Ben + Chelsie {A Christmas Proposal}

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Watching Ben and Chelsie’s love story unfold has been nothing short of a joy. Their intentionality in their relationship with first- Christ, and then each other, has been the glue that has held them together through their final years in college.

I can specifically remember Chelsie lamenting about the difficulty of being single, then eventually embracing it. Until, of course, Ben came into her life. Ben is the exact opposite of Chelsie in all of the best ways. One is strong willed, creative, and critical. The other is bubbly, distractable, and outgoing. Both have incredible strengths and their weaknesses are made stronger by each other.  I have no doubt that they will do amazing thing with their lives.

Last Christmas, Ben asked me to photograph him as he asked the love of his life for her hand in marriage. As I snuck behind a bush. I captured these sweet photos.

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After the ring was set and of course she said yes. I could capture the excitement a bit closer.

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What you don’t know is how meticulous Ben was in planning. I think I met with him at least 3 times and had multiple phone calls and text to make sure it was just right. Chelsie adores Christmas – seriously- she planned her whole wedding around this glorious season. And Ben knew that Old Town St. Charles would be perfect with all of the incredible decorations.

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Chelsie and Ben share the strong love of coffee and I was so excited when they wanted to incorporate that into their session. From one coffee lover to another, these photos are everything!

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Ben and Chelsie, you are so close to your big day full of love and excitement. I know as the days get closer things get more stressful but I encourage you to relax and smile in one anothers arms knowing that soon you will be husband and wife.

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Laura + Jared {Engaged} . Forest Park

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I am fairly for certain that there are no kinder people then both Laura and Jared, and combined they are the sweetest couple I have ever met. Like kindness oozing from every spoken word type of sweet. They are the type of people who will be concerned with everyone else’s comfort before they consider their own. This trait will make them incredible spouses to one another.

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Another interesting fact about this couple is that Jared actually contacted me first. Rarely, do I have such an invested groom, it was obvious that both Laura and Jared were invested in every part of their wedding day.

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Laura and Jared have a beautiful story filled with family connection. Jared shared his view of the story:

“I (Jared) get to tell this story, because I love sharing the way God worked in both of our lives to bring this relationship to be. Laura grew up in Sunset Hills, MO, and Jared grew up in Carlyle, IL (about an hour east of St. Louis. We went to different colleges, and our paths never crossed. Laura majored in Lutheran elementary education, and I studied nursing. After Laura graduated, she took a call to teach Kindergarten in Hoyleton, a small town in southern Illinois about 10 miles from Carlyle. This the same small town where the entirety of my mom’s side of the family lives. As Laura acclimated to life in a small town, she won over nearly everyone in that church, including my cousin Carly, who was in Laura’s first Kindergarten class. Meanwhile, I was in Wisconsin finishing up school, and eventually working as a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Though my extended family was falling in love with the sweet, tender, and committed Kindergarten teacher, neither of us had yet heard of or crossed paths with the other. In 2015, I took a job at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, as I was looking to be close to home again. In May, I moved to St. Louis and began attending church at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Olivette. Not long after, Laura accepted a call to become the new preschool teacher for the school associated with Immanuel. I noticed Laura right away on her first Sunday at church, but being incredibly shy, I was too chicken to go up and talk to her. Thankfully, another member took it upon himself to introduce us. We quickly found out that we shared the Hoyleton connection, which helped to make each of us safe to one another. We are both shy, and having this immediate shared ground helped us to feel comfortable with a “familiar” stranger. Over the course of a year, a friendship developed, and eventually blossomed into a relationship. We are both firm believers that God works in all circumstances to bring His plans to fruition. As we have talked and grown as couple, and learned of our shared upbringings, trials, and flat out strange coincidences (same birthday, same first car, etc…) we have been further affirmed that God has been preparing each of us for this marriage.”

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Laura shared their engagement story with me:

“I had an inkling something was coming, but he still took me by surprise. After finishing a movie at my apartment, he reached under the sofa and pulled out a homemade book titled “Jared and Laura’s Relationship.” It was filled with pictures and captions that described what made our relationship special. Then I reached a page that said, “Wait! What is that behind the bookshelf?” I walked over to the bookshelf and found a picture of Five Guys, which is an inside joke for “make a U-turn.” I wheeled around to find him bending down on one knee and pulling something from his pocket… I don’t remember a word of his little speech, but I heard “Laura Kalbfleisch, will you marry me?” And I said Yes!”

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Beautiful stories like Laura and Jared inspire me and are an encouragement of love and beauty that will be shown in marriage.

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Laura’s favorite thing about Jared: “I can’t pick just one thing! He is a man of strong faith, caring, gentle, and giving of himself. He makes me laugh and encourages me when I’m down. He is the puzzle piece that fits.”

Jared’s favorite thing about Laura: “From our shared values on faith and family, to the way we are able to laugh and be goofy with each other (we both work with kids) Laura encompasses everything I could possibly ask for in a wife and best friend. She is a strong woman of faith, who is selfless, funny, supportive, genuine and beautiful. Her humility astounds me.”

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Favorite St. Louis Locations {Tips}

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We love everything about St. Louis (minus the humidity!). Seriously, the lists could go forever: toasted ravs, a ton of FREE museums, Cardinal baseball, etc. And so we are blessed to have a ton of great locations to shoot at. Clients are always asking about our favorite spots, so here they are and we will share some of the things you will see.

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Outdoor:

  • Forest Park – Iconic spots, open fields, old trees, water options, classic buildings, contemporary buildings, flowers
  • Tower Grove Park – Classic brick building, ‘ruins’, water options, colorful buildings, old trees
  • Lafayette Park – Classic brick building, open fields, black iron fences, water options
  • Concordia Seminary – Classic brick building, old trees, courtyard with seating
  • Creve Coeur Lake – water options, wooded trails
  • Faust Park – Rustic houses, open fields, old trees
  • Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park – Iconic spot, water option
  • Carondolet Park – Classic brick buildings, water option
  • City Garden – Water options, Iconic spot, colorful scultpures

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Indoor:

  • Jewel Box: Lush greenery, flowers, bright
  • City Museum: Classic brick, unique items, dark
  • Missouri History Museum: Contemporary building, bright
  • Ameristar Casino: Classic brick
  • Central Library: Classic building, Contemporary, bright, gold iron door

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If you know of any great places, let us know and we will work on updating our list!

Brandon + Kristen {Surprise Engagement} . 360 STL

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Whirlwind of emotions. That is the best way to express this “session”. Brandon approached me two days before he wanted to propose, because his original photographer told him he could no longer photograph the event. When he asked me I couldn’t say no to his deep desire to capture this huge event and his million dollar smile is rather convincing.

The day he chose, however, was pouring rain so we had to reschedule for the next day. We arrived at 360 STL  and new it would be magical. The gorgeous views and energetic feel of the place was the perfect location for this couple. Brandon guided Kristen to the windows and we sneakily followed and captured every moment.

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And she had no idea it was coming! The whole restaurant erupted in congratulations.

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From there Brandon has arranged a horse and carriage around the city, but before it arrived we had time to grab a few lovely shots of the newly engaged couple.

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I’ve known Brandon for quite a long time. We went to college together for a while, until he had a great opportunity to play basketball overseas. I still think that Kristen’s ring is better!

The carriage was able to take us to City Garden, which lights up magically in the evening.

Congrats you two. Thank you for allowing us to be the St. Louis part of your love story.

Elizabeth + Andrew {Engaged} . Forest Park

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Love. Pure, unapologetic love.

There are few instances when you know that through all of the hard times a couple might go through, the one thing that will not fade is their deep love for one another. Elizabeth and Andrew are prime examples of this type of love.
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The whole time while photographing these two I would describe a pose, but it never worked well until I said, “now just enjoy each others embrace.” Then immediately their shoulders relaxed and they fit perfectly in each others arms.
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See what I mean? These two fit each other perfectly. Where one might be weak the other is strong. Isn’t that what marriage is all about?
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I can’t wait to photograph their wedding a few weeks!
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Coco + Zack {Engaged}

It has been said that opposites attract. This phrase is particularly true when J and I approach business. I typically come from a mind-set that the photos will speak for themselves, and J loves to promote to all he can. Listening to him is super embarrassing endearing, and often times beneficial. If J would not have taken his approach we would have never met Coco and Zack!

J was waiting for an oil change and decided to go check out some local businesses. He happened to walk in to Apple Tree Custom Sewing and struck a conversation with the owner. And in a typical J move, he brought up photography and found out the owner’s son just got engaged. The next day, I had a phone call from Coco’s wedding planner.

After meeting Coco and Zack, we found out that they are opposites as well, and they complement each other so beautifully!
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We had the perfect weekend for engagement photos! But that is not the only thing that was perfect- Jager, Coco and Zack’s pup, was perfectly behaved. We didn’t even have to pull out a treat!
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Did you just gush at that sweet little soon-to-be family? Because I did!
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Zack, you take smizing to a whole new level!

Alex + Ryan {Engaged}

If three words could be used to describe Alex, they would be kind, caring and so quick. And not the quick, like fast, but quick like “oh dang, you just made a sidewise crack at me and it took me a good 30 seconds to realize it.” Laughter immediately ensues and you enjoy every moment you have with her.
Well, she met her match when she met Ryan because he gives it right back at her. Watching the two of them interact, it is obvious their lives will be filled with giggles and adventure.
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Smoldering eyes much?
Seriously the whole session was filled with so many laughs!
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At one point when planning the engagement session, I wasn’t positive it would actually happen. Between Mother Nature and some extenuating circumstances we had to reschedule three times. But I am so glad we did as we had the PERFECT evening for the session.
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Alex and Ryan, I am beyond excited to photograph the day you become man and wife surrounded by your incredible families and crazy wonderful friends.

Props for an Engagement Session {Photo Tips}

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You are engaged! What an exciting time of anticipation and preparation for your marriage. And a typical part of this time is engagement photos. There seems to be so much pressure on getting the ‘right’ photos. But the photos should reflect the type of couple you are. So hopefully this list will help discern the right props for your engagement session.

  1. Blanket– This could be anything from a picnic blanket to grandmothers quilt. A couple becomes so much more relaxed when getting comfortable on a blanket or when wrapped up together. It instantly expresses warmth.
  2. Something with the date of your wedding– This could come in so many forms: a sign, chalk on a boot, balloons, sporting equipment… really there are endless options!
  3. Pets– If you have a pet with your fiancé- bring it (as long as you have cleared it with your photographer)! Yes, it may create a little disturbance, but you can always ask a family member to bring it and then take it on a walk while you are finishing your session.
  4. Weather Appropriate Pieces– Mother nature can be a little unpredictable and so if the weather looks a little iffy, but you are willing to face the weather, then you will need a few more items. Those galoshes, umbrellas and scarfs will make you a bit cozier and make the sessions more enjoyable.
  5. Items that represent the two of you specifically– That means if you two are book worms, then bring reading materials. If you love Dr. Who, then incorporate it! Do you both love running? Please bring your shoes or medals. The session will mean all the more to you and your will end up feeling more comfortable, which means the photographer will get more natural photos.

What creative props would you add to this list?

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Winery . Fall . Adoration

The look. You know that look a man gives the woman he absolutely adores. It usually consist of soft eyes and a glimmer of a smile. And you know at that moment that there is no one that compares to that woman according to that man.

That look was all you could see on Andrew’s face when he was next to his fiance, Jessica. You may remember Jessica from this event . She looked lovely then and even lovelier here.

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The weather was perfect to spend some time in the vineyard and the people at Chandler Hill Vineyards treated us so well!

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And can we talk about her ring for a second? Gorgeous!

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If you were hoping for a few final looks of adoration, well here you go!

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A final fruit of the day:

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{We’re Engaged!}

I believe most of us ladies are suckers for a sweet engagement story. Ladies, I know you have fawned over those lovely videos where the guy plots a camera man to secretly follow the couple around until he surprises her with the perfect ring. I know I have smiled and perhaps shed a few happy tears when she realizes she was being videotaped all day.

Well, I have been dating a wonderful man named Jonathan for a little over a year and have been dreaming of the “perfect way” that he might propose. And I’m happy to say he exceeded my dreams. 

To give a little back story, Jonathan told me that he had a friend that was a new photographer that was just starting his business and needed a couple to add to his portfolio. And understanding that predicament I gladly agreed to do so. So we planned a Saturday morning in Forest Park to have a mini photoshoot. Jonathan sent me a text that morning saying that our song was on the radio when he got into his truck and that made me immediately nostalgic and I played it over and over again until he got to my house. The man knows me well and he had a Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha and a sausage egg and cheese biscuit in his hand when I met him at the door. We made it to the park and laughed when we saw this sign:

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Obviously this entertained me for a few seconds as unknowingly Jonathan was shaking with nerves. So we met the photographer and he started with a few headshots of us.DGM_6557

That’s right ladies, He is one good looking man! And a taken one too! As I was about to have headshots taken the photographer had me turn around. And this is what happened:

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Obviously, I said yes and may have had a few happy tears. I came to find out that our “budding photographer” was Dave Merritt a very well known photographer who freelances for the St. Louis Zoo. Who also snapped a few cute coupley photos!

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I am more than excited to be married to this wonderful man. And for those who wanted to see the bling!

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*All photos (minus the first and last) were taken by Dave Merritt Photography