Sarah and Joey’s surprise Mendocino proposal (and overall engagement day) was an absolute dream; these two are so real and fun and authentic. I guess that’s technically the same thing as ‘real’ but whatever, go with me here.
Joey inquired with me about six weeks before their planned trip to Mendocino where he would propose to Sarah. This small town on the coast held special memories for them; one of their favorite trips together had been there, so he figured what better place to ask her to return with him many times in the future as his life partner?
We talked on the phone about the couple of ideas he had: Would one specific beach work, logistically? And he was planning on having their families fly in as a surprise – did I have any ideas about how to work time with them into their afternoon? How would the timing of it all work? How would we keep both the surprise proposal and family reveal a secret until just the right moment? Was it possible to spend some time taking photos all together with family while out on the coast, in addition to the ones of Sarah and Joey? Oh, and, he was a sucker for black and whites; could I make sure to include lots of those?
Yes, yes, yes. (hell yes on that last one)
We hung up and I went to work. The beach that Joey had originally wanted to propose on wasn’t going to work for two important logistical reasons (he wanted their families to watch the proposal from a distance, and I needed ground cover so Sarah wouldn’t notice a strange paparazzi-looking woman pointing my telephoto camera at them – the beach he had in mind supported neither of those agendas), but I was able to find a bluff on the other side of town that worked out perfectly – and if I may say, even better. It had just rained, so no one was out there to disturb us for the two hours we were there; Sarah and Joey had an incredible vista point above the Pacific Ocean to enjoy all to themselves.
Once we had a location in place for Joey’s Mendocino proposal, we began work on timing for the afternoon. We coordinated secret plan on top of secret plan: what he would say to Sarah (or not say) to lead her out to the coast without suspicion, when each of us would arrive at the trail, how to ensure their family would arrive without tipping Sarah off that something was up. I drew up schematics like I was trying to solve a murder mystery, circling in digital red pen the area that he should lead her to for their picnic (at an ideal Goldilocks distance: not too far that my zoom lens wouldn’t reach, not too close where they’d be able to hear my shutter), where I would be hiding until after she said yes (which, of course, she obviously did).
After Sarah said yes, and I gave them a few moments alone to celebrate, Joey walked her over to point me out and introduce us. We exchanged tight hugs all around and wandered over the bluff for the first half of their portraits. After a short while, we brought their families over and celebrated with tears and champagne. Later on, their family headed over to Luna, a charming Italian restaurant in downtown Mendocino (another favorite spot of Joey and Sarah’s from past trips), while the three of us continued our galavanting on the coast.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to share the timeline I created for these two’s Mendocino proposal, juuuuust on the off chance you (the reader) find it helpful. In my experience, couples can often find it hard to visualize how photography coverage time is spent, and a real-world timeline helps give you some context for how things actually play out.
2:45 – begin photo coverage, Meg’s in place
3:00 – proposal
3:15 – Meg approaches + introduces herself
3:20 – couples photos PT I
3:40 – photos with family
4:10 – couples photos PT II
4:45 – start packing up to head to the restaurant
5:00 – arrive for dinner reservation, celebratory cheers
5:15 – end photo coverage
Eventually, we tore ourselves away (seriously, I could have gone on photographing happily for another two hours if they’d let me, they and the setting were that idyllic) and joined the rest of the group at Luna for the end cap of their Mendocino proposal and engagement day.
Months later, I’m still dreaming about this day; everything about it was joyful and perfect. It’s working with couples like Joey and Sarah that makes me shake my head in utter disbelief that this is my job. Joey had such an incredible vision for surprising Sarah on not only one but TWO counts, and I was so thrilled to be able to help him bring it all to life for the dreamiest Mendocino proposal I can imagine.