Our Dreamy Desert Engagement Session
I realize this post is long overdue but hey, wedding planning is chaos right? I also wanted to keep these pictures somewhat private until our save the dates were out to build up the suspense you know? Cause I’m sure you guys haven’t been able to hardly function having not seen these yet. Don’t worry. Now you can.
God sometimes I make myself gag. So our engagement photos. The start of all my wedding planning madness. Where to have them right? Obviously I wanted something unique no one was really doing. While I do find myself getting into certain trends, it also really gets me going doing something completely different. Like buying a cat without hair. Or trying to plan a dark vibey wedding when everyone LOVES giving their opinion on how weddings should be light and bright. Please, give me more of your thoughts about MY wedding. IT’S SO FUN!!
So back to me wanting unique engagement photos. Living in Arizona, it would be classic of me to get them taken surrounded by cactus in the desert, or if I went back to San Diego and took them on the beach. But nah, I wanted something totally different. Cause that would have been easy on my poor fiance, and he knows better that I could never make things easy on him. At first, I was thinking of driving up to Sedona to take pictures with the red rocks in the background. I had this vision of me in this giant black dress and Christopher in a black suit and the pictures being so totally gothic and moody until everyone was like Marissa, you’re getting married not going to a funeral… To each their own. But maybe that can be an anniversary shoot next year heh.
So then I saw some sand dunes pictures on Pinterest and I was like I think this is it. The dunes looked so foreign and majestic and soft. And it meant even more to me because it reminded me of me and Christopher’s beginning. We started dating long distance. I was in San Diego, he was living in Phoenix. Every month we would meet up halfway in Yuma for the night. The Imperial Sand Dunes were right before Yuma, and I remember being in awe every time I drove through them every month. Once I had made it to the dunes I would get butterflies knowing I was close to seeing Christopher.
So I had decided on location. And not gonna lie, I had a hard time going back and forth between the dunes and Sedona. Like it was the crisis of the month. And at the end of the day I decided on the dunes because well, the colors of those photos would go better with my home decor. Yes, that was my deciding factor. The red and green from Sedona would have clashed with my house vibes you know. You may think I’m actually insane but take this into consideration if you plan on printing big photos for your home okay!
Next I had to find a photographer. An even bigger crisis. You guys, I am SO freaking picky with photography. Like I know I’m no expert in it but I am extremely picky when it comes to photos. I wanted a different view for people that saw our pictures. I didn’t want the typical poses, the static, the lack of movement. I wanted our photos to feel like you were intruding. Like you shouldn’t of been there. Completely natural and unconventional. Weird and artistic. I can’t tell you how many photographer’s instagrams I looked through. How many people my sister (MOH) emailed. And yes, there were so many photographers that I found that would have been just fine for me. But that’s how I felt when I saw their pictures. They were fine. And they looked like everyone elses. With the same heavier filter and lots of contrast you see everywhere now. And I needed. something. different. And just when I had basically given up and reconsidered marriage, Christopher emailed me a couple of photographers his event coordinator gave him at work. And then I saw her work and I knew. And yes, Christopher was the one who found the photographer. Thx babe. I was kidding about the marriage reconsideration part.
Aminda Villa made my photo dreams come true. Her photos are unlike anything I’ve ever seen out there. They are so incredibly different, raw, real. And I needed someone that helped me and Christopher relax. We are both not comfortable in front of a camera. Especially with poses that you’re supposed to be like, really lovey for. I don’t do PDA. And she made us feel so at ease and most importantly, made us look comfortable in pictures. There’s nothing worse than seeing people’s engagement photos and you can just tell how posed and awkward they’re feeling. She completely knocked it out of the park. I just got lost in her website while linking it here. God her photos are too good. Like what the hell.
But our engagement pictures didn’t start at the dunes. This was an all day thing of course. Another amazing thing about Aminda. No extra hourly bullshit for driving outside of Phoenix, and she didn’t mind stopping at different locations to take photos on the way there. It was so refreshing to have a photographer that you could tell was so genuinely in love with her profession that she cared more about making us feel comfortable in the moment (a very special but high stress moment have you), than tallying up different costs for travel, extra time, etc., that I found with the majority of the other photographers I had researched. And because of that, taking these engagement photos became an experience compared to a task just waiting to be checked off of my wedding to-do list.
So we left Phoenix in the late morning and headed towards Yuma. Christopher had mentioned this old gas station he always used to drive past on his way to see me. We somehow found it in the middle of actual nowhere and pulled over. This was the start of our session, and I was so happy we did this. Taking pictures before getting to the dunes was a GREAT warm up for us. We were both so awkward and uncomfortable that taking these fun photos helped us relax a little in front of the lens. I absolutely LOVE how they turned out.
Outfit details for this photo session:
Her: Rolling Stones t-shirt from men’s section at Target. OTK boots are Sam Edelman, lipstick shade is “Lovebite” from Kylie Cosmetics.
Him: White basic T from Target, black Levis, Ecco shoes from Nordstrom, Gucci sunglasses.
After our warm-up sesh, we drove another hour and made it to Yuma, Arizona. I pitched the idea that we stop by the In-N-Out there while we waited on the perfect lighting for our dunes pictures. Really it was me just wanting In-N-Out but we’ll keep that to ourselves. This was the store that me and Christopher would always go to while we were staying in Yuma. Then came our second photo session before the real photo session. I told you my photographer was awesome.
Outfit details for this session:
Her: Gray top from Target, boyfriend jeans from Abercrombie, white shoes are Superga from Nordstrom. Top is on sale for $5 currently…get it here while it’s still in stock.
Him: Same as before.
Man I’m cravin’ me some In-n-Out right now. I seriously need an intervention. I loved those pictures so much because they were so, us. They were everything that we were on our days off. Driving to our In-N-Out down the street, and ordering the same order I’ve ordered for years. Love it. Fun fact, In-N-Out Burger was my first real job when I was sixteen. Will forever love that place. Anyways after we ate, we actually started driving to the Imperial Sand Dunes. We did buy a permit before going that was around $40, honestly not sure if we needed it cause we literally just pulled over on the side of the road and started trekking up those dunes. Which was no easy task. Especially after some In-N-Out.
So what I loved about the sand dunes was the simplicity of it all. I didn’t want get lost in beautiful scenery as a backdrop, but rather have the scenery complement and emphasize us as a couple. I loved that we were the focal point of every photo, no distractions in the background, just us lost in the middle the desert chasing the sunset. It was messy, it was gritty, and it was exhausting honestly. But I am so so happy with how they turned out.
It’s easy to say I can’t wait until she does our wedding photos. Details of this shoot are below. Thank you guys for taking a look!! 6 months to go until wedding day!!! Can’t wait to share more details with you as they come!!