University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Engagement Photos | Victoria Rayburn Photography
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You guys, I can’t begin to explain how excited I am to FINALLY be able to share Joe and Grace’s University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign engagement photos on the blog! 

You see, these photos have been a long time coming. Grace and Joe had originally planned to take their engagement photos in April 2020 and celebrate their wedding in October 2020. However, COVID had other plans. 

While they’re actually already married (They couldn’t wait to become husband and wife!), Grace and Joe will celebrate their marriage with their originally planned wedding at Danada House on October 29, 2021. 

Between multiple cross country moves, Grace earning her PhD, and a global pandemic, the last few years have been a whirlwind for this sweet couple. But, for their engagement photos, Grace and Joe wanted to go back to where their relationship began, and I’m thrilled to share their University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign engagement photos on the blog!

 

Joe & Grace became friends on Joe’s very first day at The University of Illinois. 

While Grace attended The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana for all four years of her bachelor’s degree and then also for her PhD, Joe started at a small, private school and then decided to transfer to Illinois his junior year in 2012. 

Joe already had several friends at The University of Illinois, so to welcome him to the Illinois family, they made plans to go out after Joe moved in. One of Joe’s friends asked, “Do you mind if I invite my friend Grace to tag along? You’ll like her.” 

Joe figured the more the merrier. While Grace had a boyfriend at the time, Grace and Joe had several mutual friends. And, as a result, they spent a lot of time together. 

Now, they’ll admit that they were both interested in the other way back then, but Grace was in a long-term relationship, and Joe respected that. According to Joe, “It was a tense time!”

However, after being friends for a couple years, Grace was single again. She wasn’t sure how to tell Joe, but she eventually texted him. When Joe received the text, he happened to be with their mutual friends and told them, without trying to sound too excited, “Gracie’s single.” 

I wasn’t there, obviously, but I think it’s safe to say a little hooping and hollering from their friends had to follow this statement! 

Some time passed without either Grace or Joe admitting their feelings to one another. Then, one night, their friend group had plans to go out, and Joe asked Grace if she’d want to come over to his apartment first. 

And, well, Grace and Joe ditched their friends for the rest of the night. They stayed in, talked, and finally shared how they felt about one another and have been together ever since. 

 

Joe asked Grace to be his wife during Grace’s family’s Easter celebration in 2018. 

Now, before I share Grace and Joe’s proposal story, it’s important to note that Grace’s family is very close. And, I know this because I met Grace and Joe when they were in Grace’s cousin Becky’s wedding, which I had the pleasure of photographing. (Side note: I can’t wait to see this side of the family pack the dance floor again at Grace and Joe’s wedding!)

Knowing that Grace would love being able to celebrate with her family after the question was popped, Joe decided to propose at Grace’s family’s annual Easter celebration. 

Trying to prevent Grace from being suspicious and knowing that she’d want to have photos of this special moment, Joe decided to pop the question when it was time for he and Grace to take their annual Easter photo. 

“Let’s go up to the balcony to take them,” Joe suggested to give them a little privacy. 

When they were positioned for the photo, Joe said, “My heart is beating really hard.” 

Confused, Grace asked, “Why?” 

Then, Joe got down on one knee and asked his best friend to spend the rest of her life with him.

Like I said before, Grace and Joe originally planned to get married and have their wedding in October 2020. Not wanting to wait any longer but wanting to keep their loved ones safe, they became husband and wife with a very small, socially distanced celebration on their originally scheduled date. And, in October 2021, this sweet couple will finally get to enjoy their big celebration!

 

Grace & Joe decided to take their engagement photos at The University of Illinois.

Since they started dating, Grace and Joe have made multiple big moves. As a result, there are several places across the country that have meaning to them, which made it kind of difficult to decide where they wanted to take their engagement photos. Grace and Joe ultimately chose to take their engagement photos where their story began: The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

And, I have to say that I had so much fun hanging out with these two! I’d never been to The University of Illinois and loved getting a tour from these Illinois alumni. To be fair, though, Grace and Joe are so sweet, fun, and thoughtful that it’d be a good time with them anywhere!

Side Note: Since Grace and Joe are already married, we decided calling these photos “pre-wedding” photos would be more accurate. COVID certainly delayed this shoot, but I’m glad Grace and Joe were still willing to make this session happen. Even if you have engagement photos taken with another photographer, I HIGHLY recommend doing a shoot with your wedding photographer before your big day. This will give you a chance to get comfortable with your photographer and for him/her to figure out what kinds of poses work best for the two of you as a couple. Doing an engagement session with your wedding photographer ultimately makes your wedding photos better and less stressful.

 

Congratulations, Grace & Joe! 

Grace and Joe, I can’t begin to explain how much I loved FINALLY being able to get you guys in front of the camera! 

You’ve handled the last couple years of chaos with an incredible amount of grace. Throughout the chaos, though, you’ve kept your hearts and minds focused on what’s most important: one another and your loved ones. I have so much admiration for you both, and considering how you’ve handled everything the world has thrown at you as a team, I have no doubt that your marriage will be one that thrives. 

I also have no doubt that your long-awaited wedding at Danada House will be worth the wait! In the meantime, though, I hope you love these previews from your University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign engagement photos!

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