Lake Dillon Engagement Photos – Erica and Ryan
I was so excited to finally meet Erica and Ryan! I had been chatting with Erica for awhile about their wedding (which is going to be amazing!) and I was stoked for their engagement shoot! We met at Lake Dillon and had an amazing time wandering around taking photos. These two were so full of joy and laughter that it made my job quite easy! I can’t wait for their wedding day!!
Fun fact : My dad was Erica’s 5th grade teacher!
And bonus points for finding these stunning fall trees!! What a magical location!
I asked them to tell me about how they first met, fell in love, and their proposal…
The beginning according to Erica:
I’ve come to accept that I probably developed a crush on Ryan the first time I saw him. I had just returned from studying abroad the first semester of my Junior year at Notre Dame (his freshman year) and when I walked into an ISI worship session he caught my eye right away. He carried himself confidently and I was sure he wasn’t a freshman, so I assumed he was a transfer and asked my friend Linsey where he’d come from. Turns out he was a freshman, and she introduced us and began our great love story.
I proceeded to find excuses to talk to and spend time with him (i.e. the WWJD bracelet mentioned in his story that I really did need to send to my host brother in Mexico, but easily could have found myself), and we started to hang out more frequently. I specifically remember talking with a friend that semester who talked about how she’d been really intentional about building friendships with guys, and making it clear from the very start to avoid later confusion or awkwardness that they were just friends. As she told me this, I didn’t tell her, but I thought to myself that I was not going to make that clarification with Ryan, as I very much wanted to keep that door open, despite telling EVERYONE that he was ‘just a friend,’ or ‘some freshman from ISI that was nice and cute but I would never date.’ The best part is that all throughout, Ryan was unintentionally sending some very confusing signals. Like who walks a girl back to her dorm twice a week, goes on weekly Dining Hall dates, texts her goodnight with a bible verse daily and has no intention of being more than friends with a girl?? Well, as most of you know, Ryan does…
Fast-forward to the end of the semester and my trip to Africa. When I woke up from my accident, I had received messages from friends and loved ones everywhere, and as overwhelmed as I was by the unbelievable outpouring of love, I was pretty upset that Ryan hadn’t texted me even though my mom verified that he knew and had even communicated with her. Turns out I wasn’t too subtle about this, and my mom and aunt quickly figured out that maybe I wanted to be more than just friends with this guy. For the record, Ryan had texted me, some of the texts just weren’t coming through. I texted him first (I thought) anyway.
Back at school that fall, Ryan and I continued to be friends and hang out. After weeks (and in some cases months) of being called out by friends, I finally admitted to a select few that I liked him. (Some of them weren’t too subtle about it, and I now know that Ryan started to get a clue…). I ended up telling Ryan too, and leaving it in his hands to do with that information what he wanted. That led to a few more months of friendship, some really intentional time for me to get back onto my own two feet, to re-establish a faith that rooted me before anything else after a summer that had turned my life upside down, and eventually Ryan realizing that he was willing to take a risk and see where dating me might lead. Thank goodness he did….
The beginning according to Ryan:
I first met Erica second semester of my freshman year when she came back from studying abroad. She came up after the first ISI of the semester and asked about where to buy a WWJD bracelet. I told her I had an extra she could have but she insisted on buying me candy to thank me. She surprised me with Reese’s, which are my favorite candy and I was pretty convinced that we would be good friends. That semester we got to know each other more through walking back to our dorms after ISI and lunches in the dinning hall. One of my friends would take a picture and text me every time I ate with Erica, “Dinning Hall Date?”. I would laugh and hastily respond, “no we’re just friends.” We also started going to church together towards the end of the semester, which helped us grow our friendship.
At the start of that summer I was getting ready to go to Missouri to work as a camp counselor when I got a call from Erica’s roommate that she had been in an accident in South Africa. I sent her a few texts, that were very delayed in arriving, and stayed updated with the emails from her mom. I kept praying for her and with every report it seemed she was getting better. I asked friends to pray for Erica too and one asked me, “Ryan, could you see yourself dating this girl?” I said no she’s just a friend who needs prayers. The last update I got before I lost service for the summer said that Erica was going to okay and that she was progressing enough to be discharged and flown back to Colorado. While at camp I got a letter from Erica filling me in on how she was doing being back and recovering from all that had happened. I had tons of friends promise to write me letters and only a few who actually followed through, so getting that letter meant a lot. I knew that I was excited to keep growing in our friendship when we got back to school.
When I got back to campus I needed to go to the store so I called Erica because she had a car. She helped me pick out dorm stuff and we talked about all that had happened that summer then I took her out to dinner as a thank you. (Her friends consider that our first date, I still considered her squarely in the friend zone at that point).
After I invited myself to play on Erica’s flag football team I ended up spending more time with her and her friends. One night I overheard Colby talking about how Erica liked me and I pretended not to hear and walked back to my dorm. Yes, I was a stupid boy but I didn’t really know what to do with that so I just pretended not to know.
A few weeks we were catching up after a difficult week and towards the end of our conversation Erica said she had something else to tell me, “I think I have feelings for you, you can either respond now or wait and respond later.” I didn’t know what to say so I once again took the easy way out and said thanks for telling me but I’ll respond later. She was two years older and of course I thought she was awesome but I’d never really considered this a possibility and now it was. I freaked out to anyone who would listen for the entire next week not wanting to blow it but also not really feeling ready to date. The next Friday I said that I thought it would probably be best if we just stayed friends and didn’t date.
A few more weeks past and we kept hanging out together and I finally stopped being so dumb realized that I really liked Erica but now I had to play it cool in case she had moved on after I had told her I didn’t want to date. Naturally I showed how much I liked Erica by sending her smiley faces at the end of texts. Being who she is Erica called me out on my smiley faces so I started making up BS reasons why I was sending them to lots of people. At spring break we both went home with our best friends but texted constantly the whole trip. I had made up my mind that I wanted to ask her out and it had to be soon. The night we got back to campus the power went out in Pang so I invited Erica to come study in the O’Neill common space. We were probably the most annoying people ever that night because we did 0 studying and a lot of flirting. The next day I texted her asking if we could talk and we decided to go to main building that night. After a few minutes of small talk I told her that I really liked her and that she could respond now or later. She said she didn’t need any time and she said she liked me too and she became my girlfriend (Erica usually knows what she wants). That night I got back to my dorm and called her to pray together to commit our relationship to the Lord. That Friday we went on our first “real date” which consisted of terrible food and an awkward dance while Erica wasn’t feeling well but it ended in our first kiss. I’d have to say almost every date since then has been better and I grow more in love with her everyday.
Being in a long distance relationship makes it pretty difficult to plan a surprise. When you add in that Ryan can barely keep a secret because he gets so excited to tell me about things, and that I hate surprises and play detective to piece together the information that is being withheld from me, a surprise becomes pretty much impossible. Impossible to the extent that when I boarded my flight to spend a week at Lake Tahoe this past summer with Ryan’s family, I had told pretty much everyone that I was on my way to get engaged.
Once I was there, I needed to narrow down when, where and how. I hadn’t been shy about telling Ryan parameters of how I wanted this whole thing to happen. He knew nature was necessary, but if I was tired and gross from a long hike, I wouldn’t be the most excited about the proposal. He had promised me that he had considered everything and that it was going to be pretty great. I tried to trust him and stop asking questions and investigating, but the large amount of champagne purchased and the off limits cake balls were a give away that there were still some factors I hadn’t figured out.
Saturday morning Ryan’s dad and brothers went off to go ‘fishing’ and Ryan and I went into town for coffee. We then drove out to a beautiful lookout that you can hike to and magically found a spot at the top where no one was. Turns out Ryan’s brother, Alex, was there hiding and had kicked people off this part of the look-out. Ryan got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride. I heard a camera clicking and eventually turned to see Alex peeking out from behind a rock, snapping photos. We enjoyed the moment and the beautiful view (lake/mountain combos are me favorite!!) and the hiked down and started to drive back to the cabin where I knew my brother Will was waiting to celebrate with us! We called a few people on the drive, including my little brother Ryan, my parents, and some friends. Little did I know that my parents and Ryan were waiting at the cabin to surprise me. We got to spend the rest of the day celebrating with our families and the day was everything I could have hoped for!
One of the pieces that Ryan and I are most looking forward to about the wedding day, and every day of marriage after that, is the opportunity to experience Christ’s love more fully through this commitment to love one another unconditionally and without end, and also to be a witness of Christ’s love to the world. Our faith is what brought us together initially, led us on the path we took to dating, and is certainly the only thing that got us through two long years of long distance. I think the best thing that ever happened to Ryan and I was when he had the maturity to say that we needed to not date when I first brought up my feelings for him. He knew that I was in a rocky place in my relationship with God after my accident, and that I was looking for anything to grasp on to to keep me from completely falling apart. I needed those next few months of healing to re-root my faith and enter into our relationship with my priorities straight and my eyes fixed on the cross. As we look ahead to marriage, we are so excited to build a home that can be a place of refuge and rest for others, where we can welcome others in joyful and sorrowful moments, and consistently love and serve. We hope that our wedding day is a reflection of that.
Erica’s thoughts when I asked her if she’s enjoyed wedding planning…
I’ve honestly loved wedding planning so far, and Ryan has enjoyed coming along for the ride! It felt a little stressed and overwhelming at first, but once we picked the (perfect!) venue, everything seemed to come together. Spruce Mountain Ranch was exactly what I was looking for: out of the city, surrounded by mountains, elegant but outdoorsy, and has everything we need to make the day stress free. Everything will happen right there, from getting ready, walking down the aisle, and then celebrating at the reception, which is exactly what I wanted! I found my dress in one shopping trip at Brilliant Bridal, Ryan did all the research for the caterers, and we loved working with Occasions Catering as they started building our wedding. They were very creative and flexible! We were completely sold after the tasting and booked them for the day! Brandi Baldwin at Cheers Wedding Planning has been so helpful and will make the day of so incredibly stress free and effortless, I can tell already! We just booked Complete weddings and events as our DJ and photo booth and are excited to be working with them too!