Engaged | Mel & Leo

Thinking back to my day spent with Melanie and Leo, the happy memories coming to mind overtake me more so than the recollection of the August heat we experienced. On a Friday, after a short hiatus from hanging around engaged couples, I heard and witnessed an ongoing love story that will be with me for a long time. I’ll be doing my very best to tell their story with as much sense and structure as possible. They don’t know this, but the nerves exponentially increased as I made my way to Mel’s parents’ home to meet them together for the first time. Every time I take photos or footage, I have a tendency to fumble around with lenses, not knowing where to start or worrying that my attempts at comforting those who allow me to use a lens to invade their personal space result in awkward banter. Maybe I stress about lighting or something trifling like that. It’s something that is taking time, but those fears were quickly crushed. I knew it would be a good day when Leo prayed for our time together. Sometimes I forget about my role in people’s lives. I go about it thinking about the quality of the photos, making sure I put pressure on myself to do a good job. Although important, I was reminded that I am here to help people celebrate joy and love, giving them memories that will last. Sometimes I can’t fathom that responsibility when I’m going day-to-day. When I stop for a moment to dive in to that reality, I realize how much of an exhilarating, worthwhile honor it is.

I could easily say that Melanie and Leo welcomed me in with open and gracious arms; hospitable people; nice. Sure, but they are above and beyond that. I entered the house and in no time, I was inspired by Mel’s design talents that by the way, Leo adores and supports. She’s so dang creative. Everything about the design, the outfits, the simplicity amidst intricacy, was not only beautiful and pleasing to the eye, but it was just so very them. That’s the most important. Thank you Melanie for fusing our ideas together and making something great. I was ecstatic to photograph everything, and to their dismay, I started taking ‘test shots’ while Leo was making coffee and telling me the beginning of their love story; part of it being, “I worked at a coffee shop. Well, volunteered. When I met Mel’s mom for the first time, she thought I could make latte hearts: which I couldn’t. I tried it in front of her for the first time and it actually worked! — and you know, badda-bing-badda-boom, that’s how I got here today.” That was 5 minutes in. I was offered some joe which I wanted, but trying to be professional and all, I declined for the time being. Natural desires people–it’s like being offered the last breadstick that you really want, but you know you have to pretend to be okay with letting someone else eat it. Anyway, I should have gave in. It looked yumma. Also I partially attribute the comfort I felt with them due to the fact that I had met these two separately at two separate weddings after we had only talked online about their wedding. Small world.

To break the ice, I started off with the popular, “So… Are you excited about your wedding? What are you so excited for.” Things got comical fast. As if he was running for Fiancé of the Year, Leo gulped, “I’m excited to start the rest of my life with Mel.” He of course made sure he was smiling since camera was in hand. Mel scoffed. “Shut up. What are you even saying.” It’s funny because as cheesy as everyone in the room knew that answer was, it’s nothing short of the truth. These two are so ready for commitment and a lifetime of love with their best friend.

He came back from Seattle. She started going to his church. Man, I love when they meet in church! Their church lacked a creativity ministry and so he started one. She joined. They and their friends worked together a lot in order to unify the church through visual communication. One day, he decided that he could not contain his interest for her and her creativity and he asked her out for pie. YEA, PIE. Something casual, so if it went down fast, at least they didn’t have to sit through dinner. She said “sure” with the intention of rejecting him if he pulled the dating card. I mean, I don’t blame her. He allegedly told her to order somethingdifferent than what she normally gets. Leo, you dun goofed man.

Like a persistent, yet mature and respectable man should, he took her decision to remain platonic with grain of salt, letting the ball stay in her court. Mel went on a trip to a faraway land. God only knows how they continued to talk every day while they were away from each other. Mel thought, “Man, I like talking to him. I really, really like talking to him. How are we still talking? Man, if we hangout again I have to bring it up because he wouldn’t dare try to bring it up again, dangit.” Three choices were given to Mel on outing number two.

1) We stop hanging out forever. (Noooo..)
2) We see how things go from here.
3) We start dating now. (Ooohhh baby.)

“Can we do something between two and three?” Yeah, girl 2.5. Yeah, and you’re darn right that it didn’t take long to go to 3. Also, the creative ministry broke-up by the way. Dang Leo, you only started the group to get girls, huh? Rascal. Nonetheless, a year later he knew. He knew that she was going to be the beautiful gal he’d be with for the rest of his life. On Mothers’ Day, everyone dressed to impress, he said, “Hey let’s go to this random wheat field and have a picnic while we wait for the Mothers’ Day festivities. Classic secret proposal coming right up. “Leo, it’s hot. Leo, I’m sweating. I’m dressed nice and I’m sweating. Why are we going so far. I’m annoyed. I can’t believe you want to go all the way over here through these really tall wheat-grassy things for 15 minutes and walk all the way back to the car.” Wellllll…she wasn’t mad for long. With the picnic basket in hand, he pulled out a book he had made. It was filled with reasons on reasons that he felt the call to marry her. The second best part? It was complete with the menu from the Pie Hole. He held onto that darn menu from the day he wouldn’t let her order the Earl Grey Pie until, yes the best part, the day she said “Yes” to being his wife for life. Also, he brought tissues to anticipate the tears. She used it. YESSS. Oh, wait for it, no it was just for sweat and maybe some wheat allergens.

Now we’re here. Almost wed and enjoying the anticipation of marriage through this happy engagement time. Everyone I’ve known who is engaged just cannot wait to be married. However, although patience is wearing thin and the expectancy is heightened, Mel and Leo are sure enjoying this beautiful time period of betrothal just loving each other and glorifying God. They let me into their lives with stories about future goals, the first time they met each other’s parents, and family dynamics. We heard each other’s hearts for our own struggles with our oikos or about how society dictates life and love  vs. the way a child of God should. I rolled up to their driveway with doubt and fear. I left that same driveway feeling, sure, totally stoked about the images we got; but not only that, I drove home with the knowledge that I am meant to continue documenting love and life stories, that I am not alone, and that I have friends and family in the most unexpected of places.