February 25, 2021

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park Engagement | Alex & Melissa

Orange County Professional Photographer

I always say that one of the best parts of being a professional photographer in Orange County, especially in the wedding industry, is getting the opportunity to meet and getting to know all the newly engaged people you cross paths with. I love when new clients have us start out shooting their engagement photo sessions, which of course then leads up the wedding day itself. But, when that client is one of my staff members, it makes it much more special. And this is truly the case for my Studio Manager and second Photographer, Alex and his awesome bride-to-be Melissa. Super Excited!

One of the things I love about photographing engagement photo sessions, is that it gives the couple an opportunity to be more at ease with one another, as well as with the photographer. Not to mention the atmosphere compared to the wedding day itself with all the vendors, parents, guests, etc around. The wedding day is much more stressful than the engagement photo session. An engagement photo session allows couples to really be in the moment with each other and put their love for one another on display. I really got this feeling in our recent engagement photo shoot with Melissa and Alex at the Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park.

Located in Coto De Caza, the Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is one of our top three favorite locations for nature spots in all of Orange County. Tucked away in the hills, we love what this location brings to your photographs as it has plenty of amazing natural backdrops. In addition to its forest-like feel, this location offers a wide variety of tall trees, bridges, hiking trails and a ranch-style wood fence. The park also has very tall grass, but most of the year its brown. If we go during certain times of the year, we may catch some greener grass. One other thing that they allow, that some of the other parks do not, is that you can bring horses or bikes onto their hiking trails, which would give you some unique photograph opportunities.

They may have met nearly 10 years ago in a theater class while in college, but at Alex and Melissa’s engagement session, you can tell that these two weren’t acting at all and that they were really in-tune with one another. From a first date, which was about as urban as you can get in Hollywood, to a surprise Marriage Proposal at The Montage along the OC coastline, to a naturesque scenery at Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park in South Orange County, these two really know how to enjoy life with each other to the fullest, and we at Three16 Photography. are thrilled to go along on this journey with you and we look forward to the wedding day in September this year at the Coto De Caza Golf & Racquet Club. We wish you both many years of love and happiness together.

Check out their love story. We hope you enjoy it, and their photos, as much as we do.

Melissa and Alex’s Love Story

How & When did you first meet? Describe your thoughts, how you felt about each other and was it love at first sight?

We met the Fall semester of 2011 at Santiago Canyon College in theater class. We were paired to do a scene together. Our relationship developed over rehearsals and throughout the remainder of the class. At the end of the semester, we thanked our professor for being such a great match maker.

What do you both do for work?

Alex is a photographer and studio manager at Three16 Photography, and Melissa is an administrative professional by day and bartender by night.

GROOM: What was it that made you first start liking your bride-to-be?

All of it. Her authenticity, humor, intelligence, etc. I could keep going on, but it will be a while. I’m still discovering new things that I li…love about her. I liked that for the first time in my life someone made me feel vulnerable. Scary at first but she encouraged me to be open about my emotions. To tell her what I feel without holding back. Believe when I tell you that she can tell when I’m being slightly dishonest. It’s her super-power amongst others. I like that there are no boundaries on love with Melissa. So, I loved as hard as I could and I’m still going.

BRIDE: What was it that made you first start liking your groom-to-be?

Alex has always had an electric personality and kind heart. Although he is soft spoken at first, he is the life of the party for his closest friends and family. And he showed how heroic he can be when he literally saved a man while visiting me at work one day. I was finally like… this is my knight in shining armor! Alex was my first love and I love him a little more each day.

Tell us about your first date. What was going through your mind and where did you go and what did you do?

For our first date we had a Hollywood adventure! We visited the Griffith Observatory and hit the Walk of Fame. We had In-N-Out Burger for dinner and screened the “Nightmare Before Christmas” in 4D at the El Capitan Theater.

What makes your relationship special? Tell us some things that you both value in your time together and what makes your relationship unique?

We are our best selves when we are together. We can be spontaneous and go on last minute adventures or stay in and play Yahtzee all night. Although we both aren’t exactly professionals in the kitchen, we like to cook for each other. We enjoy gaming to get away from our busy lives, but we know when to unplug and spend quality time together.

Tell us about your proposal story! How and Where did it all unfold? Were you surprised and tell us, who cried first?

You were there! LOL It was just the two of us overlooking Laguna Beach. It was simple, romantic and perfect (even if he dropped the ring).

What is one piece of advice you have for couples just beginning the wedding planning process? And what have you enjoyed most about planning your wedding?

Take your time and have fun! We opted for a longer engagement so we can take our time with planning and appreciate this exciting time together! We have also had a pretty stress-free planning process so far. We have been so thankful for our friends and family for coming together to make everything come together so smoothly!

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