It was just two weeks after they first met that Austin says he knew Maria was the one. “I knew I loved her after a week. And when she sticks around after that, I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. Every day after that, she has shown me more and more how she’s the best person for me and we are meant to be together.”
As for Maria, she doesn’t pinpoint a date, but says it was a lot of little things that added up. “How he’d pack my lunches and leave little notes insides. How well we agreed on big things like our values and how we would want to raise kids. How well he supported me when I was upset. A big thing for us is how well we communicate; so I think how well we work through disagreements or difficult times in our relationship has made us both very confident that we’ve each found the one.”
Austin proposed nearly two years to the day after their first date. He was planning on proposing while they were Texas, but Maria had absolutely no clue. He had told her, “I’m not going to do it in Texas” and, because he’s so practical and she figured he’d worry about losing the ring during traveling, she definitely believed him. About that, she was right. “I was a nervous wreck,” Austin says.
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!
They had been together for over 7 years when he proposed, having first met while she was still in high school. “Mike [is] three years older and the summer before I started my junior year of high school, I worked at our local pool. Mike came home from his first year of college and also worked at the pool. We were both lifeguards so we started talking. He asked a friend for my number and started texting me and the rest is history.”
They have made it through a lot of long-distance, including Alexa finishing high school while Mike was in college and then Mike getting a scholarship to go to Germany for 10 weeks. “I remember being extremely worried that we wouldn’t make it, but we did. After he came back, I knew we could make it through anything. Since that, he’s gone to Germany for a second time for 10 weeks, living in South Padre for 4 months, and spent 2 years in New Jersey in grad school. We’ve made it through all of this time apart so now spending time together is the best thing in the world.”
After all that time apart, they now live together in Saint Louis and every Friday night, they go out for dinner after work. It wasn’t unusual at all then when Mike called her to tell her he’d pick her up at 5:00. “He is always wanting me to go for walks in Forest Park so he asked if we could do that before dinner because it was a really nice night. I honestly didn’t think anything of it and agreed to do so. When we got to the park, we walked a little ways and just talked. Then we got to a spot where we love to sit because it’s absolutely beautiful. We say on the bench for a little bit and then all of a sudden, he started saying some really sweet things. Before I knew it, he had gotten down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I immediately said ‘yes’ and the rest is kind of a blur.”
They are getting married in just a few weeks and we finally got a chance to align our schedules while they were both back in town last week! I’m so excited for their wedding day to come and for them to officially be married!
They met in high school, though she was quite sure that he wouldn’t remember the first time they met. (She was right.) “I was in 8th grade and Nate was a freshman. I was at the local pizza place with my friends when he walked in with his friends. Our first date was a few years later. I was 15 or 16. We went to Amigos, a Mexican restaurant in our hometown. I had never been on a date before and I think I only ordered one taco because I was too nervous to eat in front of him!” She laughs about that now saying that she usually eats more than him.
“I don’t think there was a certain moment when I knew he was the one. It sort of happened gradually,” she says. “Nate and I talked a little bit in high school, but we never were officially together until later on in college even though we never really stopped communicating. In many ways we grew up together. We have been through a lot. I guess if I had to say how I know Nate is the one is no matter what life as thrown at us over the last almost 9 years, our relationship has become stronger and grown from those experiences.”
He adds, “Very early on in our relationship we went through a ton of adversity, more than most would be able to make it out of. We were two young kids and our lives where going to change in a big, big way. Randi told me instantly after the news that I would have her full support going forward and we would make it through everything; together. I just remember thinking to myself how much and how true this love may really be to have such support.
“Little did she know that when she committed to me, I silently committed to her. I knew instantly that I had to do everything I could to convince this girl that I was the one. (Don’t tell her but she could probably do much better.) I knew from that very moment that I had to start making changes and start putting Randi before other activities. Our relationship was tested in such an extreme manner so early that it gave us this whole ‘there’s nothing we can’t overcome together’ type of attitude, which is an amazing quality for us to possess. I know that this girl counts on me, but she doesn’t count on me nearly as much as I count on her! So as it turns out, I was indeed able to convince her I was the one.”
We started their engagement session at one of their favorite local eateries, 30hop. They both grabbed a drink and I told them just to enjoy while I ease them into it. It turned out to be a perfect start of the session and after that, we went over to one of my favorite locations, Kent Park. The leaves are just starting to change over there and the sun was low in the sky; a perfect combination!
“The proposal,” he says. “Ever since Randi was a little girl she’s always thought about two things 1) her proposal and 2) her wedding day. As much as she’s done for me, I knew I had to make the proposal special. So here’s the story. Randi’s aunt Diane has lived in Siesta Key, Florida for the last 15 years. In those 15 years, Siesta Key has quickly become Randi’s ‘favorite place on Earth.’ All that being said, it was pretty clear to me that I had a clear path to making this a spectacular moment. Randi and I went to Siesta Key in March of 2016.
“While visiting with Jim and Diane, Diane made the comment that she was ‘getting tired.’ This was Diane’s way of no longer taking up our time so I could finally pop the question. I’ll admit, I’ve never really been someone who gets nervous, but, boy, were the knees shaking as we left! On one hand, I knew what I was about to do was nothing short of the best decision I’ve ever made. But yet on the other hand, I wanted it to be perfect!
“As we walked out towards the water, my sister slipped me the ring that I had shipped down early that month. Once I had the ring, it really started to get real. The whole plan was to pose for a picture but instead of a picture it would all be on video as I proposed to the only girl I could imagine proposing to.”
Randi was being a bit of a self-proclaimed diva. She continues his story, “They wanted to go for a walk down to the ocean to take a picture, but the day had turned overcast and slightly chilly. So I was admittedly being a bit of a diva and didn’t want to, but they talked me into it and I reluctantly walked down to the beach to take a picture. I picked the green colored lifeguard tower to take a picture by and next thing I knew Nate was down on one knee. I honestly couldn’t tell you a single thing he said to me, except the will you marry me part. I was in complete shock. Nate picked the absolutely perfect place. I grew up going on vacation to this beach every summer and I love Siesta Key so much! We have actually found pictures of me as a little girl by the same lifeguard tower! Which is pretty cool it my opinion! It was extremely special to me to have seen my Aunt Diane that day as well. We actually lost her about 2 months later; she was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Which sounds like it would make the day a little sad, but it made it such a special day that she got to be a part of it.”
I asked both of them what they admire most about the other and Randi said that she loves his “ability to talk to anyone and make friends with pretty much anyone. I can get total social anxiety sometimes and I wish I could just to talk to anyone like he can.” Nate said, “Her drive! Randi is a very driven person, she’s not going to settle for mediocrity. There’s not a single thing Randi couldn’t do if she made it a goal and pursued it.” I love how these two push each other to be the best versions of themselves!
Randi & Nate, I’m so thrilled to be part of your wedding day next year! I can’t wait to see you officially become a family unit and continue loving life together. I’m so happy for you both! Much love, Emily
Almost exactly a year ago, Brooke reached out to me for engagement photos. Her and Zhas were engaged, but not yet decided on a wedding date (or location) so, as unusual as it is for me, I shot their engagement session without having their wedding booked. If you know this couple, you can see why I quickly fell in love with them the moment I met them at the park for their photos and I’ve secretly been holding out hope for this entire past year that I’d get the chance to photograph their wedding, whenever it may happen.
So imagine my absolute delight when I got an email out of the blue from Brooke a couple of months ago wondering if I by any chance was available on September 24th to photograph their wedding in her sister’s backyard in Chicago. It was a miracle, but that date was open and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since.
The night before their wedding, we hosted my client appreciation dinner and, after snatching a few hours of sleep, I hopped in the car to head to Chicago on Saturday morning. One of my favorite parts of small weddings is the relaxed calm that comes with them. Typically, the less people involved, the less stress involved and I just adored stepping into Brooke’s room that day to find her and her sister causally watching football and slowly getting ready. I cannot tell you how beautiful it is to see a truly relaxed bride. Brooke had everything laid out for me so they relaxed while I got to work photographing the wedding details.
Brooke’s mom passed away a few years ago and she has since worn her mom’s ring on her right hand. She pinned a brooch with her mom’s photo onto her bouquet.
I always have my couples fill out a questionnaire prior to their wedding with important details like addresses, names of family & bridal party, vendor info, etc. I knew much of it wouldn’t apply to this wedding day, but I sent it out as the standard form regardless. Under the listing for “wedding coordinator”, Brooke wrote, “Hah, my sister?! She owes me for planning her wedding!” I love the bond these two share though and we had many laughs throughout the day. I might’ve secretly pretended to be part of their sisterhood.
Brooke & Zhas shared a first look and this was right before he turned around to see her.
Brooke’s sister, Morgan, had indeed done her homework and scouted out some amazing places for us to photograph. This simple little dock was my absolute favorite. I will always choose light over location and the light here was absolutely stunning. (See all the light flickering through the leaves in the background? It gives so much dimension to a photo!)
Not only do these two sisters get along like best friends, but their husbands are like brothers as well. This foursome is the funniest, most charming group I’ve ever seen and I was just loving getting to see their beautiful bonds. To add to that, each couple got a dog from the same litter earlier this year, a boy and a girl.
After their reception in Kyle & Morgan’s backyard, everyone headed over to Maggiano’s Little Italy for dinner.
Brooke & Zhas, thank you for allowing me to capture your day. It was truly an honor in so many ways. I know that my couples forever cherish their wedding photos, but your makes it even a little sweeter knowing that my images are allowing Zhas’ family to share in the day with you. It has been such a pleasure getting to know you and I’m so excited for what the future holds!
I have a lot of couples ask if they can bring their dog along to their engagement session for a few photos. I end up photographing a lot of pups and yet, ironically, I don’t have any pets of my own nor do I wish I did. So when it comes to photographing dogs, I have little (actually, zero) experience as a pet owner, but I do have a lot of experience as a photographer and I rely heavily on that to get the best reactions from both the animal and the humans.
Here are 5 tips if you plan on having your dog in your engagement photos:
Be realistic. What I mean is that animals are similar to children; they have short attention spans and are usually really excited to be in a new place (grass! trees! water! new smells! adventure!) with new people (me…with an exciting toy that I’m looking through). Expect that the first few minutes will simply be letting your dog explore a bit and get used to what is happening. Your dog may not look at the camera. Your dog may not want anything to do with your beautiful family photo. And that’s okay! Those happen to be my favorite photos! Play with your pup and let me capture real life for you. The imperfect is what makes it perfect.
Have a friend help. This is especially helpful if your dog won’t want to stay in the car or tied on a leash to a tree. A lot of couples will bring a friend along so we can take photos with the dog first, then the friend will take him/her for a walk or back to your house or wherever works best. That way you can relax and focus on the rest of the session (you two!! in love!!) without any distractions.
Bring treats. This is really helpful if your dog is a treat-incentivized animal or a young, energetic dog. This is usually the best way to get him or her to sit still if even for a moment, but even if he doesn’t, I kind of think he deserves a treat anyway just for going along with the plan and trying his hardest.
Keep it short. I usually limit the pet portion of photos to 10 minutes. Again, the main focus of the engagement session is for you two, but also, see item #1. Short attention spans mean working quickly and getting genuine moments.
Have fun. I’ll ask you to play with your dog and have fun. Laugh, chase, kiss, etcetera. Have fun and be silly (like you normally would at home!) with your pet and you’ll absolutely treasure the photos.