Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session | Sarah Canning Photography


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Natural light fan, blush lover, never not dreaming of Mexican food, join me as I share my favorite moments and details from the engagements and weddings I capture in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and beyond. P.S: Exploring blogs is better with a margarita!

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Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session | Alexandria, VA | Samantha + Michael

May 11, 2018

We recently traveled to Alexandria, Virginia for a little weekend getaway. It just so happened to line up perfectly to photograph Samantha + Michael’s engagement session while we were there! Samantha + Michael live in Norfolk and Michael is in the Navy. They just found out he will have to leave this June to go over seas, so they needed to get their engagement session done soon! I love when I get to explore new places. Old Town Alexandria is so historic and beautiful and to be able to photograph one of my couple’s there was a dream! I love this couple’s story so much, so I actually enlisted Samantha to help me do it justice! This Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session and their story were just recently featured over on How he asked by The Knot and you can also check that out here!

How they met:

“Embarrassingly enough, Mike and I have been trying to pinpoint an exact moment to adequately answer this question, but the best response we’ve been able to come up with is ‘at James W. Lilley Elementary School—probably at some point during the 5th Grade.’ At any rate, the two of us have known one another since we were just kids. We started dating when we were sixteen. Mike sat behind me in Mr. Einstein’s history class, where we would pass each other notes and try to pretend like we were paying attention to what was going on at the front of the classroom. Our high school relationship was often dramatic—breakups and reunion became the norm—but even when we were young, we knew that we had something extremely special.
We spent our college years apart, assuming that life had sent us in separate directions for good. Luckily, we were both wrong. Years later, we reconnected. Mike had just begun naval flight training in Pensacola, Florida and I was working in New Jersey. When we finally saw each other in person after so many years – we both knew how special our connection was. Through long-distance, moving, graduate school, new jobs, and navy life – we built a relationship on enduring love and adventure. And like they say, the rest is history!”
How he asked:
“For the entirety of our relationship, we’ve written letters to one another. We’ve always loved this method of communication—there’s something beautiful about being able to put words on paper and physically give them to someone you love. When Mike left on his first deployment to Naples, Italy, he gave me a box that contained six letters: one for every month that he’d be gone. The first of every month became a day that we’d both look forward to, because that’s when I’d read my letter. Being apart was obviously difficult, but the letters made the distance just a little bit easier.
What also made the deployment easier for me was the extremely rare opportunity that I got to actually visit him! Not many people get to visit their deployed loved ones, so I consider myself extremely lucky. My trip to Italy was scheduled for the end of December. As the end of November neared, I was beginning to look forward to reading another one of Mike’s letters. On the first of the month, however, Mike asked me if I would bring the December letter with me to Naples so he could watch me read it in person. That meant I would have to wait three more weeks until I could open it!
I endured the wait and soon was on my way to see him. On my second night in Naples, Mike took me down to the waterfront to take a walk prior to dinner. The sun had just set over the Gulf of Naples, and while the scenery around me was indeed breathtaking, it was also freezing cold outside in late December. As we walked along the edge of the water, Mike seemed abnormally quiet. Trying to start some conversation, I asked him what kind of wine he wanted to order with dinner.
‘I don’t know,’ he answered. Good talk.
The pathway along which we’d been walking suddenly veered off to the right and turned into a stone bridge that led up to the Castel dell’Ovo.
‘Let’s go this way,’ Mike said, as he led me onto the bridge. ‘Oh, and I think this is yours.’
I looked over at him and he was holding an envelope that said the word ‘December’ on the front. He’d taken it from my bag without me noticing.
Tears had already begun forming in my eyes as I opened the letter. Mike laughed. When I finished reading, Mike was down on one knee, and that’s when he asked me to marry him.
Just seconds after Mike slipped the ring onto my finger, a horde of neon-clad Italian runners (at least fifty of them) sprinted by us. One member of the group stopped and asked Mike to take their photo in front of the Castle. Once Mike was finished, he asked the runners to take our photo, and told them that we’d just become engaged. The gigantic crowd of Italian men and women showered us with congratulations and surrounded us in what’s become one of our favorite photos.
My favorite part of the story is a ‘minor’ detail that Mike shared with me as we walked away from the castle and towards a celebratory bottle of champagne.
‘Did you know,’ he asked, ‘that you brought me that ring?’
I, of course, had no idea what he was talking about. He went on to explain that, while he had written me the proposal six months in advance, he had procrastinated on the purchase of the engagement ring. By the time he’d picked it out and ordered it from the jeweler in America, we were within two weeks of me leaving for Italy. Realizing that international shipping was no longer an option, Mike decided to have the ring shipped to his mother’s house in New Jersey. I thought nothing of it when Lisa gave me a couple of wrapped presents to give to her son for Christmas. She had shown me a pretty black box with a set of cufflinks that were Mike’s grandfather’s. His grandfather had passed away a few months prior and it was a beautiful Christmas gift for Mike. Little did I know, Lisa had meticulously hidden the ring under the jewelry box where Mike’s grandfather’s cufflinks were.
‘Keep this on your carry-on,’ she said. ‘I’ve heard some bad stories about people getting things stolen out of their luggage lately!’
Needless to say, I’ve never been more grateful not to have lost my carry-on luggage on an international flight.”

Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session

Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session Old Town Alexandria Engagement Session


  1. Jessie Evans says:

    These are so perfect I can hardly believe they are real!! Stunning couple, stunning location, stunning photography!

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