It’s not often that I have a wedding date marked off on my calendar six months before the bride does. But Marcus and Kathy’s story is not your average wedding.
Marcus and Kathy are from Germany, and Marcus is a fan of my work, so he said “Hey, you know what would be fun? Let’s go to New York City! And while we’re there, Ryan can take some portraits of us.” Kathy loved New York and was working on improving her English, so it sounded good to her.
But Marcus had much deeper plans. He wanted to propose. So we planned together where the perfect spot would be, somewhere beautiful and as secluded as you can get in Manhattan. I would lead them in, taking portraits along the way and getting them comfortable. And then, when I said “Oh, look at this, this is the perfect spot!” Marcus would pretend to tie his shoe, kneel down to tie it, and pull out the ring.
Everything was working great. It was a beautiful day, as perfect as you could want. The park was green and lush, but not packed with people. I took them on a meandering path as we took photos, and came to a beautiful, secluded glade.
“Wow,” I said. “This is the perfect spot.”
“Yeah, it’s great!”
I waited. Nothing. “Ok, let’s take some photos here, and then I know an even better spot down the path a bit!”
“Well, look at this, what a spot! This spot is just perfect!”
Now I was getting a little nervous. Was the plan worked out well enough? I know that even the most enthusiastic proposal is such a huge leap, there’s always a moment like before you’re going to jump into cold water on a hot day. There’s nothing you want more, but you pause. I know this, so we continue walking. Last year I’d taught a workshop in this area, and some of the students said they found an amazing glen with a waterfall, stonework, all sorts of things you don’t expect to find in Manhattan. But I was busy and never saw it.
We kept walking, and there it was. The perfect spot. I set them up and said “Ok, guys, I want to to give a big hug.” And they did, and it was beautiful because they’re so in love. But really I wanted them to hug so Kathy couldn’t see me as I wandered behind. I signaled Marcus wordlessly.
Yeah, I got this.
He got down to his knees and said … well, it was all German, but it sounded very romantic. Tears, instantly. Joy, laughter, disbelief. Even bigger hugs. I absolutely love photographing surprise engagements just to be a part of this crucial moment.
But Marcus’s plan went deeper. He gave it a while, let the whole “I’m marrying this guy!” thing set in, and then he asked the real question: “Will you marry me … Wednesday? Here? In New York?”
She considered it, “Marcus, I’d love to, but I can’t get married without my parents here, they’re so important to me. And your brother, he’s traveling in Spain, it would kill him to miss it.”
He smiled. “Yes, we should ask my parents. We’re in luck! They’re here. And my brother? He’s not in Spain. He’s here.”
Woah. Marcus had planned it all out. He’d actually hired me six months earlier not just for the portraits, not just to capture the proposal, but for the wedding as well. It was all set … it just needed a bride.
She agreed. And that set about a whirlwind of emotion and shoes and dresses and more emotion, going through the entire process a bride usually goes through in six to 12 months in just a few days. So when we met on another glorious Central Park day, all of it was raw and powerful and beautiful.
It was an honor to tell this story and a pleasure to spend this time with Marcus, Kathy, and their families. And thankfully for the wedding day I brought along my own German, Stefy Hilmer, to help shoot and translate. I think I may need some more of this Germany experience, but more on that later.
One of the things I’ve forced myself to specialize in is getting good photos in terrible conditions, especially bad weather. Time after time I’ve been assaulted by rain or wind or cold or heat. I’m waiting for the cloud of locusts.
But sometimes you catch a break. When Katherine told me she wanted to spend three hours in Central Park in an amazing but not-very-warm dress in February, I said “OK, time to keep an emergency coffee thermos for her in my supply bag.”
It was SIXTY-THREE degrees. Or 17 degrees, since Katherine and Zak hail from Australia.
Absolute intimacy, absolute love, absolute beauty. I couldn’t think of a better way to start my 2012 wedding season. Also this is the first time I got to choose the ceremony location based on how it would look in photos. I think I did all right.