We Can’t Believe This Rainforest Engagement Shoot Actually Happened in Philly

We're digging the new perspective on one of our most photographed spots.

We here at PW have seen lots of engagement shoots at Longwood Gardens, but Raynell Hicks and Ulrich Kossepa’s stylish shoot is the first we’ve come across that made us feel like we were looking at another location entirely. Check out the photos below by Renee Hollingshead Photography

Raynell and Ulrich met in Washington, DC. Raynell was bartending her way through nursing school, and Ulrich and his friends decided to spend a night at her lounge celebrating a birthday. If the group had any plans for bar-hopping that night, they were quickly derailed.

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“My first impression of Raynell is that she was beautiful and intriguing,” says Ulrich. “I was eager to learn more and get to know her.”

They dated for three years before getting engaged at the Sun Dial restaurant in Atlanta this past December. At the end of a meal celebrating Raynell’s mother’s birthday, Ulrich excused himself to “go to the bathroom,” then returned with a beautiful oval ring.

“My mother and I cried like a baby, and it seemed as if the whole restaurant stopped while everyone clapped and congratulated us,” remembers Raynell of the proposal. “It was beautiful.”

The couple’s first vacation together was in Puerto Rico, and they loved the location so much that they’ll be returning for their wedding in May. Wanting to mirror the warm-weather vibes of the island as well as the desert aesthetic of the West Coast, Raynell (who lives in Hyattsville, Maryland with Ulrich) searched for weeks before landing on the Cactus Room at Longwood Gardens as the perfect location for their engagement photos. By avoiding colorful blooms and instead focusing in on greenery and xerophyte plants, the couple was able to embody the tropical-chic look of their upcoming wedding without having to leave the East Coast.

“It was exactly what we had been looking for,” says Hollingshead. “Tropical and desert all in one.”

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