I was so excited when I received a message from James, a fellow Towson University graduate, whom I first met about four years years ago while I was photographing the band, Stacked Like Pancakes, in which he played trumpet. He was planning to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Maggie, in the near future, and he wanted it professionally photographed, along with an engagement session.
I am even more excited to feature their proposal story, as well as the photos I captured from this very special moment in Maggie and James’ lives. Here is the proposal story, written by James:
“I had planned for this day in my mind for months, and for a similar length of time in reality. Christa, the photographer, and I agreed on a particular weekend and the plan was set in motion! However, no plan in history has ever proceeded accordingly. As May 21st drew closer, the weather took a turn south and I found myself scrambling to change the date. Luckily Christa was available the day before, I was able to get a half day off work, and my girlfriend, Maggie, didn’t have any unshakable commitments.
I had been filled with anxiety and had not slept much for a few nights leading up to the event because of it. Even though this is something that Maggie and I had discussed extensively and I knew she was going to say yes, I couldn’t shake the horrible nauseating feeling that was constricting my heart. People said it’s a good thing though because it meant I cared about the execution and outcome, which I most certainly did.
I therefore “woke up” at 5am on the morning of the 20th and made sure not to wake Maggie up. I could not let her see the trail of surprises I was leaving for her before the time was right. That’s right, I had planned a scavenger hunt proposal for her! I was so excited and nervous. Maggie later told me that I had woken her up but luckily she didn’t come out and peek at anything. I then left without another sound and, since I had nowhere to be, tried to nap in my car in the local Walmart parking lot. At around 6:15 I got a call from Maggie, who sounded extremely concerned, asking me where I was. I was sure all this sneaking and secrecy were not doing me any favors. I told her to go look in the kitchen where she would find a bottle of her favorite brand of wine as well as the first in a series of letters. It said:
Good morning! It has always been a challenge to balance the “communication” aspect with the “surprise” aspect of this day, so I decided to include a little bit of both in my master plan. What is my master plan, you ask? You’re about to find out!
I have dedicated this entire day to you, the love of my life. Instead of trying to pop the question randomly out of the blue, I hope you and I can embrace the fun and excitement of getting engaged because I have planned your day for you! By finding one of your favorite brands of wine in the kitchen, and in turn this letter, you have completed the first task!
The next thing to do is to put on your cutest outfit and pack your green duffel bag (hint hint) for the weekend because you’ll be traveling a little earlier than expected (thanks for being flexible, I love you so much). I hope Ziggy [our cat] isn’t sitting on it in the living room because he’ll have to be moved.
I can’t wait to see you later today!
P.S. – THE RULES:
1) You must follow the schedule closely. Timing is everything!
2) When you read these letters, please record yourself doing so.”
I could hear her gasp on the other end of the line and couldn’t help but smile to myself as I listened to her voice get so excited. I told her that I couldn’t stay on the line because there was a lot to do and we had to get going. Once we hung up, she found the second letter in her duffel bag that she had packed for our trip to Baltimore for the weekend (I had told her it was just to catch up with some old college friends). The letter stated:
Congratulations, you have found the second task! I know you were worried about how your nails would look. Did you think I would let you get engaged with chipped, dirty nails? No ma’am! Only the best for my future missus.
You have an 11 o’clock appointment scheduled at Completely Polished, which is right down the road next to Monticello’s. The address is:
20325 Rte 19, Cranberry Twp, PA 16066
Use the cash provided to get a manicure!
I love you <3
I was at work by this time after taking myself out to a scrumptious breakfast and watched as Maggie kept excitedly texting me, hungrily asking for more details. It was so fun to keep the surprise from her and watch her freak out in anticipation. After her manicure I told her to check her car’s glove box, where she found the third letter:
You’re cookin’ now, you found the third task! Navigate to the address below (HINT: It’s a parking garage):
Charles Light Parking, 600 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
Yes, you read that right, you’re going to Baltimore! Please leave by 1pm to have enough time to navigate through rush hour. I recommend navigating with Google Maps. Once you’re parked, head over to the top of Federal Hill Park and look for the big American flag facing the harbor.
P.S. Enjoy a little lunch at Panera :P”
I had included a Panera gift card in the third letter and was a little jealous since I wanted some of my own, but this was Maggie’s special day so I could live with it. I allowed myself a half hour buffer between the time I left for Baltimore and the time she left. However, that day was the day my GPS decided to be too smart for its own good. After taking me off the Pennsylvania Turnpike 20 miles early, it decided to give me the extended tour of the western Maryland countryside. While the scenery was breathtaking, I had places to be so I was getting very antsy indeed. I ended up just barely showing up before her and had a little time to regroup with my photographer to finalize details such as where I was going to stand for the big moment.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Maggie showed up at the top of Federal Hill Park where I was waiting for her with the penultimate letter, which read:
Hi ☺ You’re standing right in front of me and looking the most beautiful that I have ever seen you.
Our love is based on giving and receiving, as well as having and sharing. And the love that we give and have is shared and received… just kidding, I’m not going to do that. [Friends reference]
I can’t believe it’s been over six years that we have known each other. We have accomplished and endured so much and I am proud to be the man that I am because of you. We bring out the best in each other and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. Today marks the most important decision that we will ever make together and on that note…”
I got down on one knee and said, “Maggie, I promise to love and cherish you till the day that I die, and I promise to do everything in my power to make you happy for the rest of your life. Maggie Spingola, will you marry me?”
She said yes through joyfully teary eyes and I felt the happiest that I had ever felt in my entire life. After so much planning, things had gone off without a relative hitch and I was so relieved. Maggie deserved to have the perfect proposal and I am ecstatic that I was able to give that to her. I had known for quite some time that Maggie is the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and everything is finally coming together. I look forward to the coming months of happiness, togetherness, and lots of wedding planning.”
Congratulations, Maggie and James! It was such an honor to capture this moment and exciting time for you both!