You know what they say about taking your work home with you, right? I do too. But that clearly didn't stop me.
Artwork by Neil Slorance
As a wedding photographer you get to spend a lot of your time surrounded by love. Not so much as 'being loved because you're the photographer', but you are witness to it constantly. You capture it. You enhance it. You're part of it. Getting to see the entire process from A to Z is also a really unique experience to being in this industry. There's not many types of work, let alone photography that have such a life cycle aspect to it. Having had the pleasure of photograph proposals, engagement sessions, and of course weddings - I've seen the evolution of love amongst couples.
So when I began dating my girlfriend - you could imagine how keeping a work-life balance was important. Not to say that I was some cold-hearted, callow companion to hers - but in every moment we shared where my heart tried to run off with hers, my brain would chime in. And not in the typical juxtapose we've seen before - but a voice of reason that wanted to savor said moment instead of running away with it. I really did want the 'think' about it, knowing that at some point in the future my heart would be content.
2016 was a year for life's record book. After falling for said girl, we took a trip to New York where she met my sister, then I introduced her to the rest of my family, then we took a testing pilgrimage to Burning Man, and immediately after that we traveled through Europe for 3 weeks - where I was introduced to her family. Every perfect moment and every imperfect moment was a fleeting moment for the heart, and a humbling reminder to the brain. The pieces to the puzzle were starting to form a picture bigger than I had ever seen before and brain began thinking about it at great length.
We arrived back in LA in October 2016 with the typical 'crash-bang-thud' one would experience after an elongated vacation. While she thought I was simply adjusting back to life, I was actually getting brain and heart in sync on their first real mutual decision. Within a week I had acquired a shiny piece of metal and had a Facetime session with her family in London seeking their approval. With delusions of grandeur spinning through my mind, I was conjuring up elaborate ways to propose that would surely find it's way into a movie some day. Maybe I could do it at ComicCon - where we would no doubt be dressed in full Spider-Man & Silk attire?! Hell, maybe I could get the organizers in on it and have them lower me down from the rafters in front of thousands of people? I got an email back: 'No.' ComicCon came and went but we still had an 'amazing' time to say the least.
Then I had this wild idea to create a full shot-for-shot remake of a post-credits music video from one of our favorite movies 'Just Friends'. The irony of the title and our own paralleled love story is hilarious (again, one day a movie of its own) and having coincidentally met the writer of that movie in New York last year created this nostalgic uber-over-the-top proposal idea that I simply ended up lacking the time and resources to pull off in a way that would have done it justice. All the while this shiny piece of metal was constantly stowed away in either the fire safe in the house or the spare tire well in the back of my car. Both carried with them a greater amount of nightmare-inducing stress than I ever could have imagined.
As we approached Christmas I was running low on ideas and inspiration and thought perhaps Christmas morning would be a good time. Last minute I cancelled that plan and decided to hold out for something else. On the 7th of January we had a celebratory dinner at The Little Door to reminisce the 1 year anniversary of having moved in together [as friends]. As valet took my car, I passed on that opportunity as well, knowing that 1) She wouldn't like being proposed to in front of a bunch of strangers, and 2) Seriously, how many ways can you accidentally drop your fork to set up that scene? However, the night was fun-filled and included the opportunity to meet and shake hands with Jim Carrey, who had a chuckle at the expense of our love story and passed on the wisdom that 'the world favors the female'.
February was on the horizon and I began to see my golden opportunity to make my move. With her birthday, our anniversary, and Valentines Day all happening within 4 days of each other I knew there wouldn't be a better time. Some may say this was the sure-fire way to lump all celebrations into one single month and never be at the mercy of forgetting dates - others may call it financial suicide. Maybe it's a bit of both? I'll let you know in my February 2018 blog post 'Tax Season'.
The wheels were set in motion and I started my orchestration of the scheme at hand. Roping her closest state-side friends in on it I faked a rather dramatic battle of the ego's between one of her friends and I over who gets to spend her birthday (Saturday the 11th) with her. The friend of course won, and that helped lower the first veil of lies over my girlfriends eyes (that sounds more ominous and dark than it really was, promise). Another friend pretended she wasn't going to be in town, and I was left with the night before her birthday to celebrate. Friday came with a very traditional celebratory accord - dinner and an art gallery. A great time, and just enough fun for her to be entirely unsuspecting of Saturday's true event.
Saturday morning, her friends arrive shortly after I leave the house to 'go to the gym'. The pick her up and surprise her with brunch, only to be further surprised by 2 other friends, including the 'out of town' friend mentioned earlier. So at this point the surprises have been stacked and the female-empowering brunch spectacular was going just as planned - complete with flower hats, cupcakes, and other things typical of this group of friends (it's awesome).
Meanwhile, in Malibu....
I hiked a predestined path overlooking the Pacific, placing special signage along the way. Her friends knew where I'd be and knew when to have her there. I was a bit overzealous in my preparations and wound up standing on this hill for nearly 3 hours waiting for them to arrive. It gave me plenty of time alone with my thoughts, my heartbeats, and every opportunity to explain to passerby's why I was holding a bouquet of roses downwind of a camera and tripod. Brain and heart conceded - this was it.
Shortly after 3pm, I began to hear the girls laughter as they came up the hill. I hit record on my camera (and phone just in case the audio was bad) and began walking towards them just as they came into view. She first saw the camera set up and was wondering who would leave a camera by itself, and once I came into frame she was simply excited to see me and thought I was there to take pictures of her and her friends (photographer, go figure).
While we all knew the plan up to this moment, we admittedly really had no clue how it was supposed to play out from here - well, at least I had no clue. While my girlfriend was coming down from the excitement of seeing me, her friends sort of looked at me to lead the way. Calling on years of high school drama I begin my improvisational speech. If it weren't for the fact that it was recorded, I wouldn't remember what I said. As it turns out, most of us guys (and gals) don't remember what was said in those moments. Probably because of the adrenaline that shuts down your memory and sends all resources to muscles that are requiring it most - in this case, again, heart and brain.
I spoke from the heart while my brain mustered enough motor skills to pull the ring from my back pocket. Once on bended knee I looked up at her and said those last 4 words 'Will you marry me?', officially closing the chapter of all I had planned up to this moment and ready to start anew.
Her answer can be found in the images below - thoughtfully taken by our friends via an iPhone7+.
Thank's go out to my beautiful fiancée - Radhika, her friends Tova, Yaara, Carly & Laura, her mother, brother, and father - who made a very special appearance that day.