Like most good conversations, alcohol played a major factor in my conversation with Will almost exactly a year ago. It was chilly in Charleston, SC on the day of Paige and Colby’s wedding, but we were out on the dock baring the elements with vodka there to warm our souls. Will and Ashley are good friends of Paige and Colby, so they attended the wedding as guests, and I was there to photograph the wedding. I sat on the sofa, casually sipping a cocktail while I took a break from shooting, and Will… who had been maybe not-so-casually-sipping… sat down beside me. He told me of his plans to propose to Ashley, and asked if I could make sure that I was involved so that it could be photographed. We tried hard to curb our enthusiasm since Ashley was just a few feet away from us, but my photographer-heart was elated! For one, I had never shot a surprise proposal before and for two, it was WILL & ASHLEY!!
Will and I texted for several months. We worked hard to try to come up with a plan of how to surprise Ash, but everything was veto’d because of one major element of non-surprise… Ashley knew me. If I “randomly” showed up at their nice dinner… or popped out of a bush while they took a romantic stroll, then Will’s cover would obviously be blown. So, we got a little bit more clever, and decided to do the exact opposite. We decided to make the photo shoot front and center. The photo shoot became our cover.
I faked a story to Ashley and one of her best friends, Olivia, who is also one of my beautiful brides, about needing to shoot something pretty for fun. I told her that I felt stifled and just needed something beautiful to photograph to get back into my groove. From there, it was planned that Olivia and Jace would get dolled back up in their wedding clothes, and I convinced Ash that I wanted to do more of a full bridal party… so I twisted her arm into being part of the shoot, and then Ashley twisted her sister’s arm and made her be in the shoot, as well!
I remember that Ash texted me one day saying that she couldn’t believe that Will was so on-board for the shoot, dare she say… excited even!! She thought that he would hate being asked to take photos for no damn reason in the middle of the desert on his day off… as most boyfriends would be. I quickly texted Will telling him that he needed to play the pissed off boyfriend card a little harder! ha ha ha!!! It was just so much fun to plan this proposal right under Ashley’s nose!!
There wasn’t a single hiccup in the plan. Nobody stuck any feet in their mouths. Nobody accidentally said too much. It all started off just nice and easy… a pretty shoot in the desert, just as we planned all along.
I absolutely died over this loose french braid that Your Beauty Call mastered on Olivia!! I also remember whispering to Olivia that I was just stalling time because I wanted to make sure that I played the “styled shoot” gag long enough…. ha ha ha!! And then it happened. The entire group and I had a key phrase for when we were going to isolate Will and Ashley. I was going to say that I wanted to do some bridal party photos without the married couple, and told them that they could take a break. As Jace walked by, I said… “Jace, do you think that you could grab me a water from the car?” That was it! That was the cue for them to beat it! :)
After a few shots of just Will and Ash, I told them that I wanted something different. I wanted a photo where they would walk into each other rather than just be side to side. So, I separated them and said that I’d count to 3 and then they could turn and walk before grabbing hands when they met.
And then WILL DID THIS! ha ha ha! So so so perfect. It might be my favorite photo of the entire day! So much excitement and anticipation was building for everyone involved… and then we got the thumbs up… it was go-time!
Will and Ash stood and talked for a moment… we couldn’t hear what he said exactly, but Ashley told us later that the first thing that he said to her was… “So, you know this isn’t actually a styled shoot, right?” And then he got down on his knee and asked her to spend her forever with him.
And…. she said yes!!! (Good thing, or this adorable card that She Paperie made for the shoot would have had to go in the garbage!!)
A family photo with Charlie, their pup, and a group photo finished off the time spent on the proposal, but Will wasn’t finished. He had another surprise up his sleeve! He whisked Ashley away to a HUGE surprise engagement party in which so so so many people had flown in to celebrate their amazing day… I mean, childhood friends were popping out from behind walls, and tears were being share by the bucketful! To say ‘amazing’ would be an understatement… ‘phenomenal’ too little of a word…. it was downright everything. It was a fairytale.
The crazy beautiful florals and floral DOG COLLARS were created by the floral goddess herself, Layers of Lovely!!