Emily with Soiree texted me one afternoon a few weeks ago asking if I’d be available to help out with a styled shoot at Bella Sala and I was delighted to be able to join the quickly-collecting team of vendors! It was a really busy afternoon (I was utterly exhausted that night), but so much fun to be able to shoot all these setups.
We were graced with a gorgeous set of rings from M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers and the stunning oval solitaire diamond in particular was absolutely breathtaking. Allegra provided the paper suite and printed details and Borrow My Vintage was so kind to set up a beautiful lounge in the reception space. The florals–ahhhh, so perfect–were provided by Hydrangea Bloom and our models (hi, Katie and Derek!) brought their dog, Charlie, along who even got fitted with a floral collar! Hair & makeup was provided by Sugar Salon (makeup by Erin and hair by Stephanie) and the gowns and suits were fitted by The Bridal Shop by XOXO Bridal.
Bella Sala hosted us all so graciously and I’m especially excited to see their space after the remodel this spring! A whole wall of windows! New light fixtures! And, as you’ll see below, brand new chairs and tables that are so beautiful, they’ll make your heart go pitter patter.
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.”
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!
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.
After their engagement session on Friday in the rain forest and on the beach and their wedding on Sunday at Casa de España, we capped off our trip to Puerto Rico on Monday with a newlywed session at Castillo San Cristobal and in the streets of Old San Juan. Overall, from a photography perspective, it was so fun to be able to truly capture so many views of Puerto Rico in one trip. We got the rain forest, the beach, a fortress, the colorful Old San Juan streets, and, of course, the wedding venue right there in the midst of town.
While Casa de España is walking distance to Castillo San Cristobal and is right there in Old San Juan, the timeline of the wedding day didn’t allow us even 10 minutes to go off-site so this session, the next day, was a perfect choice! It was relaxed and fun with zero clock-pressure. And, as an added bonus, Nicole got to take portraits in her reception gown! (If you look at their wedding photos, she was wearing a Morilee gown, but changed for dancing later than night into this gown.)
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!
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!
Just a week ago, we were enjoying the warm sunshine in Puerto Rico as we were celebrating Nicole & Braylen’s Casa de España wedding in San Juan. We were thrilled to be back in Puerto Rico (my sister got married at Castillo San Cristóbal 10 years ago!) and we loved getting to meet Nicky & Braylen’s friends and family. Their wedding day was filled with so much joy and celebration (the dance floor never emptied) and it was so sweet to witness their vows. We packed our trip with photos (the wedding, obviously, but also an engagement session on Friday and a day after session on Monday; those will be on the blog later this week!), but we also had some time to hike in El Yunque, swim in the ocean, and walk through the Spanish fortresses and Old San Juan. It was a busy trip, but busy with so many good things.
Nicole & Braylen live in North Carolina, but Nicole is from Puerto Rico and many of her family still lives there so it was sort of a hometown wedding and sort of a destination wedding. They had looked at several venues in San Juan, but everything about Casa de España fit their wishes and it was such a beautiful venue to photograph in! Casa de España was built in 1934 as the headquarters of a private social organization made up mostly of Spanish citizens who lived in Puerto Rico at the time. This is clearly reflected in the stunning Spanish Moorish architecture. (Those pillars! Those tiles! That courtyard! Those towers! That ceiling!) Two interesting facts that I found out: 1) the fountain outside is a copy of the “Patio de los Leones” at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain! and 2) the courtyard where the ceremony was held was used to film two coronation scenes for the Disney movie “Princess Protection Program,” which I’ve never seen, but now I sort of want to. So all that to say, this building has history and it was really fun to photograph in such a unique and beautiful place!
We started the day at the Caribe Hilton, where everyone was getting ready. It’s a beautiful resort that was just a short drive from Casa de España and we got to look out over the ocean as everyone got ready.