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October 18, 2018

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They met back in the spring of 2012 in college through her best friend. “It was basically a handshake,” she says. It wasn’t until later that year, in the fall semester of college, that they met again. “When I returned for the fall semester,” Derek says, “A friend of mine–and now ours–convinced me to go out on a Tuesday night the first week of classes. I was very reluctant to go but apparently it was meant to be.” As he approached the bar, he saw Kira standing outside and “my stomach instantly filled with butterflies.”

They had their first date the end of August and, as memorable as that one was for both of them, they both recall date number two being the “big date”, the date they knew they would someday marry one another. “As crazy as it sounds, we were literally the complete complement to each other. Our second date was an eye-opening experience to what I was truly missing,” Derek says.


Derek proposed the day before Christmas Eve last year. “We were planning to wake up early, pack the car, and take the 2-hour drive to my parent’s house,” Kira explains. “There had been some crazy snow the day before so we knew we needed to leave some extra time for the drive. In typical Derek fashion, he told me that he had my gift ready and we needed to run up to the farm before we left to take a look at it.

“Normally my internal private investigator instinct would kick in and I’d get to the bottom of it before he could surprise me, but I had so much to do to get ready for Christmas so I figured I’d let him have his surprise this time. I did my hair, got dressed, and finished up my list of to-dos. Derek had run out for a few minutes and just got back into the house. … We hopped in his car, and turned the opposite direction of the farm so instantly I was rolling me eyes thinking, ‘This couldn’t wait until after Christmas?’

“We pulled up to the corn crib, which sits about 1/2 mile from our house. Derek unveiled my present, a large–no, huge–rock that came from the foundation of the farmhouse in Alburnett, one of his family’s first farm homes. I was so happy that he took the time, don’t get me wrong, but I was getting ready to say, ‘This could have waited two more days, Derek.’

“But I looked at him and caught the flash of a red box being pulled from his pocket and had instant tears. It’s still surreal. We had been dating for so long and I wasn’t prepared for him to finally propose. He kept his proposal speech short and sweet, just ‘Kira Leigh, will you marry me?’ And, of course, I said yes!”

Derek knows they dated a long time before proposing, but he adds, “Everyone asks why I have waited so long to get engaged. Truthfully, time has flown together. the last six years have been so surreal that it doesn’t even seem like that long. Every day that passes just reaffirms that Kira is the one.”

For the ending of their session, we went back to the corn crib where Derek proposed and also the spot where they had that second date. “Trying to impress Kira I pulled out some tricks up my sleeve. It was a Wednesday night and we went out to dinner where we oddly ordered the exact same thing. After dinner I asked Kira if she would like to go out for drinks. Knowing that it was a little early to head to campus town, I took her to a partially combined cornfield, which I had scouted out earlier that day, outside of town. It was secluded from the road and we had a plain view of the stars as the sun was quickly setting. I pulled out a blanket and a bottle of her favorite wine and we sat and talked while the music from the radio played in the background. It may or may not have been in my plan but I convinced Kira to dance with me and I taught her to swing dance. After a couple of hours dancing and stargazing we headed back into town and spent the rest of the evening with our friends. That night was one that I don’t think either one of us will forget. I think it is mostly my favorite date because it seems to be the one that set the ball in motion for where we are now.”

Kira adds, “He pulled into a cornfield that had recently been picked and parked his truck. I am a total rule follower so I thought we were definitely going to get in trouble for trespassing, but Derek insisted I get out of the truck, he had plans. He flipped on a CD of music, opened the tailgate to his pickup, and laid out a blanket. Then he pulled out a bottle of wine. I was impressed he bought a wine I drank frequently and later found out he asked my roommate (that bestie that introduced us, Laura) what kind to buy. After a little while he asked if I wanted to dance…under the star light on a September night in a cornfield. Of course! So we danced. I felt like I was in love at that moment. I’d always wanted to know how to swing dance, so he taught me that night under the stars. It was so so so early in our relationship but he had swept me off my feet.”


Many thanks to Melissa Banes for Kira’s makeup.

October 3, 2018

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They grew up in the same small town, attending the same elementary, middle and high schools, and knew of each other, but had different circles of friends. She describes having a crush on him, but that was all it was. Their families both moved away from the area after high school and they hadn’t seen each other for years. It wasn’t until 2016 when they were both back for class reunions. She was on a parade float and saw him on the side, waved at him (and described having those butterflies again: “there’s Jeff Bradley”), and she says the rest is history. They connected on Facebook that week and began daily long-distance communications for three months before their first date.

Because he lived in Arizona and she in Iowa, they decided to meet back in their old high school town of Red Oak. “We hit it off in person very well, and it felt like we had already been dating,” Laura says. “We spent three days together visiting places in Red Oak and getting to know each other. He even took me to a family dinner where forty of his relatives were attending. He introduced me to all of them as we entered the room. We joke that his family was on our first date. They approved.”


After dating long-distant for a little over a year, Laura using her school teaching breaks to visit him in Arizona, Jeff tried to figure out the perfect proposal. “I had the engagement ring with me for several days and wanted to ask at the right moment, public or otherwise. We were together at my apartment on New Year’s Day 2018 and we opened our Christmas gifts to each other and then I said, ‘I have one more gift to give to you.’ I pulled out the engagement ring and got down on one knee and proposed. It was just us two, and the moment was right.”

Laura adds, “Jeff told me later that he had my ring in his pocket all of those four days [I was visiting him], waiting for the right moment to propose. He had taken me out for dinner, to see Christmas lights, to the LOVE statue in Scottsdale. He just didn’t feel right at those places. He decided the right moment for us was in private, at his home, and to begin the new year with our love.”

They both said the best date they’d shared was that first weekend together in Red Oak. “It solidified we were brought together for a reason,” Laura says. “I never once thought it wouldn’t go well…it just did. Since our families moved away from Red Oaks years ago, both of us don’t visit there much. It was neat to experience our hometown together as adults.”

Laura lives and teaches in Iowa City now and Jeff is in the process of moving here. It was so fun to explore the campus with them, neither of them having grown up here. We had the most beautiful day too: sunshine and cool fall temperatures! I had lots of fun nooks and crannies I was already planning on, but was thrilled to discover a new spot that I’ve never seen before, one of the perks of walking around and finding spots you’d never see in a car.

I’m so excited to celebrate their love next year and witness their joy all over again. These two are in every way perfect together and I’m so thankful that, after all these years since high school, they have found each other at last.

September 25, 2018

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

With their wedding coming up next month and both of them working busy schedules, we had a very limited time to get their engagement session in. Thankfully, we had the most beautiful sunlight (!), but it was incredibly humid and hot outside and we were all sweating so much and batting at bugs between every shot. As I type this, it’s 30 degrees cooler outside and it feels like we made a quick switch from summer to fall.

Diana & Lee are planning a quick wedding (less than 3 months from engaged to married!), for the primary reason that when they were struggling to find dates for next year, Lee said, “Why wait? I want to marry you right now!” And, really, how can you turn that down? They’re utilizing the help of Jennifer from Harper Hadley Events to get everything lined up and pulled off in time. It’s going to be such a beautiful fall wedding and I’m so excited to see it all come together!


Look at this hazy little rainbow in the left corner! I didn’t notice it until I was editing the images later on the computer.

When we were finished at Wilson’s Orchard, they requested going downtown to the rooftop of the Van Allen Hall building where they had shared one of their first dates, at the Van Allen Observatory. There was going to be a public observation event that night, but the door was locked when we got there, several hours before public access. Lee went on the hunt for someone and ended up running into one of the astronomy grad students, who was kind enough to give us rooftop access for a few minutes for some photos.

August 29, 2018

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

We had had to reschedule their engagement session several times and when we were finally able to do it, the air was thick with humidity. There was a soft breeze, but it was no match. So we let the sweat roll and laughed our way through it. Marisa & Josh are getting married in October so we also are clinging to the hope that the weather will be so much more comfortable then.

They’ve known each other basically their whole lives and have seen each other through their most awkward phases (hello, junior high) and difficult times and happy thrills. We joked that there won’t be any surprises when they get married.


They brought their adorable pup, Louis, along and he was just such a curious, lovable little guy.

When we first arrived, I saw this shot in my head and was determined to make it happen. We kept running into the issue of other people milling about, but there was a break towards the end of the session and I scurried up the side of the rocks to get it taken before more people came by.

June 19, 2018

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They, quite literally, ran into each other a few years ago. They both were out on the town–Bryan with his brother and Caroline with her friends–on a summer evening. “It was a busy night and it was difficult to maneuver through the crowd and the big goof that I am ran into Caroline…or maybe we ran into each other. I forget what I said, but it was enough to get a laugh out of her,” Bryan says.

Caroline fills in that she had been waiting forever at the bar to get drinks and when she finally had them, she “swung around and ran into  tall scruffy man. He smelled amazing and my eyes were level with his pearl snaps. I looked up and noticed his kind blue eyes right away. He said something funny and I laughed.” They exchanged numbers and he soon realized that the number she gave was legit and “we haven’t stopped talking to each other ever since.”


Shortly after their first run in, they went on their first official date. They spent hours talking and laughing and then, when it was time to leave, they walked to the parking lot together. “[We] stood outside my car,” Caroline says. “And I was perfectly prepared for him to give me a good night kiss. Bryan pulled me close and lightly kissed me on the forehead and that is when I knew he was different, special.”

Thirteen months later, Bryan proposed to her. “I had just gotten through a two-week process of picking out the band and the diamond. I am a very eager person and when I want to get something done, I try to accomplish my goal quickly. So, the day after I pick up the ring I made arrangements to go pick out our Christmas tree together. The whole way there, I made my best effort to be engaged in our conversation and also think through what I was going to say. When we parked the car I made an excuse to get back into the cab of the truck to ‘get my gloves.'”

“Bryan said, ‘Caroline come here.’ I impatiently said, ‘whaaat?’ He pulls me close and said ‘I love you.’ I said, ‘I know! Let’s go!’ and I grab his hand and pull him towards the rows of trees. He swings me back towards him and that’s when I see him lower to one knee. ‘Oh my gosh, it is happening,’ I think to myself,” Caroline says.

“I then called her back to the truck and I just spoke from my heart and told her I love her and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I got down on one knee and after the tears and excitement settled down she said yes.”


It’s always most interesting to me to find out what a couple most loves and respects about the other. Caroline says, “His heart, he is so patient and kind. His ability to forgive his a great reminder for me. You can tell this just by looking into his blue eyes.”

“Her smile and her devotion to not only her work but her love for the children she teaches,” Bryan says. “She has so much passion that it carries through to my life. I would just be a lump on a log if she didn’t push me to be better and I really respect her for doing that for me.”


It was so quickly evident to me how much Caroline and Bryan love to laugh together and they were so much fun to photograph because they just oozed joy!

March 22, 2018

FILED IN: Engaged, Photography

They met in college; both were in leadership positions which meant helping students move in was mandatory. “She was an RA checking in her students and I was carrying their belongings up the stairs. … The next time I heard Eva’s name was when an acquaintance of mine mention her,” Aaron said.

“Our first date was October 15th. I remember I really enjoyed being single at the time, but I knew I’d be the biggest idiot ever to pass up a chance to take this girl on a date. So at this point, we both knew we liked each other and planning that date was something I was admittedly a bit nervous about.” He decided they would go to his favorite restaurant and then meet up with some good friends of theirs to go to a pumpkin patch & corn maze. “The date was great and I was hooked,” he recalled. “My love for singleness was thrown out of the window and I knew that something in me had changed.”


When asked how she knew he was the one, Eva said, “I knew probably 6 months after we started dating. I was in his room waiting for him to be done with basketball practice that was going long. I was so excited to see him even though I had seen him a few hours before! I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life waiting for him to get home!”

Aaron said he knew last spring. “I took Eva on a date to a Mexican restaurant and then we walked around a park. It was that day I was going to tell Eva I loved her, but just two minutes before I was going to do so, she asked me if I loved her! So, of course, I started laughing because that just seems to be typical of our relationship. But it was about a month before that when I was sure she was the one. Towards the end of May when Eva was in Iowa and I was back, I knew for certain. We volunteer with the elderly and one elderly woman once told us that distance names the heart grow farther and that long distance relationships fail. I love that lady, but she is crazy! Ours wasn’t really even long distance since it was only a month apart from one another, but it was during that month that my heart grew fonder and I knew she was going to be wife one day.”

Though they live in Arizona, Eva grew up in Iowa and they are getting married here this summer. They were back for a short trip over the weekend and I loved getting the chance to meet them (and some of their family!) in person and photograph them. I am so looking forward to their wedding and I know it’s going to be a day filled with joy, Christ-centered love, and Eva’s gorgeous beaming smile. Spring_Farm_Engagement_EmilyCrall_Photo_1084.jpg

Aaron proposed towards the end of January. “It was difficult for me to keep it a secret for so long because I was dying to ask her. I had her father’s blessing and the ring on December 21st and I wanted to ask right away, but decided to wait for the right time. My plan was to go to Payson, AZ with a small group of some of our closest friends from our Bible study. We were going to go to Tonto Natural Bridge, which was one of our first dates and that was the day I asked her to be my girlfriend. On that date, we went on a little hike and eventually got to the beautiful view of the natural bridge where we took one of our first pictures together. It was in that spot that she thought I was going to ask her to be my girlfriend, but instead I did it later on as we were hammocking. I wanted that same spot we took the picture to be the place I proposed.

“The trip was all planned and when we got back, there was going to be a house full of about 30 of our closest friends waiting for us for a little engagement party. The morning came and we were all loading up in the van when we looked up Tonto Natural Bridge online. It was a beautiful 60 degrees and sunny day in Payson so I was excited. Unexpectedly, we saw on their website that the trails were closed due to icing. I was certainly not expecting this so after having a quick two seconds of panicking, I remembered that champions adjust and I found an alternate place. I decided on Horton Creek in Payson, but I didn’t know the exact spot I would propose. The group I was with knew the signal was when I asked one of them to take a picture of us. That entire hike I was frantically searching for the spot I would do it while trying to remain nonchalant. I knew our time table for the party had also been thrown off too, but luckily I don’t really get stressed out about things so it was all good.

“I passed a number of places that I thought could be the spot and after about an hour of hiking, I suggested that we turn around and start to head back. I was looking for one of the places I had noted in my mind as a good spot. I was also just anxious at this point so I found the first spot I could after we turned around and [proposed]. She was surprised (which I was hoping for), and she also didn’t really know what to do. The moment I told her I wanted to say something to her, she knew and just buried her face in my chest while I talked to her. I then stepped back and got on one knee. I have never been happier in my life than I was in that moment. I was on a knee for a while as she kept saying that she thought it was all a joke. I joke around a lot, but I told her proposing is one thing I will never joke with her about. The rest of the day was amazing as we headed back and joined all of our friends waiting for us back home.”


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