“This session came about out of my desire to give Risa & Austin a memory that they could tell their children about. I love my husband, but his nerves got the best of him and he handed me a box with a ring in it while we stood in our kitchen, no fanfare, no bended knee. I am a romantic at heart and so planning a styled shoot specifically around the goal of having Austin propose to Risa was thrilling. It was also much different than simply planning a styled shoot. I wanted to be sure that the style, fashion and personal touches that I was adding were something that would resonate with the couple. To set up this whole shoot, I invited Risa and Austin to “model” for a styled shoot ‘I was planning.’ Austin pretended to be on the fence, Risa was excited for the debut of her modeling career! We completely planned a styled proposal under the guise of a styled shoot so that in the end Risa would see that it was all for her and it would become even more special.”
— Amy Kolodziej, Sunshower Photography
Ebullience. If we might dare to reduce this day and its resulting photos to just one word, we will decidedly choose ebullience.
All of us – the groom elect and his sister, the photographer, the makeup artist, the pastry designer, the florist, the calligrapher, the gown designer, the clothier, and the stylist – we all knew exactly what was to unfold. In fact, we orchestrated it. From moment to moment, we could barely keep our composure.
Unbeknownst to our model, Risa, this was no ordinary inspiration shoot. Thankfully, weeks of secrecy, blatant lies, and our collective excitement culminated in her “Yes!” As it were, the shoot became this incredible amalgam of romantic couple’s portraiture, avant-garde styled session, and the intimate documentary of a surprise proposal. Down to the very last detail, it was planned and then executed under the conservatory’s lush canopy at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.
Risa donned her first look – a lavender chiffon bridesmaid gown. Her loosely curled tresses were fashioned into a half updo which complimented a dramatic berry red lip and her smoldering eyes. Austin proved dapper in his royal blue Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo and slate gray slacks. And the perfect answer to Risa’s vintage fur stole? Austin’s feathered bow tie featuring iridescent green pheasant plumage! Risa’s second look was a modern burgundy bodysuit paired with the most splendid skirt. Her overskirt, aptly named the “Ivy” via Charlottean designer, Erin Grey Couture, showcased an embroidered gold floral motif on ivory and striking high-low hemline.
And with her elegant second look came a bended knee. In a quiet flurry, Amy adjusted Austin’s pose and discretely passed a glass ring box. Risa held her pose only to look down and see her beloved asking her to be his forever.
Of course, Austin’s picture perfect proposal came complete with hand decorated cookies by one of Charlotte’s venerated cake designers, Ines Aranguren of Sky’s the Limit Bridal Sweets. In a sophisticated evocation of the classic conversation hearts, messages such as “Marry me?” “Yes!” and “You are my heart” were hand painted across each fondant clad treat. Added to the batch were lavender and pale pink cookies with piped royal icing lace and gilded florals.
Peaks of bright purple Veronica stood regally at the center of our lush bouquet, towering over gold solidago and ditzy little chamomile buds. The formal white Tibet roses contrasted with their ruffled lavender spray rose counterparts. At its borders, varieties of red amaranthus, seeded eucalyptus, and leatherleaf fern made for an exotic bouquet which held its own against the botanical garden’s impressive backdrop of peregrine orchids, ferns, palms and waterfall.
Bespoke paperie and literary references were hallmark to the chic proposal. The first quote from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, “You have bewitched me, body and soul,” is hand lettered across a background of torn cotton which features watercolor splashes of plush plum, merlot, and mauve as well as gilt freckles. Furthering the concept, carefully crafted shards of glass are scrawled with contemporary calligraphy simply to say, “It was all for you.” And wasn’t it, Risa?
VENUE: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden | www.dsbg.org | @danielstowebotanicalgarden
PHOTOGRAPHER: Amy Kolodziej, Sunshower Photography | www.sunshowerphotography.com | @sunshowerphotography
HAIR & MAKEUP: Lindsay Pizzuti, Mirror Bomb Studio | www.mirrorbombstudio.com | @mirrorbomb
CONSULTANT, ASSISTANT: Therese Brooks, Charlotte Brides | @charlottebrides
ASSISTANT: Samantha Stone
STYLIST: Brittny Meekins, Carefully Curated | carefullycurated.wixsite.com/home | @carefullycuratedbyeb
CALLIGRAPHY: Kathy Leonard, Ocean & Coral Calligraphy | www.oceanandcoralcalligraphy.com | @oceanandcoralcalligraphy
PATISSERIE: Ines Aranguren, Sky’s The Limit Bridal Sweets | www.stlbridalsweets.com | @stlcake
GOWN: Sorella Vita, J. Major’s Bridal Boutique | www.jmajors.com | @jmajorsbridal
SKIRT: Erin Grey Couture | www.eringreycouture.com | @eringreycouture
HER SHOES: Jimmy Choo | us.jimmychoo.com | @jimmychoo
TUXEDO: Dolce & Gabbana, Revolve | www.revolvecharlotte.com | @revolveclt
HIS SHOES: Ferragamo, Revolve | www.revolvecharlotte.com | @revolveclt
FLORAL DESIGN: Ashley Pittman, Bookout Blooms | www.bookoutblooms.com | @bookoutblooms
DECOR: BHDLN | www.bhldn.com | @bhldn
GLASS DESIGN: Slumpy’s | www.slumpys.com | @slumpys
RING: Jared’s Galleria of Jewelry | www.jared.com
RING BOX: The Mrs. Box | www.themrsbox.com | @the_mrs_box