Downtown Gainesville with Lauren & Derek

In early April, Logan and I took off for the weekend to visit one of my closest friends, Lauren, and her fiancee Derek in Gainesville, Florida, and to photograph their engagement session. Having met in high school, Lauren and I have known each other for a while, but at some point over the last decade, we've become really great friends.

In the past year and a half, she and I both have had to deal with some particularly heavy life happenings, and I've found that she's offered an invaluable amount of advice, comfort, support, and love to me. I feel extreme gratitude to the universe for her friendship. She inspires me to be a better friend and a stronger woman, and--I know this is a lot of gushing, but bear with me--I am honored to call her a friend. 

I was lucky to visit Lauren last summer in Gainesville when she and Derek had only been dating a short while. After Lauren and I had a girl's dinner and cocktails at Boca Fiesta, and popsicles at The Hyppo, we met up with Derek for a bar hop. I had the BEST evening with these two, which ended with more cocktails and an evening swim. By the time we were at our last bar of the night, I knew that these two had a special, undeniable chemistry. (And it wasn't just the whiskey talking). Needless to say that when she called me on Christmas last year, I KNEW it was to tell me Derek had proposed. 

I was so excited to bring Logan back to Gainesville. It's one of my favorite cities. I spent some time there when I was right out of high school and, as cheesy as it may be to say, it always feels nostalgic, almost like a homecoming when I go back.  

When we arrived in town, Logan and I weren't surprised to find that it was going to storm the day we planned to shoot-- that's Florida! So, we ended up timing our dinner plans just right so that we could take advantage of the weather. 

First, we landed at Depot Park. The overcast skies seemed to make all the greenery pop, and we got some of my favorite images from our weekend there. 

The next morning we got up early and again took advantage of the overcast sky and downtown's sleepy atmosphere. We shot at some of Gainesville's more recognizable spots, including the Hippodrome State Theater.  From there, we did some walking around the gorgeous older neighborhoods in the city, as well as exploring the Historic Thomas Center

The best part of taking these photos with Lauren and Derek is that there really was no coaxing these two. Derek's love for Lauren is obvious in the way he touches her, looks at her, how he speaks to her, and how they share a laugh. Lauren says that he brings her peace. I love that, and I've witnessed it. It's a great feeling to see someone you love fall in love! 

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We also had Lauren's daughter Lila jump in for some photos! 

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One of the ways I know that Derek is so special is how he treats Lila with respect and is so kind and loving towards her. Having a blended family myself, I understand that it takes a unique human being to become a step-parent. It can be a difficult line to walk. Derek does so with grace and dignity.

Being that Lauren called Virginia home for quite some time, the fact that her parents still live here, and Derek's family is from New York, the Westover Plantation is where these two will host their wedding celebration this fall. I cannot wait to experience their day. I know it's going to be one I hold close for quite some time.