Jen and Joe’s engagement photo shoot

Our California engagement photos were taken by the lovely wedding photographer Marnie Goodfriend. We met Marnie on a Sunday afternoon at Lake Hollywood Park, which is a playground, a dog park and an Ultimate Frisbee field all in one. This is often very confusing to the dogs.

We started the photo shoot in the park’s playground, where we stood in a swing. Then we crossed the monkey bars. Then a swing bridge. “Hey world,” these photos will say, “we’re still young at heart, but also old enough to ignore the children who want to play on the swings but cannot because two grown adults are debating whether or not to remove their shoes for the monkey bar portion of their engagement photo shoot.”

Next, Marnie made us stand in a tree. Not next to a tree – in a tree. She stood 15 feet away and told us that she was getting fantastic shots. I had to take her word. I could not actually see her, mainly because there was a tree in the way. Stand farther apart, she said, one more step, a little further behind the tree, Joe. “Hey world,” these photos will say, “this couple is emerging from the wilderness of single life together, but not close together, more like about four feet apart.”

We left the park, crossed the street and walked down a hill to a small, dry concrete water runoff that contained every lost tennis ball in Los Angeles. This is the terrifying vision all Labrador retrievers see when they have sleep tremors.

The terrain by the water runoff was uneven. I held Jen’s hand to keep her from falling, which marked the first time in our relationship I held her hand for anything but prurient reasons. Marnie asked us to walk a particularly difficult stretch twice, so she could photograph us almost dying a second time. “Hey world,” these photos will say, “the terrain of life can be uneven and difficult at times, but there are circumstances under which Joe will hold Jen’s hand that have nothing to do with him getting lucky.”

After a change of clothes, we drove up to a quiet neighborhood near the Hollywood sign. We took some photos with the sign in the background. We also were photographed in front of someone’s old-timey wooden garage, by a white wall, on some random homeowner’s stairs and acting like library patrons in front of a garage door painted like bookshelves. “Hey world,” these photos will say, “true love means ignoring sensible trespassing laws.”

Jen told me that I looked wonderful in all of the photos. I wish I could say the same for her, but she needed some serious coaching. “You are not,” I told her at one point, “looking at me with enough admiration.” She had the gall to laugh in my face. I later apologized. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I did not mean to say that you are not looking at me with enough admiration. What’s the word that’s more than admiration? Like what God gets? Reverence. You are not looking at me with enough reverence.” She rudely laughed again.

There are a couple of ways you can tell a couple is being photographed for their wedding: 1.) They do things they never do in real life, like stand on top of a hill nose-to-nose waiting for a bird to fly by 2.) They stand forehead-to-forehead on the edge of a cliff, but unlike married couples, they resist the urge to push the other person 3.) They are photographed from behind shrubbery, as if they were jaguars 4.) They hold each other close and look down at the ground very seriously, as if the ground is the front page of The New York Times and there is a headline that says they’re turning off the Internet tomorrow. 5.) The photographer is snapping pics of their shadows.

I have only worked with one wedding photographer, but I bet it’s safe to say that a lot of them love taking pictures of shadows. “Stop,” Marnie would say approximately every six seconds, “I want to get your shadow.” We always obliged.“Hey world,” these photos will say, “these two people create a partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body — and it looks awesome.”

Marnie was a pro, and we liked her a lot, even though she has zero regard for human life. Jen looked lovely, as always, and she absolutely nailed reverence during several of the photos. And I have to admit, having a large tree branch obscure my face in many of the photos no doubt increased the overall attractiveness of the photographs. I look forward to putting them in an album and one day using them as a second-layer guest deterrent.

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Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Jen

    There’s no one I would rather have Siamese foreheads and noses with! (Said with utmost reverence and admiration.)

  • paulo

    That’s a cute picture. Glad neither of you had to sneeze.

  • smoose

    That’s a great photo of the two of you. At the same time I feel like you guys have to go somewhere important and Joe is breaking the news to Jen that he spilled something on his pants and his back up pants are not in the car. I give Melissa this look often.

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Jen – Your reverence is aways appreciated.

    @Paulo – Jen is doing most of the cute in that picture.

    @Smoose – I always have backup pants, sometimes underneath by first-string pants.

  • Laura

    There’s a genuine smile on my face after reading this … you two are my favorite couple of 2011, which means the decade so far. Besides looking happy and adhered to each other, you both look fantastic. Is it L.A. or do you have another secret?

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Laura – I stopped eating like a moron and started exercising regularly. That, and the biweekly botox injections.

  • Laurel

    Ha! This made me laugh … engagement photos are truly an experience! Here’s another random way to use a wedding photographer: at the rehearsal dinner. We did this and were ultimately really glad we did. She captured tons of candid moments with all the major players in the wedding plus VIP guests—and none of the riff raff that was invited to the wedding the next day :). Plus, it was a nice way to get some shots of us looking our best, but not in wedding gear.

    You guys look fantastic in the photos … post more!

  • Great pictures and commentary, Joe! Congrats to you and lovely Jen!

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Laurel – Thanks! I will post more when they become available.

  • You’d never heard of engagement photos? Philistine.

  • Mary Jo

    Love your writting, can’t wait to see the photos!

  • Mom

    Very funny column Joe. Big smile on my face. Love the photo of you and Jen and looking forward to seeing you both in more of nature’s settings.

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