August 27, 2020

Matt & Briana | Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Virginia Engagement Photographer

I’m Stephanie, a wedding + lifestyle photographer based in Destin, Florida and Warrenton, Virginia. Whether I’m by the mountains in Virginia or the ocean on the Florida Gulf Coast, my soul feels at home, surrounded by rural living and the raw beauty of nature. I genuinely love what I do, and feel so passionate to share the enthusiasm and joy of these celebrations with you!

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Matt & Briana | Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Virginia Engagement Photographer

Matt, Briana, and I met at the beautiful Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, for their engagement portraits. I initially met Briana at her sister, Gaby’s wedding back in 2017! Unreal to think it was almost THREE years ago since that super fun day!!! And just knowing how much fun her sister’s wedding was at Morais Vineyard, I’m in for a treat when Matt and Briana tie the knot at the Great Marsh Estate!! I’m honored to be Matt and Briana’s wedding photographer, but I’m also SO glad we were able to celebrate their engagement portraits at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens!!! This season has been NUTS planning sessions/weddings around the pandemic, and I’m grateful for their flexibility. It was worth the heat and change of plans!!

Matt and Briana have a playful relationship as you’ll read more about them in their “love story”! 🙂 During our initial conversation over the phone, I was SO fascinated by their proposal story … You have to read their engagement story below!! 🙂 It involved my guilty pleasure … the Bachelor!!! I love chatting about the show’s craziness and hope they have a new season to debut soon!! During their session, I realized we didn’t just relate to the Bachelor, but Briana and I share the same fears … bugs and severe thunderstorms/tornados. Fortunately, our significant others understand us … and have to deal with our fears. HA! Poor guys!

We enjoyed many laughs walking around (while trying not to sweat too much during the August heat) Meadowlark. Although it didn’t really matter if I looked like a hot mess, but I wanted to make sure that Matt and Briana were comfortable. 🙂 And they pulled it off like it was no big deal!!! I mean, just look at the photos below! 🙂 I cannot wait to see them again all dolled up on their WEDDING day next May … It should be cooler then too! I hope you enjoy some of my personal favorites from our time together!

Matt & Briana | Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Virginia Engagement Photographer

Matt & Briana’s Love Story


from Briana’s perspective

Matthew and I met in the summer of 2014. My best friend from childhood, Cory dates Matthew’s brother, Ryan. Cory, Ryan and I hung out practically every weekend. A few weeks into summer, they talked about how it would be a good idea to set me and Matthew up on a date … probably so I would stop third wheeling all the time … Cory ran this past me, as well as Ryan with Matthew. Of course, after a little Instagram and Facebook stalking, we both thought, “Sure, why not?”

We exchanged numbers and after a few weeks of little random texts back and forth (with still no discussion of an actual date), I figured nothing would happen. So about a month later, Cory, Ryan and I were headed out to a bar in Arlington, Mister Days, with a few other people. After a few drinks, I was headed up to the bathroom when in the corner of my eye I saw Matthew hanging out with a few of his friends upstairs. It was probably the alcohol talking, but I didn’t think twice and immediately went up to him and quite forcefully asked him why he hadn’t asked me out yet. He seemed a little shocked and didn’t really know what to say, but by the end of the conversation, he said he would text me that week and we would set up a dinner date and time.

Their First Date

After a few days, Matthew finally texts me and we agree to meet on August 5th at Silverado for dinner. I was so nervous!! Cory told me to eat dinner beforehand so I wouldn’t nervously eat all the chips that they serve before dinner … So I did this, but because I was so nervous. However, not only did I inhale ALL of my food, but most of the chips too, leaving only a few for him. I remember Matthew even offered me some of his food…

During the dinner Matthew practically said nothing. I swear the only time he spoke was when he disagreed with something I had said. I felt like I carried the conversation the whole time, and thought to myself oh my god I forced this guy to go on a date with me, and he clearly doesn’t want to be here. So after what felt like an eternity, we finally finished dinner. It was at the VERY end of the date that he said something funny, and I thought well that was funny but where was this guy the entire dinner?

I was shocked that he texted me the next day and asked me out on another date since he had seemed so uninterested the night before. The only thing that had me saying yes was the fact that he said that ONE funny thing at the end of the date. So with each date that we had, he had me laughing more and more, and the rest is history! It’s funny to think back now, because now I understand him and how quiet he is, and how nervous he probably was!


from Matt’s perspective

I “worked” from home that day. After months (maybe even years) of questioning; from Briana, family, friends, pets, and seemingly random people on the street; as to when I was going to ask her to marry me. I knew Briana’s schedule to the minute… what time she left in the morning, what time she’d leave work, and what time should she would get home. So from the time I woke up, the countdown was on.

The Morning of the Engagement

I woke up and worked a little but it was proving to be a difficult task with everything else on my mind. Luckily, I had somewhat prepped the night before by using my minimal iMovie skills to make a short, little film on my laptop/phone. There is really only one tv show that we both watch religiously and that is the Bachelor/ette. So I figured it would be a funny enough idea to enlist the help of Chris Harrison and some prerecorded Bachelor clips. Without going into too much detail and save everyone from the corny-ness, I effectively made a video to assist me in doing a live-action rose ceremony, where I would give the final rose to my baby girl.

The hours had turned to minutes and they were counting down, I had to double-check that the ring was still in hiding, the rose petals were laid out, the fake candles were switched on (fire hazard in an apartment to use real candles). And the most difficult task … get our relatively new puppy to calm down and go into her crate for 30-minutes. I threw my suit on, put the ring in my pocket, put the iMovie on our tv, and made sure everything was in place. I deadbolted the door so she would have to knock before entering. With about 5-minutes before I was expecting her to arrive, my heart was racing. I had the A/C turned all the way up as to keep my sweating under control, and was chasing our dog around the apt to get her crated.

The Rose Ceremony

There was a knock at the door and I think I blacked out immediately from nervous-ness. She walked into a room full (partially) of rose petals and candles. I quickly pulled her in front of the tv and put on my low-budget version of the world’s most popular reality show. After a quick monologue from “Chris Harrison” and a dramatic camera pan across a pre-recorded cast of contestants, I got down on one knee and asked her if she would marry me and make me the happiest little boy by saying yes. Briana had a blank stare in her eyes…

I don’t think she knew what was going on.

She asked me twice (maybe even three times) if I was being serious … Probably buying time to think of an excuse to say “no”. But ultimately, she said yes and now she’s stuck with me; making me the happiest little boy and my only hope is that I can make her feel the same.


Thank you, Matt and Briana, for having me as your photographer and document you two at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens! I loved getting to know you two a little better before your BIG day next spring!!! Oh, I cannot WAIT! <3 It will be the best day ever!!! In the meantime, enjoy the engagement because it will fly by quickly. 🙂

Matt & Briana’s Engagement Portraits
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Virginia Photographer

Stephanie Messick Photography, LLC is a Florida Panhandle Beach Photographer, also serving Northern + Central Virginia, specifically Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, and many more venues. Learn more HERE or contact her HERE and ask about the Destin, Florida Portrait Photographer Special if you’re visiting! Or contact her for information when she will be in Virginia for weddings/sessions!



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