Lessons From the Trenches
I am finally back from traveling across South America and my first job after returning to home was to photograph Matthew’s surprise wedding proposal to Anna. It was an exciting adventure, and I came away with a few more do’s and don’ts if you are planning on asking someone to marry you while rowing across the Central Park lake. So let’s dive right in and find out if Anna said ‘yes’ to Matthew in this week’s post of Central Park Lake proposal tips.
Spoiler alert: of course Anna said yes. How could she not? These two are too cute together. They met four years ago on Tinder — no shame here; I’ll have you know that a quarter of my couples met on Tinder. At the time, they were both living in Toronto, and eventually moved to NYC together. Taking a ride on the boats in Central Park was one of their first dates together in New York, so recreating this romantic memory was the perfect way to propose.
Matthew and I started planning the big day before I left for South America. After several rounds of emails and a final Skype call, we had a plan in place and were ready for the proposal day to arrive. As with Zing’s Central Park lake proposal to Claire last year, Matthew asked Anna to marry him right in front of the Bow Bridge. This is the perfect spot in this photographer’s opinion, and everything went off without a hitch. Afterwards we spent two hours in Central Park taking photos, starting in the Ramble and ending up at the entrance to the park at Sixth Avenue and Central Park South.
So what did I learn after two successful Central Park Lake wedding proposals under my belt?
You will never row as far as you think you will. Matthew and Zing were both in fine shape, but neither of them could believe how difficult it was to row the damn boat. Both of them promised me they wanted photos farther in the lake past Bow Bridge, but these photos never came to fruition. I don’t blame them. Bear in mind that you have the dual issues of the sun beating down overhead plus nerves when you try to row a boat and ask your significant other to marry you. There are lovely photos to be had if you do manage to row past the Bow Bridge and get farther into the lake: namely, more photos of the Eldorado apartment building (the beautiful building with the two towers from the film Rosemary’s Baby) and additional photos of the park with the Central Park South skyline in the background. But don’t worry, you can take all of these photos on land if you are too tired to row (and you will be, trust me).
The lake will be crowded. The Central Park Lake doesn’t officially open until April 17, but it has been so warm out that the Loeb Boathouse decided to open the season early. Lots of people have taken the suggestion and every day the lake is filled with boats. Alas, I can’t even tell you to get there early to avoid the crowds because the boathouse opens at 10:00 a.m. and the park is already filled by that time. Just know that you will have company on the water and try to get a private moment where you can.
The best place to propose on Central Park Lake is at the Wood Chip Vantage Point. The Wood Chip Vantage Point (a.k.a. the landing to the right of Bow Bridge on the side of the Loeb Boathouse) is still the best place to propose in this photographer’s opinion. As a photographer, I need a spot that is a) out of the way of tourists, b) gets me close enough to the water to capture the moment, and c) still keeps me a bit hidden in the shrubbery until the big reveal. The Wood Chip Vantage Point is all that and a bag of chips. In summer, there are thick bushes to the left of the landing that keep me hidden until your boat swings around. Up until this moment I can capture you from Bow Bridge, but the true advantage of the landing is that it juts out into the lake so that it is almost like I am in the water with you. My camera stays dry, but I can still get up close and personal with my long lens. It’s a win-win for any proposal.
There are no rainy day backup locations in Central Park. A proposal in Central Park is entirely dependent upon the weather. Aside from the Dairy and underneath the Bethesda Arcade, there are no truly covered areas in Central Park. This means that if it rains, you need to have a backup spot not located in the park. Bear in mind that private restaurants – such as the Loeb Boathouse or Tavern on the Green – generally don’t look kindly on photographers interrupting the meals of other patrons so these spots are out. For Matthew’s proposal to Anna, we briefly talked about the Lake Viewing Area in the Ramble, but this is just taking cover under the trees. If it was really raining then Central Park wouldn’t be an option, period.
Have a story in place to get your significant other to dress up. When Matthew planned his proposal to Anna, he did it as a surprise addition to an already scheduled romantic date. The couple started off the day with brunch at Tavern on the Green and then took a walk through the park to the boathouse. Anna was already dressed nicely for a day at Tavern on the Green, so she looked great in front of the camera. (And honestly, she would have looked fantastic if she had shown up in sweatpants and a smile.)
Have a plan in place for where you want to take photos after the proposal. Central Park is a big place, and has several options when it comes to photo backdrops. Remember that anything from 72nd Street and below will be crawling with tourists on the weekend (or really any time after noon). The Bethesda Fountain area, in particular, is always jam packed with people so bring your patience if this is the direction you decide to go. There is a certain charm to having so many tourists with you as you take photos, but just know that they can’t be avoided in this area. Above 72nd Street, however, tends to be much less crowded. So if you have any issues being the center of attention in a crowd full of people, then northern Central Park is the place to go.
Know what you and your significant other are wearing ahead of time. Funny story: I had a Skype call with Matthew before the proposal and had also asked him to send me a photo of Anna, so I knew what they both looked like. Call it forgetfulness because I was just back from my trip, but I forgot to let him know what I was wearing and in turn to ask what he and Anna would be wearing. There was a couple that went out on the lake right before Matthew and Anna arrived who looked EXACTLY like Matthew and Anna. I was convinced I had somehow missed Matthew and Anna. Luckily, just at that panicked moment the real Matthew and Anna arrived and I photographed the moment they reserved their boat. Learn from me, grasshoppers: nail down exactly before the day of the proposal when you will arrive, where you will meet your photographer, and what you all will be wearing.
I’m looking forward to my next Central Park Lake proposal, whenever it may be. Enjoy the photos from Matthew and Anna’s big day, and give me a call if you are interested in scheduling a surprise wedding proposal.
If you would like to see more surprise wedding proposal photos from my portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com