Like many of my clients, Beni is from out of state, in this case, Indiana. When he first contacted me, he was seeking ideas for a location for his proposal; ideally, he was looking for a beach setting; his cousin would be setting up staging before the proposal.
We set up some time to talk it through. During our conversation, I considered various Rhode Island beach locations and opted for Goddard Park. Why? Because you can park next to the sand, making the preproposal staging easy to manage.
During our call, I sent Beni a photo of the Goddard Park beach and an aerial drone video depicting the beach and the bay so he could grasp a better understanding of my suggested location. He also mentioned the possibility of having a cityscape proposal but is undecided. I told him to take his time, but please let me know a few days before the proposal.
After reviewing some of my proposal photoshoots on my website, Beni got back to me; he had a change of heart; the shoot would be in Providence on the pedestrian bridge. Good news: it is a superb location, but I was a bit concerned about staging a proposal on a busy city footbridge at 6 pm on a sunny Friday night!
I sent Beni an annotated map of the bridge with my suggestion for the proposal’s site on the Plant City side of the bridge. He informed me that he would visit the pedestrian bridge on Thursday and would advise me of his decision (we were moving close to the eleventh hour). After he saw the bridge, he agreed with my suggested proposal site. We have a plan; well, sort of because there was the staging question.
I like to control as much of the photoshoot as possible, and the thought of having no co control over the staging on a busy pedestrian bridge at 6 o’clock on a sunny and warm Friday night concerned me. All I could do was tuck my fears away and go with the flow.
On the day of the proposal, I decided to leave a little earlier than I usually would have, just in case I got stuck in rush hour traffic. I sent Beni a text to let him know I was en route and another when parked, and a reminder that I needed a photo of them both to recognize them (which is kinda important); we were cutting this close.
I arrived at the bridge, and there was no sign of Beni’s cousin; I walked back and forward over the bridge, and still no cousin. A 5:40 pm, I sent a text informing Beni that I could not see his cousin. He had Armel call me, and he arrived a few minutes later.
I advised Armel on the best place for his staging materials, the 12″ high letters ‘Marry Me,’ tea lights, and rose petals. Unfortunately, it was a tad windy on the bridge, and we had to change the layout to work with the breeze. While Armel was setting up the stage, I received a photo of my couple; we were ready.
The problem with putting the words ‘Marry Me’ in 12 in high letters on a busy bridge is that they immediately:
- become a tourist attraction
- let folks know what was about to happen, and some folks began to hang around
None of the above assists in keeping the proposal being a surprise; quite the opposite!
Usually, when I shoot a surprise proposal, I use a long lens to be out of direct sight, but in this case, Beni wanted a cityscape backdrop that necessitated the use of a wide-angle lens. Using a short lens meant that I had to be close to my couple. The only way to achieve this would be to follow my couple closely and be behind them as the knee was dropped.
I saw Beni and Nida approach the bridge; I followed them. So far, so good. As we came to the staging site, a passerby wanted a close-up photo of the ‘Marry Me’ presentation and began to walk in front of Beni. She was about to insert herself, unknowingly, into the proposal. I made noise to catch her attention; as she turned to look at me, so did Beni. I waved her away, and she did (thank you). Beni saw his cousin – which was why Beni brought Nida to the bridge (followed by dinner)- and in doing so, he walked past the ‘Marry Me’ staging area and walked directly to his cousin Armel).
“…the best laid plans of mice and men.” ~ Robert Burns
I was now in the open but kept walking behind Beni and Nida. I hid my camera in my sports bag and walked past the three of them as they made their greetings, not making eye contact.
I did a u-turn and plotted a return to the staging area via the bridge’s lower level.
Walking towards me was the mother of two small kids who had been waiting on the proposal to begin. She said to me, “when is this going to happen?” Oh no! We were beside Nida (on the upper level, 4′ above us), who turned to look at us; I kept moving away from Nida.
Meanwhile, Beni walked over to the staging area, at last, and dropped to a knee. I was in position, but Nida was on the other side of the bridge, Beni caught her attention; she turned around and slowly walked toward Beni in complete shock as he proposed to her.
She was ecstatic.
After the proposal, we enjoyed a fun mini-engagement shoot after I caught my breath!
If you would like to learn more about surprise proposal photoshoots, pop-over to the Proposal/Engagement web page for details on pricing and lots of information for planning the perfect surprise proposal.
After photographing many, many, surprise proposals…
Never do anything different. A behaviour change will give the game away!