Laura & Ryan - A Sunrise Donut Picnic Engagement Session || Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Lake of the Ozarks - Missouri


The benches were pulled up to the long, family dinner table. 
This guy named Ryan - sitting rather (adorably) close to my sister-in-law, Laura - made his debut.

Evidenced by the scientific conversation, 
Sherlock Holmes references (Ryan's last name is Holmes), 
and that not-so-hidden look in his eye, I saw this ending well. 

Meet: Ryan & Laura.
The perfect duo in wit, smarts, and unhindered laughter.
Their humility & kindness for & with each other
permeates not just their conversations, but their love story & adventures. 

Donuts were brought from Kansas City and Missouri State Park maps were deliberated over. 
The alarm chimed promptly at 4:30am. 
With headlights on and Stephen's too enthusiastic playlist blaring,
we ventured out to Ha Ha Tonka State Park - just outside of Lake of the Ozarks.

And then? 
Real-life Narnia emerged.

The perfect backdrop for this sweet, sweet love story...
(Listen while you scroll: click here)

Oh the infamous Flood Trip of 2016: What should have been friends, food, fire gazing, and floating on a river quickly changed when storms flooded the campsite. We found ourselves in the same van on the five-hour ride back to Kansas City... 

L: "Ryan’s passion for scientific research was on display during those van conversations
and it definitely got my attention.

So much so that almost immediatley, I started organizing social opportunities
- like picnics at the Nelson Museum -
with the invite list intentionally including Ryan."

R: "We were just friends…or so I thought…"

L: Two months full of
swing dancing and deep conversations
(under the guise of “study parties”) passed
and I was certain that I wanted to date Ryan.

The summer had given me a front row seat to observe his love for the Lord, his steadfastness in caring for and serving other people, and his intelligence in many areas of life.

R: One night, while walking in the Crossroads District,
I was struck by Laura’s stunning beauty,
adventurous spirit,
and willingness to walk with me through some of my navigational mishaps... 

"In fact, I realized I really wanted to hold Laura’s hand
and for the first time,
I was forced to confront the reality of my emotions.

R: Two weeks later, I asked Laura
if there was “potential for trajectory” in our relationship.

L: Finally!!!!

R: By November, I knew I loved Laura.
I couldn’t tell her yet, though,
because I had decided to save such meaning-laden words for one person only
the woman to be my wife. 

R: Through some detective work that would make Sherlock jealous,
I was able to discover & create Laura’s perfect ring.

The time waiting for the ring to be delivered was spent,
as calmly as possible,
preparing for the proposal.

L: I thought I would be able to tell when Ryan asked my dad for his blessing
AND when he got the ring.
I had assumed wrong.

Over the last couple of months, Ryan had not only been to several early morning breakfasts with my dad – all before work – but had also planned every detail.

So when Ryan asked me to walk to the Nelson,
I didn’t suspect a thing... 

R: Minutes before our arrival, a friend placed "books" on a bench at the Nelson.
I had spent nearly two months folding the pages
so that when the book was standing up & open,
the design reads: Laura Joy.

As we approached the bench with the books, she nearly passed them by!
That is, until I got her attention.
And that's when THE moment came...

L: It slowly dawned on me: “Wait a minute. That’s my name.
Why is something personalized at the Nelson?!?
…He’s doing it.
This is it!!!”

R: Choking on all of the words, I finally managed:
“Laura Joy, I love you – will you marry me?”

Dear Laura & Ryan ---
Wow. Not only do we feel so blessed to partner with you as siblings, but also as your wedding photographers and fellow life-adventurers. Our anticipation for your Kansas City wedding (one month out!), growing with you as we pursue to understand what marriage means (hullo more conversation over coffee and donuts...and a 5th year anniversary cruise!), AND the privilege to be your storytellers throughout, makes us a tad giddy. Thank you for trusting us.
And yeah, it all just gets better from here!
Love you,
Tara & Stephen.

Feel free to leave some love in the comments for these two!
Can't wait for their industrial, KCMO wedding in just a few weeks - so keep your eyes peeled.

--Tara M