Austin Swiercz and Dori Castignola’s love story is conventional: they met in college, became friends, reconnected a few years later, and got engaged in December after dating for about four years.
The unconventional part happened during their engagement pictures when a wild deer walked up to them during their outdoor photo shoot at Saugatuck Dunes State Park in Michigan.
“It wasn’t something where we had to put a face on or act surprised, the photos were just us,” Swiercz said about their reactions in the pictures.
“The deer literally kept approaching closer until it was right behind Austin’s shoulder,” said Eldina Kovacevic, the photographer and owner of Inna Kova Photography, who photographed the pair’s encounter with nature.
Kovacevic’s assistant was the one who first spotted the animal, which first appeared far in the shots about 20 minutes into the photo session.
Nervous, Kovacevic started quickly snapping photos before the deer could run away … or worse.
“My heart started racing, I was a little scared because I don’t have experience with wildlife,” said Kovacevic. “I thought, let’s not move because I don’t know how it’s going to behave.”
The couple of the hour didn’t think the deer was that close to them, but then the groom-to-be turned around.
“Eldina’s assistant Karen told us not to freak out, but there was a deer behind us,” Swiercz said. “I turned around … it was literally 10 feet away and you can see in the picture my reaction.”
After Kovacevic carefully snapped a few quick photos, not knowing what the creature would do, some disc golf players in the area let the group know that the deer was friendly and not to be scared of it.
That’s when Kovacevic took full advantage of having the furry creature become part of the memorable photo shoot.
“He stuck around us maybe 10 minutes. I wasn’t giving [Swiercz and Castignola] much direction, I just wanted to capture what was happening,” Kovacevic said. “We were just so amazed.”
The couple wanted to take their engagement pictures outside because everyone in their family loves the outdoors.
“We asked for natury and woodsy, and holy cow, that delivered,” Castignola said. “It felt like such a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
And just like it arrived, the deer pranced out of the photoshoot ten minutes later.
Neither the couple or the photographer expected that the pictures would go viral. But both Swiercz and Castignola appreciated the positive comments they received thanks to the pictures.
“It seems cheesy, but I always said that I wanted the whole world to know how much I love Austin,” Castignola said. “Now they do.”
Swiercz and Castignola are even considering incorporating deer into their November wedding.