Victoria and Jake’s Hartwood Acres engagement session is jam-packed with romance, style, and old world charm and we are utterly obsessed. Their endearing love story started way back in high school, just days before graduation. After dating through college and waiting out the year of Victoria’s Miss Pennsylvania USA reign in 2020, Jake got down on one knee in a not-so-surprise proposal. To match the classic, European-inspired September wedding they are planning, the soonlyweds opted for a summer engagement session that would capture the park’s blooming gardens and stunning architecture. Afterwards, they headed to their alma-mater, the University of Pittsburgh, where they walked down memory lane, scouting the best sights with old-world feels and getting Dave & Andy’s ice cream, which they frequented during their time together on campus. As a fashion-enthusiast and owner of the local Wight Elephant Boutique, Victoria and her beau certainly didn’t lack any style; this shoot is filled with gorgeous dresses and complementing looks for Jake. With the talented Dawn Derbyshire Photography behind the lens, these sweethearts will without a doubt inspire your own engagement session!
About the Couple
I met Jake in 7th grade when we both had Industrial Tech together. One of our assignments was to design a mousepad, and being the Twilight-obsessed tween I was, my mousepad was Jacob Black themed. Our only interaction was when Jake came up and asked, “So, Team Edward or Team Jacob?” And I said, “Uh, Team Jacob because werewolves are hotter” and walked away (cringe). Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, we didn’t interact much. We weren’t in the same circles and only had one other class together. The only other memories I have are when I pelted Jake with a dodgeball in gym class junior year and seeing him walk home from school at the end of the day when I was driving home. I wasn’t really looking to date…until something changed right before high school graduation; I saw him with fresh eyes. I saw Jake in the cafeteria and realized how attractive and handsome he was. I then proceeded to walk past his lunch table every day trying to get him to notice me. My friend gave him my number at his locker two days before we graduated. We started talking, then hanging out, and from there we were inseparable!
Jake and I knew pretty early on in our relationship that we were meant for each other and would get married. But, we were both newly18 years old when we started dating and we knew that time wouldn’t come until after college. When I turned 22, I decided I wanted to compete for Miss Pennsylvania USA. I planned to give myself two years to compete and if I didn’t win after my second attempt, then we would get engaged. In December 2018, I competed for the first time and placed 2nd runner up. In November 2019, I competed for the second and final time, and ended up winning. Our engagement plan had to be postponed until after I competed for Miss USA in November 2020. Miss USA came and went, I didn’t win, and I ended up coming back home to my loving boyfriend and family.
The weekend before Christmas 2020, Jake asked me if we could go on a date the weekend after Christmas. I smiled knowing whatever that date would be, that’s when he would propose. He had promised we’d be engaged by the end of the year. I said, “Sure, but where are we going to go? Everything is shut down because of COVID.” He said, “I was thinking we could go to Ligonier and walk around, maybe get take out, and have a COVID car date.” I said, “Sounds good.” and immediately texted his mom for an emergency nail appointment.
During the week, he kept saying that he wished he had a nice jacket for our date. It was going to be around 45 degrees and he “didn’t have a nice jacket to wear for that kind of weather.” If it was a normal date, I knew he wouldn’t care so much about having a nice jacket just to walk around Ligonier. The only way he would care is if he would be in photos.
The day came and we watched church online in the morning and sat around showing each other funny things on the internet until it was time to get ready.
When I was doing my makeup, he came in wearing a beige sweater and he looked really nice. I asked where he got that sweater because I didn’t really recognize it, and he said, “It’s your uncle Mark’s.” I got emotional because my Uncle Mark had passed away two years ago, and I knew then that he was going to propose. I was trying to decide what to wear and he told me to wear the neutral sweater dress because we’ll match. Jake never wants us to match unless it’s for a photo. When I came downstairs after getting ready, he smiled and said, “You look beautiful. Ready?” and took my hand.
When driving to Ligonier, a text popped up on his dash that said “London Kate”. I was genuinely confused and said, “Who’s London Kate?” Once I said it, I knew it was Londynn Kate Photography and that I was absolutely about to get engaged. He said, “Oh, she’s from work. She works with Rick.” Then he promptly grabbed his phone, changed her name to “Rick Work”, and then when he got another text from her, he said, “See, now Rick is texting me.” I just smiled and said, “Ah, right.”
When we got to Ligonier, we parked and got out of the car to start walking around. He kept saying how many people were there, which I knew was making him nervous because proposing in front of other people is probably the last thing he would want to do. Since there was a family taking photos at the gazebo, he suggested we take a lap around and then asked if I wanted to take a picture by the gazebo with the Christmas decorations. He never asks if I want to take a photo.
When we got to the gazebo, I played along and started to pull out my phone, but he stopped me with a hug. When he hugged me, he said “Victoria…” and I knew. I said, “Oh, no.” He said, “Victoria, I love you more than anything. You are my family, my home, and my best friend. I’m so excited to finally do this and to tell you all of the secrets I’ve had to hold from you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?” He got on a knee and pulled out a beautiful beige velvet ring box with the most beautiful diamond ring inside. As soon as I saw the ring, I burst into tears and nodded my head yes. Kate popped out from behind the wall and started taking photos as he was proposing.
About the Engagement Session
My dream has always been to get married in Italy, specifically Lake Como. So I wanted our wedding to have a very classic, romantic, old-world, European style to it, and I wanted that to be reflected in our engagement photos as well. I thought Hartwood Acres fit that style perfectly and we waited till the summer to have our session so that the gardens would be in full bloom.
Jake and I both attended the University of Pittsburgh together and have a bunch of memories there, including getting ice cream from Dave & Andy’s. There are so many gorgeous spots around campus that feel very old-world European, so we thought it would be the perfect place to take engagement photos while walking down memory lane.