Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Imagine the scene – only a few days before Christmas, the sky is a milky gray and the air is crisp, as though it could threaten to snow at any moment. Chris and Chelsea are in town for their second dating anniversary, reliving their first date almost 8 years prior. However, Chelsea had no idea what they were really back in Charlottesville for.
They met as students at the University of Virginia and went on a few dates, but things never got serious. Years later, they reconnected and began dating again. Now, after two years of dating, Chris took Chelsea to Charlottesville to all the same spots they went as undergrads, what must have seemed like a lifetime ago.
After grabbing dumplings at Marco and Luca’s, a local student favorite, they headed over to Miller’s Bar on the Downtown Mall. The night of their first date, the place was too packed to even get in. But this day, in the early afternoon hours, there was no problem getting a table.
They sat down and had a drink. Conversation flows naturally about that date so many years ago, as Chris nervously gulps down his drink and Chelsea unsuspectingly sips away at hers.
A few minutes in, but what I’m sure seemed like three or four weeks to Chris, the waitress came over and let them know about the bands that will be playing that evening, then drops the pre-planned statement. Everyone in the room but Chelsea recognized the code words; the operation had begun.
“We were supposed to have some musical guests playing some jazz during the lunch hour, but they didn’t show up. Neither of you play sax, do you?”
“Uhh, yeah, I do.” Said Chris with a look of bemusement at Chelsea. “Why?”
“Well,” continued the waitress, executing her lines perfectly, “If you’d like to give it a shot, you’re welcome to go play! There’s a little table up on stage for your lady friend to sit at and everything.”
Chris and Chelsea look at each other, almost laughing. Trying to muster up the most spontaneous and nonchalant voice he has in his arsenal, Chris laughed, “Sure, why not!”
Less than a minute later, Chris was on Miller’s packed and neon-lit stage, and Chelsea was sitting at the table nearby. Magically enough, Millers just happens to have a Bluetooth speaker waiting on the stage, and Chris just happens to have the piano accompaniment to one of Chelsea’s favorite songs already pulled up.
The song began, and as Chris played smooth and strong notes over the piano’s tune, Chelsea’s giggles turned to shock as it began to dawn on her what was happening. He finished his song and grabbed her hands. He spoke to her about their first date so many years ago, among many other things that only the two of them will ever know. Immediately after he dropped to one knee, Chelsea followed him, unable to stand under the weight of her excitement.
She cried the words, “Yes, yes!” over and over again.
It wasn’t until after she stood and embraced her new fiancée that she noticed the stranger frantically snapping photos of her. I introduced myself, and Chris and I begin to answer all of her “How did you?!” and “When did you?!” and “Does my dad know?!” questions.
Afterwards came the real fun. I had the privilege of walking down Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall with these two, listening to the mixed excitement and relief welling out of both of them. Chelsea had the characteristic wide-open eyes and ear-to-ear smile of any girl who’s left hand just got a bit heavier. Chris had the classic relief as though he’d just finished his first marathon and was ready for a nap, both of which I could relate to.
Being a portrait photographer by training, this was my favorite part of that late winter afternoon. We spent some time in front of the massive Christmas Tree near the Paramount Theater, where I got to capture the excitement and passion that was welling up inside the young couple. They were getting married! And I had the privilege of spending the first 30 minutes of their engagement with them.
Their love for each other was evident in the number of times they embraced, and in the care that Chris had obviously gone through to make things right with Chelsea’s family. He had done things exactly the way she had hoped for, and the way that they looked at each other told me all I needed to know.
Sometimes, you can just recognize love when you see it.
The best part of the surprise was that it wasn’t even over. Unbeknownst to Chelsea, both of their families awaited them at the Boathouse at Rocket’s Landing, a beautiful and modern seafood restaurant that overlooks the James River in Downtown Richmond. The best part? I edited my favorite six photos, so that by the time they arrived in Richmond, they already had pics to show their families.
Check out more proposal photos like Chris and Chelsea in our portfolio HERE!
Getting engaged soon and need a photographer? Contact us HERE and we’ll help you plan!
It’s always an affirming experience when our photography is featured on other websites – especially on a website as big and well-known as Shutterfly! Check out a post that they did on Christmas engagements HERE, and note who’s photo made spot number 2!
Wedding Photography & Photography Education
Charlottesville, Virginia and Beyond