A “surprise proposal” seems a bit redundant, after all most people don’t expect to be proposed to when it happens, and that’s the idea after all. But the kind of surprise proposals I get most excited about are the ones that take it a step further, and hire me as a photographer to stake out the proposal location and secretly capture the big ask.

There’s something covert about the whole operation, it requires some stealth action on my part, and reminds me of my early days as a photojournalist for Greenpeace, working behind the scenes to snap quickly and efficiently without being seen. Life as a proposal photographer on Martha’s Vineyard is a bit more casual of course, and I often find myself crouched down in a patch of beach plums or quietly lying on my stomach in the sand (sometimes with my arch enemy, poison ivy lurking nearby) waiting for the perfect shot.

Recently, I’ve been contacted by more and more couples to photograph secret proposals and I think it’s a brilliant idea. The raw and honest emotion and excitement that follows the big question make for some of the most endearing moments I capture all year! 

For the couples we work with it’s a time they’ll never forget, and a story that will be told again and again. Having stunning proposal photos is the perfect way to relive the special occasion, plus they provide a meaningful memento to mark the very beginning of the couple’s next chapter together.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of assisting a client with a surprise proposal to his girlfriend on the beach. It was followed by a thoughtfully executed visit by two alpacas–which he had also secretly organized, given her affection for the friendly farm animals. Not only was I able to capture the initial shock and joy of the proposal, but the second surprise made for even more emotional photos–it’s not everyday you see an alpaca on the beach.

I’ve photographed secret proposals at some of my favorite portrait locations, including South Beach in Edgartown and further up-Island at a private beach in Chilmark, and each one has been a truly touching affair. Many have been followed by a second reveal, like an unexpected after party of friends and family to join in the celebration, making it that much more meaningful.

If you’re planning a secret wedding proposal ask yourself what types of environments and landscapes are important to your partner? Is there a place on Martha’s Vineyard that holds a significant meaning? Or maybe there’s a personal spot that’s totally out of the ordinary–we’ve even seen couples get engaged at the famous Jaws bridge! Wherever and however you’re thinking about proposing I can help you pull off a surprise proposal that you and your partner will be talking about for years.

Need some more inspiration? Check out some of the featured proposal stories on howheasked.com by The Knot.