This is how to plan the ultimate wedding proposal and engagement experience. Story and words by Brad Zapenas and photography by David Welch Photography.
Martha’s Vineyard has always been Charlotte’s favorite place in the world. She went there every summer growing up, and it’s always been her dream to get married there. This past summer, I was thinking to myself, 2020 is coming, and nothing would be more spectacular than having a 2020 Martha’s Vineyard Wedding. To make that happen, I knew I needed to start planning our engagement, and wanted to take advantage of summer on the Vineyard, but my time was running out.
I booked the Harbor View Hotel, a place Charlotte and I both have always wanted to stay. I figured if I was going to propose in front of the Edgartown Lighthouse, staying at the Harbor View would be ideal. However, I needed to come up with a plan that would be memorable and mysterious since she may have an idea a proposal was coming since we were making the trip to the Vineyard.
Weeks before the proposal, I bought the ring from a longtime friend and work client Bellman Jewelers in Manchester, NH. It was customized and came out absolutely gorgeous. I reached out to David Welch, who was so responsive and even talked to him that day about our proposal. I booked David to be at our proposal, and also to capture our engagement photos right afterwards, and he was so helpful from that first conversation leading all the way up to the proposal.
I was also told by Charlotte’s friend Chelsea that she had her eye on two dresses recently, one from Zara and one from Reformation. I figured I would surprise her with these dresses and we can capture the proposal in one and use them for our engagement photos. I also needed to think of a way to get Charlotte down to the Lighthouse from the Hotel, so I came up with the idea of an engagement video to one of our favorite songs, “God, Your Mama, and Me” by Florida Georgia Line and the Backstreet Boys. In the beginning of the music video, the artists are taking selfie videos about going to meet their wives, so I figured let’s show that then show photos of Char and I from the past, plus I will take selfie videos when asking her Dad and Mom for their blessings. I also did a selfie with Alex Bellman from Bellman Jewelers when I bought her ring, and the final video was at my late father’s baseball field, where I told him I would be marrying my best friend. At the end of the video, I told Charlotte that while she is watching this, I am actually on my way down to the lighthouse and that when she is ready, to come outside and find me because I can’t wait to meet my wife at the beach.
The video came out amazing with help from my videographer at work, and my plan had a lot of moving parts, but I was excited to make it happen. Just before 6pm on Saturday evening, August 24, 2019, we are in our hotel room at the Harbor View overlooking the Edgartown Lighthouse. I first surprised Charlotte with the two dresses, which she is head over heels for. I then tell her we have a reservation at 6pm for dinner and to start getting ready, but tell her she needs to stay in the bathroom. While she’s in the bathroom getting ready, I setup the bed with rose pedals, printed out photos from the video and put on the bed, I setup the laptop on the bed, and I brought her teddy bear and had him hold a note card that read “Press Play”. I also ordered a sign on Etsy for our engagement photos that read “See you on the Vineyard September 5, 2020” and put that on the bed as well.
Just before 6pm, I texted David Welch, who was outside the Harbor View waiting for me with his assistant Olivia. I told Charlotte I had to go downstairs, and at first, she was nervous, but I just left the room. I met David and Olivia, and we walked down to the Lighthouse. The weather that evening just before sunset was absolutely stunning. I couldn’t have picked a better night to make this happen, and even David said it was some of the best lighting of the season. We were at the lighthouse, when Olivia said that she saw Char walking down, and at that moment, I got butterflies, and knew my proposal plan couldn’t have gone any better. David captured our proposal, as well as our engagement photos that evening in both Charlotte’s dresses plus two outfits I had picked out from Vineyard Vines to match Char’s dresses.
All of the photos came out absolutely stunning. David did an incredible job and we are so happy he will be part of our 2020 Martha’s Vineyard Wedding. That night in Edgartown was a night we will never forget, and it still gives me butterflies thinking about making it all come together the way it did. It was picture perfect.
Thank you Brad and Charlotte! I'm looking forward to photographing your Martha's Vineyard wedding this fall!