I really, really like photographing marriage proposals.
They are fun because the whole thing turns into a major stealth operation. Here is how it works: I get contacted, and I ask, "How are you picturing this? What's the setting?" Then I go into planning mode. I scout locations that provide what is requested, usually driving all over the Smokies, I take pictures, and then I prepare a report with suggested locations, like this.
Justin loves his Jenny. I know this because he wanted everything just right. He had some specifics in mind - a view of the mountains but easy access. In the SMokies, to get a mountain view, you either go up - which was not feasible here - or you find a broad valley. And Cades Cove fits that latter description.
So he and I planned. Emails back and forth. Worrying not only about the weather but whether the brush fires currently plaguing East Tennessee would factor into all of this (you can see from the picture above, the smoke has been bad). Add to that the fact that cell phone reception is pretty spotty in the Smokies due to the terrain, so settling on the logistics is critical, since at some point . . . we go dark.
Come on, every covert operation needs a name. And for Justin, he chose the picturesque LeQuire Cemetery in Cades Cove. A cemetery? Indeed - you cannot tell me that Ike LeQuire and his family were not tickled pink to see a special life moment taking place at their home. Dare I say I heard some ghostly cheering when Justin proposed?
But - would it all come together?
Justin did not waste much time getting down to business. I knew he wouldn't because I had heard from him several times how eager he was to pop the question.
Lord have mercy, the sun was out and the sky was clear for these two!
Now, a question I always get asked is "What if she sees you?" That is not a problem, especially in the Smokies. As a middle aged woman, well . . . I am sort of "invisible." And as a lawyer, I can spin a yarn with a straight face. Justin and I had a plan, to ensure all the right players were in place. As he and Jenny passed me, he asked me, "What is this over here?" I replied and then asked, "You folks visiting?" When he said "Yeah, from Texas," we both knew the game was on. So when Jenny asked, "What are you taking pictures of?', as my camera was out, I easily told a tale . . . "Oh, I am a genealogist with the University of Tennessee. We're doing a field study on the older cemeteries to document them before information is lost forever . . . "
Look, it's not technically a lie. I am documenting history. Jenny just did not know it was hers. And she laughed when she found out the truth.
Afterwards, Jenny and Justin graciously gave me the time to do some portraits of them, on this the day they became engaged. And I found them both to be absolutely charming, especially Jenny's laugh. She warned me, she doesn't do "serious" well and Justin agreed, saying that her sunny outlook is always shining.
And, of course, the ring!
So join me now, in a salute to Justin and Jenny! May they know years of health, happiness, and prosperity together! I think it is wonderful that their friends and family back in Texas will be able to share this moment through these images, and I hope that these also become a future person's treasure, to be able to see this history of their family.
May God bless this wonderful couple!