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.
It was Memorial Day weekend several years ago. They both happened to go to the same local restaurant to hang out on the outdoor patio and enjoy the spring air. They were each there with their own groups of friends, but, as luck would have it, there were mutual connections in their separate groups and it wasn’t long before they all combined into one big group. Catie & Justin immediately connected after being introduced since they are both teachers and had both decided to take a year off. “Our conversation quickly turned to our love of languages and our love of travel. Fate would make it that both just so happened to be taking a sabbatical from our teaching careers and were going to travel for a year. I was going to California and Catie was going to France. We shared our excitement but also our fears about moving away from home and living somewhere new.”
Their first date was about a week later. Since school was out, they were in a unique situation of having an entire summer free before packing and moving away. “Normally that is not ideal circumstances to start dating someone new who will end up being the love of your life,” Justin says. “But it worked out great for us! I knew Catie was the one sometime that first summer. We clicked immediately. I wanted to spend all of my time with her. I had initially planned to move to California in August, but decided to stay and wait until Catie left for France. I wanted to shorten the time we were going to be apart. When I decided to move to California, I didn’t know when I would come back to Iowa. However, I remember late July that summer I decided I wascoming back to Iowa when Catie came back.”
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.
We scheduled this session months ago, knowing the it would be after the crash of wedding season and closer to Cortney’s due date. So there was no way of knowing what the weather would be like. We’ve had finicky weather all year (brutally hot when it is normally mild and really cold when it’s normally not), but Saturday morning we woke up to the first snow of the season and it was perfect given that Cortney’s due date is Christmas day!
We had a few locations in mind and went around and around on what to choose, but we finally landed on Kent Park. In part because we knew it would be mostly untouched, fresh snow out there, but also because that’s where I photographed their engagement session! It felt special to go back to the same place to photograph them now, just weeks before holding their daughter in their arms. (I also photographed a night session downtown and their wedding day!)
Going along on couples’ journeys from engagement to marriage is always a beautiful honor, but it’s even more amazing to see them beyond that…to now becoming parents! Cortney and Christian, thank you for letting me be part of your story in my own invisible, behind-the-lens way. I am so so so excited for you to welcome your baby girl and see you guys embrace parenthood!