Sewanee Proposal: Eric + Emily by Allison Kendrick

This is a guest blog by my dear friend Eric Keen who knows how to make people feel important and loved. He planned a whimsical surprise proposal for Emily in the woods behind their house, and I had the honor of documenting their evening. Here's the story according to Eric: 

After weeks of secret preparations, the time had come to hatch the plan. I think Emily knew I was cooking up a surprise, but she sweetly feigned an oblivious air in the days leading up. So on Friday night when I confessed that we were not, in fact, meeting my folks for dinner, but would like to go on a walk in the woods instead, we both sighed in relief. Neither of us had to pretend there wasn’t a surprise anymore.

I led her to the head of the trail, and we walked until we met our dear friend Allison. She gave us big hugs and walked on with us down the trail. It was a sweet stroll of anticipation; we both knew what I was about to ask.

When we arrived at the creek, we found a beautiful picnic laid out for us on the bank, tucked underneath the trees, the blanket surrounded by candle-lit mason jars. Our friend Mary stood at the Creekside and welcomed us, in a French accent, to Chateau Derriere. “Do you have a reservation with us this evening?” she asked.

I said it was under “Eric and Emily”, and she was able to find our names on her list. She took two menus and led us to the picnic blanket. As we sat down, we started to hear music emanate from the woods. Emily immediately recognized the beautiful voices to belong to our dear friends Jonathan and Becca. Emily was beaming and I was thrilled; she may have known there was a surprise, but she didn’t know her best friends would be here with us.

One by one, more friends appeared out of hiding places in the woods to serve us our meal, all of them in wacky costumes. In overalls and a floppy full-brim hat, Jamie brought us water followed by chocolate milk served out of a wine bottle. Seth brought down lobster bibs and helped us put them on. Will and Cacky, dressed in a hotdog suit, served up the appetizer (ants on a log). When they came back to pick up our plates, they had switched outfits and Will was now the one in the hotdog suit. Donning a parrot mohawk, Sara served up the entrée (roasted Skittles). Luke seasoned our meal with generous doses of salt and pepper. Adam in a chef’s hat and wig of curls welcomed us to his establishment and insisted that the meal be on the house. He asked, “Is there anything else we can get for you?” Eyes on Emily, I said, “I believe we are ready for the ring.”

 Adam whisked away, and moments later all of the picnic players processed down to our proposal blanket. Jonathan and Becca led the way, singing a beautiful adaption of Kermit the Frog’s Rainbow Connection. Next was Mary, carrying the ring. The rest of our friends followed, each holding a candle. They circled us, Mary handed me the ring, I looked at Emily, and I read her these words:

“Emily, it’s been almost 10 years since our first date. A date very much like this one – a picnic, hosted by our friends, with ants on a log. Three years ago, we went our second date and had our first kiss. Every day since then, I’ve gone to sleep more in love with you then when I woke up. Now we’re making a life together here, on this very ground. Infusing this place with our memories and meanings. I want to be with you for the rest of my life.

“Our friends here have watched us grow up and come together, and hopefully they will watch us grow old together. For almost 14 years, I’ve been talking with Will and Seth and Mary and Luke about love and marriage. For just as long, we’ve both admired Sara and Adam, as individuals and as a couple. We’re surrounded here by the couplings of our dearest friends, whose marriages and engagements have inspired us and taught us and brought us closer. Friends, there is only one way to propose to Emily Ezell, and that is surrounded by the people we love and admire most.”

 I took out the ring, and by this time we were both looking at each other through tears. “So, Emily Carter Ezell, will you do me the honor and the joy of making me your husband?”

 She said yes, we kissed, and our friends cheered. We broke out some champagne and gave a toast to a successful picnic. “That’s the end of the surprise, right?” Emily asked. I lied, “Yep, that’s it.”

We all walked back up the trail to our home. The others went ahead while Allison took some photos of the newly engaged couple, then went ahead herself to give us a moment alone.  

After a few sacred moments one-on-one, we continued on our way. As we rounded the corner of the barn, the crowd of family and friends waiting for us on our back deck began cheering. A few bottle rockets were shot into the sky. Emily was shocked; part 2 of the surprise was another success! Hand in hand, we approached the loving crowd, hugged our parents, and joined in the fun.

I could not have imagined a more perfect engagement to a more perfect partner. Emily and I will cherish Allison’s photos of the event for the rest of our lives.

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To see more photos from the evening, click here

As a present to both Emily + Eric, I put together a short surprise video for them to remember the day:

Sewanee Engagement: Kacee + Ben by Allison Kendrick

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Rain jackets in hand, we made the drive up the mountain to Sewanee. The clouds were threatening, but Allison didn’t call off the engagement shoot. Instead, we hoped for the best and prepared for some fun umbrella shots just in case. When we arrived at Abbo’s Alley on campus, the wooded areas still looked dark in the early morning light. 

“Look,” Allison shouted through a whisper, “a fox!” Just across the way, a bright red fox crept stealthily into the woods. Even though I only just caught a glimpse, it was a wonderful way to start the morning. 

I’d never been to Abbo’s Alley before. It was like a page from a Brother’s Grimm tale— winding creeks, a tiny walking bridge, hanging hemlock branches, cottages in the distance. And it was all so green. The setting was perfect. When the Ben + Kacee arrived, they met us with happy faces and a relaxed, casual demeanor. Their eight-year-old son, Patrick, came along too. He did a great job of holding wallets and keys and jumping over the creek while he waited. 

Allison has a great way of making people feel comfortable from the very start. She asked Ben + Kacee to hold hands and walk toward a beautifully flowering bush in the distance. The pink blossoms were the size of teacup saucers. When they turned and walked back, I noticed their matching tattoos. Inked on the inside of their forearms was a moon-shaped sliver filled with decorative designs. According to Ben + Kacee, they’d been through some hard times; the tattoo was sort of a commemoration of the strength of their relationship.

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A small bridge over the creek lead to a beautiful gazebo at the edge of the property. In just a few weeks, right in that very spot, the couple will exchange vows before a small group of friends + family. They excitedly talked us through the day, telling us where the reception would be and where the bluegrass band would set up. They plan to celebrate into the evening.

Exploring the space with Ben + Kacee (with photo-taking intertwined, of course) was a beautiful way to spend the morning. They both were so fun to work with— their laughter genuine, contagious, and super photogenic. We can’t wait to meet them again on June 3rd and capture more of that happiness.

Chattanooga Engagement: Katie + Reid by Allison Kendrick

Sunset Rock, a beautiful cliff face on the west brow of Lookout Mountain, served as the misty woodland backdrop of Katie + Reid's early morning engagement session.

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Birmingham Engagement: Kenton + Anamaria by Allison Kendrick

 

When I saw Kenton and Anamaria’s smiling faces top the hill, I knew it was going to be a great shoot. Their warm personalities and vibrant wardrobe alone seemed to usher in the Spring. We met the newly engaged couple at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center on a brisk Sunday afternoon. The sun was beginning to set behind the trees, casting a lovely glow on the fading winter day, and the park was alive with people enjoying it.

Kenton and Anamaria led the way down a trail, stopping periodically to pose and tell us about how they came to be an “us.” With each stop, they grew more comfortable with the process— both posing for the shoot and sharing their love story.

The couple’s families had practically grown up together— Anamaria’s cousin and Kenton were best friends. It was only a matter of time before the two met, and over the next decade, Kenton and Anamaria built both a strong friendship and a mutual affection for one another. One of their shared passions is volunteering for Anytown Alabama, a social justice summer camp for teenagers. Every summer Kenton and Anamaria spend a week mentoring young people from all over Birmingham and helping them develop leadership skills to take back to their schools and communities. Their commitment to positively influencing younger generations is truly inspiring. They've collectively impacted hundreds of young people in Alabama, and the state is a better place because of their work. Reminiscing about the beginnings of their relationship, the couple shared laughter and flawless compatibility with the camera. It’s easy to take photos of such a great team.

After Ruffner, we accompanied the couple to their new home. There, we photographed them in their own space, shared a cup of tea together, and heard about Kenton and Anamaria’s shared affinity for all things English. Drinking tea and eating biscuits with them seemed so appropriate! We sat in the kitchen perusing their favorite cookbooks and hearing sweet stories. Kenton even told us about a Valentine’s day surprise in which he turned the kitchen into the set of Anamaria’s favorite television cooking show— complete with lights, camera, and lots of food. 

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The afternoon with this couple was one well spent and one we won’t soon forget. Spending time together is a great way not only to build our friendship, but it is a way to celebrate this couple and their wonderful future together. 

For more info on Anytown Alabama, check out this link: Anytown Alabama

Camp McDowell Engagement: Stratt + Carrie by Allison Kendrick

 

It was just above freezing when the sun rose at Camp McDowell. There had been a lengthy debate the previous night about how to deal with daylight savings and set alarms accordingly, but the sun did its job— waking everyone and welcoming us into a new day. Coffee helped a little, too.

Engagement photo day for Stratt and Carrie had arrived, and we were thrilled to celebrate this beautiful friendship. Coffee and camera in hand, we made our first stop at Clear Creek Dam. Mist floated across the brimming waterway, and we trekked down to take a look. Being at Camp is already one of my favorite things, but adding photography and sweet friends created the perfect day. Camp has a way of surrounding people with comfort and cheerfulness, and it’s certainly evident in the photos from this day. 

Stratt and Carrie hiked through the trails, scouting out beautiful nooks along the way. It was heartwarming to see them walk together through such a familiar place. They’d met at camp, befriending one another and eventually exploring the idea of a relationship over laundry one day. Camp McDowell is where they work and play. It’s where they met, create their home, and it’s where they plan on getting married. And it couldn’t be anymore perfect. 

Stratt is the summer camp coordinator at Mcdowell, and Carrie is assistant director to the Environmental Center. Both share a love for the outdoors and furthering the education of all who come to learn, fellowship, pray, and play at Camp McDowell.

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We took a break during the photo shoot to go back to the cabin and eat breakfast. Stratt cooked bacon and eggs while Carrie filled us in on the details of their sweet story. After breakfast, we took their dogs, Winnie and Norah, to Tillers. This natural beach along Clear Creek is a popular destination for staff and campers alike, but I’ve yet to see the type joy I saw on the faces of Winnie and Norah. With boundless energy, they raced along the water’s edge, got tangled in tree roots, and played tug-o-war with sticks. Even the photos were reflective of this joy. Genuine smiles and laughter accompanied us throughout the morning, and I’m grateful to be able to share a glimpse of it.

We are so excited about being a part of Carrie + Stratt's big day on November 11, 2017 and capturing more moments like these! 

There's a place for everyone at Wonderful, Wonderful Camp McDowell. Check out all the opportunities to experience what's happening at campmcdowell.com.