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Proud pup mom, type A creative, lover of the outdoors, Top Chef fan girl, and wedding and portrait photographer. Welcome to the blog!
HI, I'M RACHEL!
Wow! It’s so exciting and surreal to be writing this post! Today I’m sharing all about our very own D.C. War Memorial proposal story!!!
I have photographed over 30 surprise marriage proposals throughout my career. And I remember each and every one of them! It has been super surreal and fun to be on the other side of the equation and camera. And I’m so delighted I get to share our story with you, thanks to these beautiful photos by Jon Fleming Photography.
My fiancé, Brian, popped the question last week, on the anniversary of the day we first met. As you may have seen, we’ve had a really challenging year (OK… kind of a nightmare of a year). So when he said he was planning a surprise on our anniversary, I was excited to be doing something special and fun. Plus, I love surprises!
He let me know two of the activities because I needed to prepare: a photo session and an overnight stay in Annapolis. I honestly wasn’t feeling well at all in the days leading up to our anniversary, so I wasn’t able to put much thought into what we were doing and trusted he had everything worked out. Which he most certainly did!
Luckily I had the perfect dress to wear to the photo session! It was a dress Brian had bought me maybe a month or so ago while we were in Old Town Alexandria. I spotted it from the window display at Lou Lou, and he offered to get it for me. So sweet! With the way the photo session worked out, I’m so glad I was wearing a dress he treated me to. It adds an extra sentimental touch to the photos and the occasion.
The day of our anniversary he showed up looking so dapper and handsome! He planned for us to leave so that we could take our time, find parking, and leisurely walk to the location. He finally let know we were going to the D.C. War Memorial. I actually wasn’t expecting that at all! It got me that much more excited for the photos because it’s my fav memorial and fav place to take photos in the city. I’ve photographed so many beautiful weddings and photo sessions there. It’s such a special place and the light is always good. Plus he and I have a little photo memory moment there from a winter’s night when we walked around the monuments. We propped up my phone and set the timer so we could take a photo.
If I’m being completely honest, I was a bit suspicious that he might be about to propose! With everything else going on, we hadn’t discussed it much at all. So I wasn’t suspecting it because it had been a topic of discussion. But more because of little oddities in the days leading up to the photo session. He wouldn’t tell me who the photographer was, plus he was pretty anxious on the day-of. He was being fairly quiet and he’s usually pretty talkative. Plus, I’ve helped plan so many proposals, so I know how a person acts when they’re about to propose. When the photographer arrived and I saw it was Jon Fleming – THE proposal photographer – I knew for sure!
We started taking some posed photos, and about 20 seconds in, Brian looked at me and said, “do you know what today is really about?” And I was like, “ummm… our anniversary?” And then he got down on one knee (cue the tears!) and said, “Will you marry me?”
As emotional as I was, this moment is wonderfully frozen in my mind. Let’s back up to earlier in the day. As I mentioned, I hadn’t been feeling well. And I knew I had several really wonderful things coming up: celebrating our anniversary – a photo session plus an overnight in Annapolis, and my brother and sister in law are about to have a baby any day now. Like I said, it’s been a nightmare of a year – and I realized I’m honestly not well practiced in experiencing good things/news lately. And it’s hard to be in the moment when you don’t feel well. So I took a few moments to check in with myself and ask what I could do to fully experience and enjoy some good things. I told myself: eye contact, appreciation, and presence.
So when Brian asked me to marry him – before I responded, I said, “wait.” I took a moment to look him in the eye, be in my body, be in the moment, appreciate what was happening, hold on to those seconds in time. Well then I started crying more and could only nod my head to say yes. He placed the stunning ring on my finger and swept me up in a hug! We took a few moments to ourselves, before I pointed at Jon and said, “I knew it!” hahaha!
From there we took more photos – ahh I just love these photos! It’s so fun to see myself in the moment, on the other side of the camera, enjoying myself, feeling love and loved. And to see us together in such a romantic, milestone moment. I so appreciate Brian putting the thought and care into making sure those moments were photographed by an experienced, talented photographer. We’ll cherish these photos forever.
Once we finished the photo session, we drove home to get Milli for our drive to Annapolis. We were so excited to tell her the news! She was excited to see us, but I’m not so sure she cared much about what we had to tell her! haha She was more focused on begging for a treat!
We drove to Annapolis and stayed at the cutest historic hotel, the Governor Calvert House. The next day we took our time walking and driving around Annapolis and Eastport. While there, we posted a few of our sneak peek photos on Instagram. When we checked on the post about 30 minutes later, so many people had commented with well wishes – it literally brought me to tears. I may have ugly cried on a bench in State House Circle! It’s been such a long, hard year, it felt so good to have something beautiful to share. And to receive so much love from my community was heartwarming, touching, and life affirming. I so appreciate every single person who took the time to write thoughtful, heartfelt messages.
It was just the most perfect, wonderful experience! Brian planned a beautiful two days for us filled with surprises, quality time, delight, love – all the things!
To my fiancé: You’ve been here providing strength, comfort, faith, protection, and love. You are so strong and you’ve been a pillar. Your humor has been a light. Your heart knows no bounds. And I’m excited to continue to grow alongside you as your partner in life. Love you.
Now to the photos! All images are by Jon Fleming Photography.
These were the moments of what I thought was just a regular photo shoot. When he asked, “do you know what this day is really about?”
The above photo is the eye contact moment.
Love this epic portrait! P.S. the rose petals were there when we got there from someone else’s event! How serendipitous!
He said, “I want to pick her up and twirl her in the air!” haha I want extra credit for that dip kiss because of the hip pain I’ve been experiencing! haha That was so challenging but I’m glad we got it!
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Rachel is a wedding and portrait photographer
Serving brilliant, elegant couples in Washington D.C. + Beyond
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