. “I remember just having an attitude of ‘oh cool, I’m going over to my friend’s house and it might be weird but it might be really fun.’ It turned out to be really fun,” Natalie said.

Fast forward four years and Greg was setting up for his proposal. “I set it all up before I left to go to Texas for racing. On my [side-by-side vehicle], I have all of my sponsors, including now Hands Jewelers, the place that I had bought the ring at. We had our families get together for a good luck party,” Greg said.

“Before dinner,” Natalie added, “He asked if we could all go to the shed and get a picture with the SxS before it was all dirty and/or broken. I walked in and noticed a sponsor sticker that said ‘Hands Jewelers’. As I was acknowledging how cool it was that they had sponsored Greg, I slowly felt everyone’s eyes turn toward me. I heard my name called out and there was Greg on one knee with tears in his eyes asking me to be his partner for life. I ugly cried and said yes!”

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September 18, 2019

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

It was just a few weeks after they first met that they went on their first date. “It was beautiful, sunny day,” Bryn said. “It was one of those spring days that felt like the beginning of summer. We had been trying to find a time to meet at night, but me schedule was crazy with law school finals coming up and family events. Since we couldn’t find a weekend night that would work, we decided to meet up on a Saturday morning at a coffee shop instead. The date lasted over three hours, and I don’t think either of us wanted it to end! It was easily the best first date of my life.”

Jonathon said he knew Bryn was the one “when she first met my family. My nieces and nephews absolutely loved her and she was amazing with them. That was huge to me as they are an important part of my life. As well, my family immediately fell in love with her. So much so that sometimes I wondered if they actually like her more than me.”

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“I realized pretty quickly after we started dating that he was ‘the one,'” Bryn said. “I don’t think there was one particular moment where I realized he was ‘the one’—it was just a feeling that popped up the more I got to know him. He was different than anyone else I had ever been with, and I just had a gut feeling that he was the one which I had never experienced before. All my friends who are engaged or married told me that ‘when you know, you know,’ and I always thought that was bad advice. When I met Jonathon, though, I started to see the truth in that statement.

“Since the very beginning, he has made me laugh like nobody else ever has, and he is just so easy to be around. I didn’t want our first date to end, and our second date lasted 12 hours! He also doesn’t play games like so many people do. Neither one of us waited after the first date to text each other about a second date—we sent each other texts at the same time to set up a second date.

“I have always felt very comfortable with him and have always been able to just be me with him. I also really liked his family from the first time I met them. His family embraced me wholeheartedly and made me feel so comfortable and wanted. Family is so important to both of us, so once I met his family and they liked me, it really solidified my feeling that he was ‘the one.'”

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