Phil’s Surprise Proposal to Melanie at the Castle Hill Inn, Newport

This surprise proposal was pretty straightforward; nothing untoward, for which I am thankful, but there was still work to do!

Phil was from out-of-state and had never been to The Castle Hill but based on the photography on my website, this was to be the spot for his magical moment.

We spoke on the phone; I explained the layout of the Castle Hill Inn and recommended that he propose at the edge of the Inn’s magnificent lawn, and after the proposal, we would walk to the Castle Hill lighthouse.castle hill inn layout

The area around the lighthouse is more suitable for intimate images without an audience. We would also have access to picture book scenery.

After our call, I sent Phil this image to reconfirm the layout and identify where I wanted him to propose. I also suggested that he encourage Melanie to wear ‘sensible’ shoes as we would have a short trail to walk on to access the lighthouse.

When we spoke, the weather forecast was calling for rain, and I suggested that we reconnect on Friday to assess the weather, but the rain moved out and the day of the proposal looked glorious.

On the day of the proposal, Phil and I both shared our locations via iPhone’s FindMe app. I find this invaluable as we will both know each other’s location.

Being a beautiful day, I opted to drive my Wrangler, not the most elegant vehicle to take to The Castle Hill, but perfect for the day at hand (and parking at Newport’s Cliff walk for my second-afternoon shoot.)

When I left home, I shared my ETA, and off I went. I have lived in Rhode Island for 22 years and driving over the two bridges to get to Newport still excites me with its beauty.

Traffic in the City-by-the-sea was nuts, 30 minutes to travel to Newport and 25 minutes for a few miles further to the Inn. I pulled up to valet parking and looked in the lot Porche after Porche after Mercedes. When I was asked to park in the employee’s lot (which made sense), I had an inner smile.

The Castle Hill Inn’s employees’ customer service skills are outstanding; it is a truly fantastic place.

The Yellow Jeep and I parked as designated, but that too was a treat to view the Inn’s vegetable and flower gardens. I had arrived before my client, perfect. When I reached the lawn, as expected on a beautiful day, it was very busy. I found a quiet spot just off the main area; I took a couple of test shots; now, I waited on my couple.

Phil and Melanie arrived around 2 pm, and we planned that he would propose around 2:30 pm. I checked my GPS and confirmed that he had arrived, but I could not see him. I left my gear and walked around but could not see him. Earlier in the day, Phil sent me a selfie of them to let me recognize them.walk to the castle hill lighthouse

I received a text saying, “Do you see me?”

I looked around, and still, the answer was no, at which point my phone rang. Phil stepped out to talk to me; I could now see him. As we spoke, I walked to the edge of the lawn to mark where I would like him to propose; we were ready.

I walked back to my hiding spot, and Phil walked back to the outdoor bar.

The challenge Phil now faced after obtaining seats at the bar with a magnificent view was persuading Melanie to leave her chair with a view! The challenge with a surprise proposal involves three parties, one of which has no idea what is planned!

Phil sent me a text, “Going to try and start the walk.”

I saw them, put on my backpack, and picked up my bag with my EOS 1Dx fitted with an EF70mm to 200mm f/2.8 lens, a perfect combination for what was required today. I walked across their path, anticipating that they were walking to the spot I had pointed out to Phil but not so quick, there were going in a different direction. I had asked Phil to go to the corner where the Adirondack chairs would not be an obstacle, but he opted for 20 yards to the right, which meant that I would have to work amongst the chairs; so be it!

They spoke for a few minutes, then Phil dropped to his knee, and all the folks in the Adirondack chairs on the lawn cheered.

Was it a surprise? The day prior, Melanie was asking Phil about their future together. Phil had the ring for 6-weeks and had to keep quiet and play defense during the discussion.

It was a surprise!

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!