ๅ› Chapter 1: Our Engagement Shoot

Thursday, May 23, 2019

March 7 12:00 - March 8, 2017 12:00 | Day of our engagement shoot. 
Also known as the happiest and the saddest I've ever been within a 24 hour period.

What's in this post

  • Dreams Come True: Shelly, the wedding planner
  • 3 Practical Tips for your surviving your engagement shoot
  • Life Goes Full Circle: it takes some good to make it hurt

Tue, Mar 7, 2017: Dreams Come True

March 7 started out as the perfect day. J and I spent the day in Napa with our wedding photographer, Augie Chang, for our engagement shoot.

Formula for a perfect day for Shelly: 

March 7, 2017 = 2 months before our wedding
J = Future husband
Augie Chang = Wedding Photographer
Napa = Amazing Food. Wineries. Beautiful space for an engagement shoot.
Engagement Shoot = Cute pics of me and J that I was planning to overshare with the world.

Multiplier effect:

Shelly's genuine love for weddings = Anyone who knows me pre-Google will tell you that my answer to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" has always been "A wedding planner."

Not because of J-lo's movie, but because I've always wanted to be the person behind the scenes helping two people in love create their perfect day. A wedding is a physical representation of this love in its purest and rawest form. Everyone recalls their wedding day to be one of the happiest days of their lives. And the best part is, it comes with open interpretation!

No two weddings are the same. It all comes together in a beautiful and organic way. Every couple's love story is unique and a little bit different, and it all lives in the small details. When that story comes alive -- well, that's just magical. :) They don't call it the honeymoon period for no reason!

How often are you surrounded with so much beauty and love in the world? Growing up, I wanted to be in the business of helping turn dreams into reality. Yes, I am a true romantic at heart.


If you're wondering why I didn't continue down the path of becoming a wedding planner, well, real life kicked in. I got a job in corporate america where I learned first hand what "scalability" and "crazy clients" looked like on a day-to-day basis. I also realized that I'm pretty good with computers too. Tech ended up being a much better career choice for me, but wedding planning will always be my dream job. :)

The day of our engagement shoot was the first time in my year-long wedding planning process when all started to feel real. I was done making key decisions and paying for down payments. Enough of planning things on paper, our wedding was finally coming to life!

My friends and a lot of other people commented on how I was crazy for wanting to plan two weddings within the same month, just weeks apart. One in Spain, no less. But, this was not a chore for me, this is literally my dream job.



3 Practical Tips for your surviving your engagement shoot

Despite the day of our engagement shoot being practically perfect, there are a few learnings from this experience that I want to share with you.

When people post seemingly "perfect" pictures of their engagement shoots, they don't really talk about how awkward the experience really is. I love being awkward and talking about how awkward and uncomfortable things can be, so here you go!


(Alice, I know you're reading this, this picture is for you, ;))

Here's some awkward things to mentally prepare for and some key takeaways on how to deal:
  1. Meeting your wedding photographer for the first time
  2. Picking out "your look"
  3. PDA with your spouse in front of a camera

#1. Meeting your wedding photographer for the first time
J and I met before the days of social media dating, so I never really dated via apps. Choosing Augie Chang on Instagram was my version of using Tinder. I swiped right immediately when I saw his pics. In fact, Augie was the only photographer I "swiped right" for during the planning process. 

I didn't even reach out to other people for quotes (partly because my friends did all the research during their wedding planning, and shared base rates with me). This is all to say: meeting Augie for the first time was a lot like going on a first date. Nerves from meeting someone you're super excited about. Except, multiply that with the super unfamiliar experience of an engagement photoshoot and someone seriously invading your personal space.

Takeaway #1: Don't let your engagement shoot be your first date. Most people meet their wedding photographers for a face to face interview to feel their vibe. We only met Augie over the phone. I guess we could have met him in person first...but like I said... I didn't really think I needed to meet Augie in person because I knew he was going to be our photographer. :)

If I were to do it again though, maybe meeting him in person once before the engagement shoot would have made things less "first-date" like, and therefore less awkward.


You should have seen the look on Augie's face when I asked him to take this pic of us with this weird basket of fruit in Napa. ๐Ÿ˜‚This did not fit into Augie's artistic POV, (that's what we were paying him the big bucks for tho, amirite?) but he took one to be nice and he quickly moved us to the next location.

#2. Picking out "your look"
Leading up to an engagement shoot, people typically spend a lot of time figuring out their outfits, and how they would get ready. For me, I realized that my makeup collection has gotten pretty stale, so I wanted to find a new lipstick shade to wear during the shoot to spice it up.

You know what ended up happening? I literally went to MAC and Nordstrom to try at least 10-20 shades of lipstick ranging from nudes to pinks to what have you, only to realize that I didn't like any of it. I thought I looked like a clown. What I should have realized is that I should not try to do anything too different than what I've already been doing for makeup for the last 10 years of my life.


I ended up buying MAC's Captive telling myself that I was going to use it for the shoot. Why? Because I didn't just spend 2 days searching for a new lippie only to not to buy something new right? Well, fast forward to engagement shoot day. What did I end up using? I used my trusty TONYMOLY Petit Bunny Gloss Bar. It was easy and comfortable for me. Maybe not too "on brand" for a 30 year old, but it worked.

On the flip side, I spent so much time and energy on something that literally did not matter. For my engagement shoot, I wanted to try a little harder. I thought I should try to put effort into "looking my best" (Thanks YouTube & your "engagement photoshoot" looks - lol). I tried on sooooo many shades of lipsticks that my skin turned super swollen, red and dry the week leading up to this shoot.

Takeaway #2: This is not a time to experiment. Maybe your engagement shoot isn't really the time for you to "try something new" just because you have expectations of what you're supposed to look like based on what other people are doing. This is especially important if you want to just look like yourself. If you look at these pics, you'll find that my bunny gloss served me just fine.

I know this is advice that people typically give you for your wedding. But, I heard this advice. I clearly didn't listen and ended up stressing myself out for absolutely no reason. I'll have a seperate post about wedding makeup to expand on this learning - because the same shit happened to me during my makeup wedding trials a month later. I clearly didn't learn!

As for clothes. If you love a girly-romantic look with some embellished details, check out the dresses from Needle & Thread. I'm obsessed. :)

#3. PDA with your spouse in front of a camera
J and I are not overly "PDA" with each other in real life, so as we were taking this photoshoot, we were definitely on the spectrum of "Ummm, this is awkward." Weird enough when no one is watching. A million times worse in front of a stranger with a camera pointed 3 inches away from your face.

Listen, we had the luxury of having a "first date" with Augie at Bouchon before we started. We shared a bottle of champagne and steak frites over the course of an 1.5 hour long romantic lunch before we had to get down to business. Most people jump straight into the picture taking with none of the romance with their photographer, you know what I mean?

Except, maybe 10 minutes into the session, J and I were just feeling like, hrmmm... you know what would make this experience better? If we had more alcohol. ;) I don't think I've ever seen Augie do anything with more purpose and mission. He must have saw how awks we were being and took us straight back to Bouchon and bought us two shots on his dime. Things went much better after that, lol. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Takeaway #3: A little Liquid Courage never hurt anyone. If you think you're going to be awks and drinking alchohol fits into your lifestyle choices, then, perhaps bring some booze to your engagement shoot! Take that pepcid if you get asian glow, and bring a flask if you're going out into nature. #justkeepinitreal No judgement here!



Well, luckily for us, Augie can literally make anything look good, including this couple being super awkward in a parking lot. True story: This picture was taken in the parking lot where I got ready in a car. Through the course of the next few hours, the three of us had an amazing time bonding and just getting super hyped for all the wedding festivities ahead of us.

We waltzed around town as Augie was training us on how to be less awkward as a couple in front of a camera. Here's some of my favorite moments from the session:


I love this shot. Augie's eye for light is just perfection. But, I just wanted to quickly show you that for every super cute picture that we have, there's another 20+ super awkward ones like the one below.  Tons of pics that I won't share where J looks like he's vampiring me or trying to bite my ear off, or maybe he's just whispering sweet nothings into my ear. You know, #romance. 



I call this pose "The Cyclops". It's where you and your significant other are OMFG so in lurve. So, you begin making intense eye contact - french eye contact, oui ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท - just an inch away from each other's faces.

You stare so deeply into the depths of each other's souls where if you work hard enough at it, their two eyes merge to become one. ๐Ÿ˜‚When 2 become 1 - that's what the Spice Girls were singing about right?

Anyway, unless this is something you're in the habit of doing with your partner, it's SUPER weird in real life. But listen, Augie said it would look cute in pics, and here we are. Super cute, but super awkward IRL.

We ended the day, hand in hand, walking down some random driveway in Napa, strolling into golden hour perfection. Clearly, we were in our natural habitat.

Sarcasm aside, this engagement shoot was more than I could have ever hoped for from our "First Date" with Augie. He captured images from inside my mind that I didn't even articulate to him, but our visions aligned, and he really did an amazing job. Glad we swiped right!



"Life Goes Full Circle: It takes some good to make it hurt"

- Jason Mraz - Life is Wonderful

Just 6 hours after the engagement session, Augie sent me teaser photos so I could upload them onto on our wedding website. He is a god send because he knew I was in a rush to get these up (super last minute here). Yes, I recognize that an engagement shoot 2 months before the wedding is cutting it close. Augie and the internet have told me that.

Reason #678 why I didn't become a wedding planner: Poor time management (I blame dyslexia!) 

Wed, Mar 8, 2017: The Saddest Day of My Life
Sometime after midnight, as I was putting the finishing touches on our wedding website, I got a phone call from my cousin.

"Michelle, Uncle Kent just went to the hospital. Can you please come?" 

This must be serious, because my cousin wouldn’t call me at midnight if this was just a ‘casual’, non-life threatening emergency.

When I got to the hospital, all my extended family was there. Around 20 of us -- we roll deep. I learned that Uncle Kent was taking a shower and suddenly had a heart attack. Because he was in the shower, the bathroom was locked. They had to call the ambulance. They had to break the door down. You can understand how traumatic this is for anyone who had to live through this experience.

I was just thinking to myself: Here I am, so worried about my wedding website just an hour ago, when all this was happening to people whom I love, in a home just 10 minutes away from me. Talk about perspective.

Uncle Kent has had heart issues in the past, so being in the hospital because he was having heart issues wasn't too foreign to us. He is a fighter and so young, so we remained very optimistic as we were all standing around.

A few hours went by, and we were just starting to get antsy for someone to come out to give us an update. Just waiting around for good news. Just waiting to hear that everything was okay, and that the surgery went well. That we could go home and see him the next day.

Because, that's how it was supposed to go down right?

Wed, Mar 8, 2017, sometime after 2 AM - Hospital
A doctor finally comes out. We get the news. Uncle Kent did not make it… We are all in shock and disbelief. This can't be real. Right?

RIGHT?!?

Wed, Mar 8, 2017, 8 AM - Morgue
I’m at the morgue. Uncle Kent is laying in front of us. Not moving. Honestly, he just looked like he's asleep. He still had a sense of energy vibrating from him. He had a slight smirk on his face, the way he always looks when he makes a joke that we all hate, but can't help but laugh at.

Uncle Kent has always been such a source of mischief in my life. We have stupid inside jokes like the stupid way we greet each other: we pretend to wipe our noses with our hands and shake. What kind of greeting is that? How that even started, I have no clue. But all I know is that we're gross but funny like that.

My first Christmas in America was spent at his house. As an immigrant, I had no clue what Christmas was. I didn’t have a stocking, but he hung up white socks for me and my brother. He put some $ in the sock and this was the first time I even heard about a guy named Santa Claus who gives good children gifts during Christmas. How fun!

Uncle Kent always took me on vacations with him and his family. I slept over at his house all time, and hung out with his 4 kids all throughout my childhood. I’m very lucky to have such a close-knit family. My Uncle Kent was like a father to me, and two months before my wedding, he passes away.

As I stared him in the face for the last time, I thought to myself… Wow, this has got to be some sick joke. How am I really supposed to feel about this? How do I get over the fact that someone who existed in the world one day, is suddenly gone forever?

Ending this blog post about the happiest and saddest day of my life with this picture. This was 6 months before Uncle Kent passed away. I decided to hosted a labor day BBQ for the fam, and someone forced us to take this picture. I'm really glad we did.

Cherish your loved ones every single moment of every day, because you literally don't know what the day will bring.

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