When David and I started planning his surprise proposal, the original plan was to propose at The Chanler. We looked at other options, but ‘The Chanler’ made sense. Remember, the first rule of a successful surprise proposal – don’t do anything different from the norm. With dinner reservation at ‘The Chanler’ David could easily pull off the surprise.

Surprise proposal at the Chanler

Plan ‘A’

David had a firm image concept for the initial proposal. We would use the entirety of the hotel as a background, and the proposal itself would occur on the well-manicured grounds. However, there was one fly-in-the-ointment, the potential for trees to cast a shadow on the grounds. it would be impossible to shoot the proposal in shadow and still see the building, which would be drenched in sunlight and, therefore, photographically, be over-exposed. David relayed my concern to the hotel, and they took some photos of the proposed spot at the time at which the proposal would occur. I have to give a shout-out to The Chanler’s fantastic customer service because a couple of days before our shoot, the staff went out at the time of the proposal to take photos of the hotel to help us decide on a spot. Unfortunately, it did not help because it was cloudy, which meant no tree shadow, still, ‘A’ for effort!

On Friday, a sunny evening, the dinner reservation was at 7:15 pm, and I left home at 5:45 pm with an E.T.A of 6:30 pm to allow me to scope out our options. At 6:30 pm, the shot in front of The Chanler would work, but by 6:45 pm, the grounds were completely covered in shadow, rendering Plan ‘A’ useless. Time for plan ‘B,’ the side of the hotel. The side was 100% shadow and the downside was that it was a little dark and the sky would be blown out (shooting into the direction of the sun). I took a photo of this location with my phone and sent it to David.

David then gave me a request: could I go into the hotel and speak to the hostess and ask her to tell David when he checked in for dinner that his table would not be ready for a few minutes. This request would add to the skulduggery that is a surprise proposal! Lily, the hostess, was only too happy to take part in our plan.

I moved to the location for plan ‘B’ and started framing up the shot. Unfortunately, there were lawn signs in the frame notifying visitors that the hotel lawn was for guests only. I had to remove them. My first attempt failed; I spoke to a member of staff who could not speak English, at which point, with time running out, I had to relocate to signs.

David sent me a text; it was go time.

Normally when I shoot a proposal, my lens of choice was a 70mm to 200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens which permits me to be far away from the proposal. For tonight’s proposal, I had to use a wide-angle 24mm to 70mm f/2.8 lens to include the hotel in the shot. While I had a second camera body with the 70mm to 200mm fitted, however, there is no time to change cameras as a proposal happens. From my perspective, it was not perfect, but it was important that I get the shot with the hotel in the background and that needed a wide lens.

Just as I see David and Melissa walking down the path, a family appeared behind me, walking up the stairs in the direction of the proposal. Quickly, with one eye on David, I had to redirect them. (Thank you for being so understanding, whoever you are!) At that point, David dropped to his knee; I took a couple of definition shots and, just like a good paparazzi photographer, started running towards the couple, clicking away because I could not use the big lens.

The joy on Melissa’s face was immense, and yes, she was surprised. She had an inkling that it may occur this weekend but not tonight. Kudos to David et al.!

After the proposal, we had fun with a mini-engagement shoot, primarily working in the shadows!

Like all proposals, they take a lot of work, but it is totally worth it.