A few weeks before their session, Janel emailed me hoping that she and Phil could have their engagement photos taken on the grounds of Eolia Mansion at Harkness State Park in Waterford, Connecticut. I immediately jumped at the idea because Eolia is just stunning! Arturo and I love, love, LOVE when we have the chance to add beautiful architecture into the backdrops of our couples’ portraits. It had been raining on and off the weekend of their engagement session, but luckily the sun appeared and the clouds cleared up that afternoon! However, Eolia Mansion is on the other side of the state from where we live, and it’s on the coast which meant very different weather conditions than what I left at home! As I pulled up to Eolia, a dense fog covered the grounds of the estate. Though I knew the mist and fog would look amazing in Janel and Phil's engagement photos, I was worried it wouldn't show much of the beautiful architecture that they wanted in their portraits! Phil and Janel didn’t let the fog steal their joy, and luckily with a little experimenting, I was able to create some of my favorite engagement photos to date.
Since she was little Janel has loved flowers and gardens, so it was only fitting that Phil proposed to her at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx! Any time the two of them go on vacation they try to visit the botanical gardens wherever they are. For Janel’s birthday this past January, Phil planned a weekend in New York City, the first stop being the New York Botanical Garden. She didn’t really want to go to the gardens because it was pouring rain and a cold winter day. As it turns out, not going was out of the question! They arrived to the gardens, toured all the inside exhibits and it was PACKED with people. Phil realized anywhere inside would be too busy to have a special moment to propose. He and Janel then hopped on a guided tour in a trolley around the outdoor gardens and exhibits. Everything was dead, brown, covered in snow and just about wilting over. This definitely was not an ideal backdrop for Phil’s proposal either! The trolley ride ended and by this time Phil started to panic a bit. Janel was cold, hungry, and ready to leave but Phil insisted on checking out the Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden. They arrived to the library and a security guard told them the library was closed for the weekend. As Phil and Janel started to walk away, the security guard offered to show them the orchid display in the library lobby. He warned them it wasn’t much of an exhibit but it was still worth seeing. The orchids were beautiful! Since it was just the three of them with no crowds around, Phil suggested they get a nice birthday picture taken of the two of them in front of the orchid display. He handed his phone to the security guard, and quietly asked him to take a few pictures because he decided this was the moment he was going to propose! Without thinking twice, Janel stood on her “good side” as she and Phil got ready to have their photo taken. In the blink of an eye, and much to Janel’s surprise, Phil was on one knee asking her to marry him!! She was in total shock and said, “What are you doing? Get up!” about 10 times before she said yes! It was perfect and totally “them”. The gardens, the rainy day, the private moment they were able to share in such a hectic place. Phil and Janel spent the next hour in the library lobby calling friends and family to share the news of their engagement!
Janel and Phil are getting married at TPC River Highlands is Cromwell, Connecticut this November and we know it’s going to be a fantastic celebration!
When did you know you'd found "the one"?
Janel: “There wasn't one specific moment where I knew Phil was the one, it was more so a lot of moments! One time that stands out was when he first told me he loved me. We were hanging out at my old apartment talking about things unrelated to us or our relationship and he just said, "I love you". To be honest I think it came out by accident! I was so shocked I made him repeat it to make sure I heard him right! Truthfully, if he didn't say it first, I would have soon because I was just about bursting at the seams. It wasn't the fact that he said I love you, it was how naturally it happened and how right it felt when I said it back. It made me realize our whole relationship felt like that moment, so easy and natural. It was a no brainer he was the one I wanted to do life with.”
Phil: “I knew Janel was the one when I fell in love with her. Seeing how she strives to be better everyday has made me a better person and it's something I can't live without.”
What's one thing you love about your partner?
Janel: “One of the many reasons I love Phil is for his consistent ability to stay rational, pretty much at all times. I joke all the time that he's the calm, I'm the storm but it couldn't be more true. Any situation in life where I've felt worried, upset, excited, stressed, or just needed a sounding board, he's the person I want to talk to. He can be so level headed and always manages to put me at ease. We all need someone to rely on as a voice of reason at times. Phil has always been that person for me.”
Phil: “One thing I love about Janel is her selflessness. She can be have a terrible day but will make sure my day is great. She not only does this for me, but anyone who surrounds her. It's one of the many things I admire about her.”
Besides getting married, what is one thing you're looking forward to on your wedding day?
Janel: “On our wedding day I'm looking forward to our first look and our first dance. In the midst of all the craziness of the day, I can't wait to be with each other during our first look. I'm really excited to have that special moment. Our first dance will be exciting too! We're big fans of the TV shows America's Got Talent and one of the winners sings our first dance song. We love the artist, the song, everything it means and the fact that no one will have heard it before makes it even more special.”
Phil: “One thing I'm looking forward to on our wedding day is our first look. I'm excited to see Janel on our big day.”
What's one thing you're looking forward to about marriage?
Janel: “I'm looking forward to of course, being able to call Phil my husband, but also just to start our lives together. Some people say nothing changes once you get married but I feel like things do change. Things changed when we took our first vacation together, met each other's family, moved in together, and then when we got engaged. We get closer to each other, we've grown together and that's what I'm looking forward to most about our marriage and future.”
Phil: “One thing I'm looking forward to about marriage is being able to call Janel my WIFE!”
I hope you enjoyed this Eolia Mansion at Harkness Park engagement session! Do you know Janel and Phil? Show them some love by commenting below!
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
Shaina Lee Photography is a husband and wife photography team serving Connecticut, New York, Hawaii and beyond. We specialize in timeless, elegant, and romantic weddings while celebrating all couples in love.
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