Lauren + Mark

Lauren + Mark

Engagement Photos by Oldani Photography

Hidden Valley Winery / New Baden

What was your first date?  Short answer: Bailey's Range in downtown St. Louis. Long answer: Lauren was in town visiting from Kansas City and it just so happened her roommate, Randi, and her roommate’s boyfriend, Matt, were in town for a football game. We decided to go on a double date to get the first date and meeting the whole roommate deal all out of the way at one time. Mark was in charge of picking the dinner venue and settled on Bailey’s Range, a nice, yet casual venue with unique, but delicious burgers. Mark and Lauren arrived at Bailey’s on time and decided to have a drink while waiting for Randy and Matt, Mark going with his traditional random craft beer choice and Lauren with her favorite, gin and tonic. An hour and a half and numerous drinks later, Randi and Matt arrive to a tipsy Mark and Lauren. We enjoyed a nice meal as well as some additional beverages before heading to Lucas Park on Washington Avenue for some drinks and dancing. Thanks to liquid courage, or maybe it was foggy vision, Mark was able to impress Lauren with his amazing dance skills and, as they say, the rest was history. Fast forward a year from their first date, they decided to add a new addition to the mix (a puppy) and named her Bailey after their first date spot.

Tell us the story of the proposal?  Short answer: Mark lured Lauren to Hidden Valley Winery under the guise of taking pictures of two of our close friends, who were responsible for them getting together. Mark surprised Lauren with roses and a ring after walking across a bridge to a secluded island on a lake. REALLY long answer: Mark knew he had to come up with a good plan and make sure the proposal was a complete surprise to Lauren. Looking for input and ideas, he sought advice from both his and her friends. He wanted something somewhat romantic and soon settled on the location, Hidden Lake Winery. He knew he wanted to include the two people responsible for them meeting, Will and Erica, because without them this day wouldn’t be possible. A few weekends prior to the engagement, Mark told Lauren he was going golfing with a few of his buddies. In reality, he went with Will and Erica to the winery to pick out the location where he would pop the question. With help from the winery, they were escorted around the property on a golf cart and shown numerous ideal locations - underneath a waterfall, in a gazebo nestled in the woods next to the lake, under a walkway of truces that were lit up with strands of lights, in a vineyard, underneath another waterfall, or on a little island that is connected by a bridge. Mark chose the little island. Now, the location and where he would pop the question were set. They soon devised the plan. Erica and Will were having their couples shower in the coming month or so, but did not have any recent pictures to use for the party. Erica told Lauren this and said she heard Hidden Lake had some nice backdrops where we could take pictures and afterward we could drink some wine and eat. Erica then asked if Lauren would go with them to take pictures and she could bring Mark and they would all drink some wine and eat afterwards. Lauren took the bait and was in. Mark prepared for the big event, ordering rose petals and tea light candles online as well typing out, memorizing and rehearsing his speech in the garage. Will and Erica arrived at the winery early to lay out the roses behind a giant rock, spread rose petals on the rock and make sure the waterfall next to the lake was running. Mark and Lauren arrived later and, after arriving, enjoyed a glass of wine with Will and Erica before going to take pictures. The first stop for Will and Erica’s pictures was under the truces, then to the vineyard, then to the waterfall that had been turned on. After taking pictures by the waterfall, Will asks Lauren can he see the camera to make sure he doesn’t have a weird smile. Mark looks at Lauren, looks at the bridge and the island, then turns and says to Lauren, “Let’s go check that little island out while they look at the pictures.” They cross the bridge hand in hand, reaching the island. Mark, with his heart racing, takes Lauren over to the rose petal covered rock, where stemmed roses are laying on the ground and quips to Lauren, “Look at this, these must be left from the wedding.” Mark bends down on a knee to pick up the roses, but instead of grabbing the roses, reaches into his pocket pulling out a box with the ring. Despite typing the speech probably 10 times, rehearsing it another 10 times and timing it, Mark forgets the entire speech and simply tells Lauren how much he loves her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Then asks the big question, “Will you marry me?” Lauren looks at Mark, with a stunned look - he isn’t 100% sure if the look is good or bad - and a tear running down her cheek, steps in to kiss him and tells him yes. Mark, with his heart still racing, closes the box without putting the ring on her finger. After hugging and kissing, it sets in that he didn’t give her the ring, and he then pulls out the box and slides the ring on her finger. We celebrated with Will and Erica, took more pictures and called our friends and family telling them the exciting news. The four of us then headed inside the winery to drink some more wine and eat. After a few hours, we decided it was time to head home. We all got in our cars and headed out. However, Mark “made a wrong turn” and drove down the road to the cabins instead of to the exit, leading Lauren to question his soberness and ability to drive home. He pulls over at a cabin and Lauren thinks he is going to turn around. Instead, Mark tells her he rented a cabin and they are staying for the night. They exit the car and walk up to the cabin. He opens the door and holds it for her to walk in first. Much to her surprise, Mark snuck over to the cabin earlier during a bathroom break and filled the room with tea light candles as well as made a heart shape on the bed out of tea light candles with rose petals filling in the middle. We opened another bottle of wine, soaked in the moment, and talked about our excitement for the day and for the rest of our lives.

What is the mixtape of your relationship?

Andy Grammar - I choose you

Ben Howard - Depth over distance

Safetysuit - Never stop

Ellie Goulding - How long will I love you

Ben Howard - I will be blessed John Legend - All of me

Bebe Winans - I found love

Ed Sheeran - Thinking out loud

Leon Bridges - Coming home

Anderson East - Only you

A mix of love songs and different styles, because that basically describes us...loving and unique in our own ways. We both found someone that is equally as unique (I prefer unique over weird because what is normal anyways?) and accepts and loves us for who we are.

Any pets?  Two spoiled dogs. A yellow lab, Bentley, and a dachshund/lab/beagle mix, Bailey.

What is your date style?  Trendy restaraunt for dinner, drinks and a movie

Mark, What do you claim as your hometown?  O'Fallon, IL

Lauren, What do you claim as your hometown?  O'Fallon, IL

Do either of you have a hobby? If so, what is it?  Playing with and spoiling our dogs (that's considered a hobby, right?), recreational sports (softball, basketball, golfing), hanging out with friends and family, drinking beer (yeah, that's one of Mark's favorite hobbies!), going to theme parks (Lauren prefers ones that involve Harry Potter!).

Nichole is married to TJ Oldani. Together they are Oldani Photography.