I've always wanted to take part in a surprise photoshoot, and I've been dropping not-so-subtle hints to my best friend's boyfriend for a while that I'd love to help him out when it was time to propose. I wouldn't go so far as to say this was my idea—that honor does, of course, go to Jacob, my best friend Mandy's now-fiancé—but I can't say this hadn't crossed my mind.
Mandy and Jacob have been dating since meeting at a mutual friend's brunch. That mutual friend? Me! But this isn't about me. They met when we were in school in southern New Mexico, and have seen each other through graduate school, law school, and four cats! All six of them (two humans and four cats) live in a townhouse in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, where I've had the opportunity to visit a few times. It's a completely different world from where we grew up in the desert, but they've made it their home.
Jacob called me up, speaking rather rapidly, asking if I'd be willing to come to Baltimore from Houston to photograph him proposing to Mandy on June 20th. Mandy and I, along with our other best friend Kathy, are planning on meeting in Baltimore on June 28th, so I asked if he knew that I was already going to be flying there the next week. He said yes, he did know that; however, June 20th was the date he was going to be sworn in as an attorney-at-law by the State of Maryland. Jacob had been waiting to propose to Mandy once he was finished with his education and certification to become a lawyer, and June 20th would finally be the end of that chapter. On June 20th, he would close the law education door and open the marriage one (though I'm sure the law education door never truly closes).
Do you remember that Kristen Wiig sketch on SNL where she plays Sue, the woman who can't handle knowing a surprise? She has the best of intentions and almost spoils all the surprises people fill her in on. It's not just about not keeping the secret, but the physical reaction she has—"OH MY GOD! SHE IS GOING TO BE SO HAPPY!"—and then she rolls and writhes on the floor, trying to keep the secret in. Well, that was me. Being in constant text conversation with someone who you're keeping a lovely surprise from is pretty difficult.
I flew in very late on Monday night, arriving at my Annapolis, Maryland hotel around 2:00am. I was almost too excited to sleep, but I did manage to catch about four hours of sleep before my alarm went off, waking me to check in for the next day's homebound flight to Texas. After that, I had hoped to catch another hour of sleep, but that was impossible. I got up and cleaned my camera gear and called a Lyft over to the Maryland Courts of Appeal, where Jacob was getting sworn in with Mandy as his primary guest. At first, we'd thought I would go into the ceremony and watch from the gallery, but after some hemming and hawing about the plan, I wound up waiting outside on the stairs. I was hiding behind my camera and a long lens, not wanting Mandy to see me when she stepped out. I was positive the security guard thought I looked suspicious (though he never said anything) and at one point, an elderly woman asked me to help her up the stairs, which I was sure would blow my cover!
Finally, people started to pour out of the building, and then there they were! Mandy was too distracted by wanting Jacob to line up for a photo in a certain spot to notice that Jacob was walking her right up to me. Then I took the camera out from the front of my face and said, "Hi!"
She said, "Uh! Andrea?! What are you doing here?"
I replied, "I'm here on business!"
Then Jacob hurriedly pulled out the placeholder ring he'd run by Kathy, me, and I'm sure some of his friends and family, and said, "Mandy, will you marry me?" Mandy took a second to process everything that was happening, and said yes. And then she started to laugh!
The day then turned into a bit of a photoshoot. Mandy had dyed her hair blue-black only two days before and was suddenly very aware of that. Over the course of the day, Mandy kept asking, "This is just the engagement day shoot, right? There will be an engagement photoshoot?" And Jacob and I both agreed that that was fair. Mandy's the kind of person who would be sure to get a really good night's sleep before having a lot of photos taken of her (if she could help it). None of us had gotten the kind of rest we really would have liked the night before, not least the fact that Jacob and I were both anticipating a pretty big day ahead of us. So, we went out and still got some photos around the parts of Annapolis and Baltimore that were easily accessible. There was a harbor and the Baltimore Streetcar Museum junkyard. It was a fun place for a photoshoot, but I'm glad to say that we're going to find some more... bridal spots for an engagement photoshoot soon.