Wow, where do I begin telling the story that truly began the best chapter of my life!? Well, I suppose like any good story I should start at the beginning with a little bit of history, as that will take us to the end of the story. I met CheyAnne while attending Western Kentucky University in 2002 as we were both pursuing degrees in Photojournalism. My reason for leaving my beloved hometown is because I wanted to become a good enough photojournalist so I could land a job at The Times Picayune and live, work, and play in the only city I would ever consider spending the rest of my life. I used to always play CheyAnne the song by Cowboy Mouth entitled “New Orleans” and comment that while I love you and this is great and all, I’m moving back to Nola once I’m done here at WKU. For those unfamiliar with the song, the main part of the lyrics are “take me back to New Orleans, and drop me at my door. ‘Cause I may love you yeah, but I love me more.” A bit harsh and selfish? Sure. But at that time CheyAnne hadn’t spent 9 years with me shaping me into a much less selfish person 🙂
Time goes by while at WKU and our relationship has its ups and downs, as most great ones do. She ultimately beats me in getting to Nola when she’s accepted to LSU’s masters program in sociology, which was her other major at WKU. I certainly wasn’t expecting that to happen! I was living in Nashville at the time, and there she goes becoming a Tiger girl! Well, our relationship continues to progress and I eventually make it back to Nola right after Katrina and start to set up the wedding photography business, eventually moving to the Warehouse District and for the first time in many years, living together in the same place for an extended period of time since I was no longer traveling all over with Sports Illustrated on a weekly basis. That’s when we really started to build a stronger relationship and were able to truly begin to understand each other, and I eventually learned that there’s no way I could ever live without her.
So how does a wedding photographer propose to another wedding photographer, that have been dating for 9 years?! By this time she’s certainly expecting it, and I’m probably one bad date night away from getting told to shit or get off the pot 🙂 But I had so many issues to deal with in planning the proposal……we live together, we work about 6 ft. from each other, we know everything about each other’s daily schedule so how am I supposed to get the ring made without raising suspicion, and how do I pop the question in such a way that it can be photographed and be epic enough to stand up to the standards that were expected since we’re in the wedding business? Geez, I’m exhausted again just typing all of that! It all actually came to me one night while trying to go to sleep, and I honestly can’t remember how the idea came to be, but here’s what I decided.
While my brother Kevin was in Iraq I attended a fundraising concert at Tipitina’s where I bid on, and won, a one-hour solo acoustic set with Fred LeBlanc, lead singer of Cowboy Mouth. I knew my brother would be retuning in December right around the time of his birthday so I thought a party with Fred playing would be a great way to welcome him home and wish him a happy birthday. As the plans for the party started to develop, it went from a small gathering on our condo’s rooftop to a 3 hour event at Nola Brewery and ending with a surprise brass band appearance. I eventually realized that would be the perfect opportunity to propose without her even considering that it would happen that night, and with one of her best friends and her husband already being good friends with my brother, it wouldn’t look strange to invite them so she would have at least someone very close to her as part of this special occasion. Even though I was funding and throwing the party for my brother, I still made sure to ask him before he made it home permanently, if he minded me doing it that night because I certainly didn’t want to take away from welcoming him home, etc. He thought it was a fabulous idea, and so that phase of planning began.
The schedule of the party was to have mingling and greeting of Kevin for the first hour, Fred playing the 2nd hour and the brass band blowing out the brewery for the final hour. Towards the end of Fred’s set, he was to play the song “New Orleans”. As the song nears the end, the chorus I mentioned above starts to repeat. Just before starting that chorus I casually walked over to mic and interrupted Fred, at which point CheyAnne is trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing! I started to explain to Fred and everyone there that I loved that song and it holds a great deal of meaning to myself and CheyAnne and the history of the song for us. I went on to explain that while I loved that song, I thought the lyrics weren’t quite right and needed a bit of tweaking. Rather than saying “I might love you yeah, but I love me more,” they should go more like “I might love ME yeah, but I love YOU more!” It was then that I dropped to a knee to propose to the most incredible woman in the world. What was even better, Fred started playing the song again right where he left off, singing the new lyrics! And I managed to have our good friend and local photographer Chris Williams with Zoeica Images there to photograph the entire thing, and Joe Taravella with Studio Vieux Carre to film it, all under the assumption to CheyAnne that they were to document Kevin’s party. (which ultimately they were, but this was an added bonus!) I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am to Chris and Joe for documenting that evening for us. I have the image below printed as an 11×14 on my desk, as it’s the perfect moment of a face she makes when she’s totally happy, and one that I know so well, but have no recollection of actually seeing it that night. Everything becomes such a blur when you’re so emotional, but I have those images along with Joe’s’ incredible video to relive that wonderful evening. We finished up the night with an after-party of our friends in the Prayer Room of House of Blue’s Foundation Room, and CheyAnne and I were the last ones home that night. I’ll never forget walking back to the hotel in the French Quarter at about 3am and the streets being completely empty, and we were just glowing!
A couple of interesting stories during the entire process……..in the beginning of the ring design process, Aucoin Hart decided to call me with a few questions. As I said earlier, we work about 6 ft. from each other, so it wasn’t the easiest call to get through! They quickly added a note to my file to only communicate via email 🙂 On the day of the party I’m running all over like a crazy person getting things set up at the brewery, making sure the food and drinks were getting delivered on time, etc. and trying to get the ring over to the brewery so it’s not on me the entire day. CheyAnne will sometimes reach into my front pants pocket (ok, slap yourself on the hand for that thought you naughty person) to get my keys if my hands are full. On that particular day, the best place to hide the ring while in transport was my wallet in my back pocket. At some point she decides to reach for my back pocket and I literally fly off the handle shouting a few expletives, basically asking what H**&^ll are you doing in my back pocket! I think she was slipping a receipt or something to me, but that’s probably the last time she’s reached for my wallet. It all made a lot more sense to her later that night. It’s always so funny for us to hear our new couples tell us their engagement story because more often than not, the day usually starts off in a fight because he’s trying to get her to do something she may not want to, but it’s all part of the element of surprise and he’s about to go nuts with nervousness and anxiety of what he’s about to do!
I’d now like to talk just a bit about the entire experience from a groom’s perspective and explain a few things to the bride. I feel as if this may give some insight to brides as to why us groom’s aren’t as eager to jump right into wedding planning the day after the proposal. If you’ve made it this far into the story, you realize there was a lot of planning and secrecy involved, and to maintain the element of surprise, I couldn’t share it all with practically anyone. So once we’ve finally succeeded with our plan, we’re generally pretty emotionally exhausted and ready for a break. Meanwhile, y’all are just starting to ride your emotional high (which btw, typically lasts around 2 months) and you get to share everything along the way! So please excuse us if we just need a little bit of time to get our second wind and chip in with the planning efforts 🙂
A tip for our guys that are working proposal plans…..if it’s possible to have it secretly documented, do it. Reach out to us as we have big zoom lenses, or any friends that may be present but you trust enough to share the surprise with. Also, plan to allow time after popping the question for her to call everyone in her phone book.
Up Next — Discussing the Budget……