As a wedding photographer, I've had the opportunity photograph many love stories, but my favorite is without a doubt my sister's.
My sister, Elizabeth, and her fiancé, Rhys, met seven years ago at a nightclub in the Meatpacking District and have been inseparable ever since. Over the last seven years I've watched them make a home together with their dog in New York City. I patiently waited for Rhys to pop the question and make it official. I always secretly hoped I'd get to see the proposal in person.
My family loves to travel and last December we took a trip down to Antarctica with National Geographic over the holidays. On New Year's Day, Rhys knocked on my door and asked if he could talk to me. He told me that he'd like me to come on a hike with them so I could take some photos at the top of them together.
My response? "That's annoying, I don't want to take the hike. Make someone else do it." He started to look a little anxious and told me that I was the only one who could do it because I have the skills for it.
Suddenly it clicked that he wanted me to photograph their proposal and I started crying like a baby. I managed to pull myself together and make it up the mountain without giving it away. I've photographed dozens of proposals, and I have never seen a reaction quite like my sister's -- it was an amazing moment!
From the Groom:
Smuggling a ring across three continents and through multiple security checkpoints and borders wasn't going to be easy, but when we started planning our trip to Antarctica I knew that was the perfect place to propose. From the depths of the oceans to the tops of mountains, we had traveled the world together over the past seven years and where better to begin the next phase of our lives together than at the end of the Earth.
In early 2012, I sat down with Elizabeth's father who presented me with his mother's engagement ring. I was honored to have the opportunity to use this stone, as Elizabeth's grandfather was one of the most dedicated and loving husbands ever to walk this earth. I immediately accepted knowing that it would be incredibly meaningful to both Elizabeth and her family.
I took the fiery antique diamond to my jeweler, Justin Kulchinsky at Kristen Farrell, in early October to create the unique setting of Elizabeth's dreams. She had written a manifesto the size of the Gutenberg Bible called "Things I Like and Don't Like" to help guide me toward what she hoped for, since we had started to look at rings together earlier in the year (and continued to look at rings together long after the ring was in my hands, just to throw her off my trail). Justin and I spent an eternity together designing the perfect, totally unique ring.
On New Year's Eve, the expedition staff announced that we would be making our first landing on the Antarctic continent the next afternoon. Exactly as I had hoped for: the proposal would be on the continent itself on the first day of the new year. At lunch the next day, none of Elizabeth's family was interested in the hike so I secretly approached Rebecca, her sister and a professional photographer, to convince her to come because she was the only one I trusted to capture the moment. Fortunately, she was able to convince her parents to come as well without cluing them in to ensure the proposal would remain a surprise.
While I was scouting a quiet place away from the group, I saw Elizabeth and her mom walking back along the ridge toward the path down the mountain. I sprinted through the snow to catch up with them, and managed to pull Elizabeth aside at a lookout point near a crevasse. Flustered, I immediately forgot everything I had planned to say but managed to get a few words out while fumbling for the ring in my pocket. On one knee, I asked her to marry me -- after which I was immediately tackled into the snow. It was the best moment of my life.
From the Bride:
I had absolutely no idea he was going to propose. I mean, who in their right mind would bring a ring all the way to Antarctica!? In retrospect, he was being a bit possessive of his camera bag on our travels through Argentina, but I just figured it was because of all the pricey camera equipment he was toting around -- I had no clue there was something much more important in that bag!
I don't do so well on boats, and I spent most of our crossing from Argentina to Antarctica in the five feet between my bed and my bathroom. And then to top it off, I came down with a terrible cold. I was feeling pretty awful the morning of January 1st, and so when our crew announced that the hike that afternoon would be the most difficult of the trip, I told Rhys it ain't happening. He was so insistent that we go (even doing a little song and dance I call the "Let's Go on a Hike" number, which certainly cheered me up even if it didn't prove to be the cure for the common cold), and he eventually convinced me that I'd feel better out in the fresh air. He was right -- a rare occurrence -- and from the minute I stepped on to land the beauty and the sheer amazement of being on the continent of Antarctica made me totally forget that I was feeling miserable.
We hiked for about an hour, trudging up a mountain knee deep in snow to a colony of hundreds of penguins. Rhys was off taking pictures, seemingly ignoring me, and I got cold and was out of kleenex so decided it was time to trudge back down. How was I supposed to know he was scouting the perfect proposal location? But as soon as I started to make my way down, he came running up behind me and said he'd come with me. As we reached a look out point, he stopped us and wrapped me in his arms and started telling me how much he loved me. My immediate response was -- what do you want??? It's freezing! He was fishing around in his jacket pocket for a tissue because his eyes were watering from the wind (I was really not catching on at this point). But then he got down on one knee and instead of a tissue, out came the ring box! I was so shocked I couldn't believe the moment was happening. When he asked me to marry him, I lunged, literally tackling him into the snow. After a few moments of rolling in the snow crying and laughing, I looked up to see my parents and my sister running down the hill to join us. Having them there made the moment all the more special. It was a totally surreal, magical moment in my life -- the perfect setting, the perfect ring, and the perfect man to spend the rest of my life with.