For Jason and Michelle, their New York public library engagement love story began a few years ago when Jason would drop Michelle off at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue to study for her medical degree. After meeting on the app Hinge, this iconic building in the heart of Manhattan became near and dear to their hearts, so it only made sense that we would go here for their engagement session. But to start things off, we begin our tale at the Library Hotel on 41st Street where Jason surprised Michelle with a marriage proposal.
Surprise Proposal at the Library Hotel
Jason and Michelle live near Fifth Avenue, and Bookmarks bar on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel is one of their favorite spots to visit in the city. In fact, this rooftop bar is where their parents met for the first time. It was only natural that Jason decided to pop the question to Michelle here. While rain was in the forecast, the bar has a covered atrium that had enough space for Jason to get down on one knee. Luckily, the rain held off despite every assurance of a dreary forecast. Jason and Michelle must be meant for each other because the sun came out and everything went according to plan.
I had the pleasure of photographing Tamara and Brian‘s wedding at the Library Hotel many years ago. The bar is just as lovely today, and is now managed in the daytime by Joel who worked with Jason to orchestrate the perfect surprise proposal. Jason made sure to have flowers delivered, and Joel had the champagne on ice in the corner. Joel even went to the trouble of spreading out a bed of rose petals for the couple.
When the elevator doors opened and Michelle heard her favorite song playing from behind the bar, she knew something was about to happen. The couple walked through the doors and onto the outside patio where I was waiting. Jason led Michelle to the corner and calmly, but quickly, asked her to marry him.
I gave Jason and Michelle a few moments to themselves, and we then started taking photos — first of the rings, and then making use of the spectacular city views. It was hot as blue blazes that day, and all of us were sweating, although you wouldn’t notice from the photos. After a few minutes in the air conditioning, we headed off to the library, where Michelle had mentioned that she was hoping all along she would get engaged. Mission accomplished, and we finished out the rest of the hour inside the library.
New York Public Library Engagement Session
A few words of advice if you were planning to stage your own engagement shoot inside the New York public library: security guards are in abundance. The rule is that you can’t use a tripod, go nuts with your flash, or inconvenience any patrons. That means that you are limited to taking photos in the hallways and on the staircases. If you don’t follow the rules, the security guards will indeed throw you out. In short, all of the fancy reading rooms with the beautiful ceilings are off-limits to elaborately staged photos.
But as I always say, it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. I planned it out with Jason and Michelle ahead of time exactly what they would do and where they would stand. With only a minute to get the shot, I had Jason and Michelle walk into the main aisle of the Rose Main Reading Room, turn and face each other quickly and then face me. I only got two shots before other patrons walked into my frame, but that’s all I needed. I was then politely told by the desk librarian that I was blocking the aisle. Not a problem, and we scampered out of the library before any security guards felt the need to swoop down upon us.
Jason and Michelle were pressed for time because they had to get ready for their engagement party at the Raines Law Room on 39th Street later that evening. The areas we concentrated on for the photo shoot were the main hallway, staircase and window on the first floor, phone booth on the first floor, third-floor hallway staircase, and Rose Main Reading Room. If I had additional time, I would have taken photos in Bryant Park, as well as more photos outside the library itself. Bottom line, this couple picked the perfect combination of venues. The Library Hotel and New York public library were perfect complements to each other, and more importantly, very personal locations that meant a lot to both of them.
Proposal venue: Bookmarks Bar, Library Hotel
Engagement portrait venue: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library
Engagement party venue: Raines Law Room at the William Hotel
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photography portfolio, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com
I absolutely love the portraits you’ve captured & the story behind each one. Did you have to get a permit to shoot in the New York Public Library?
Hi Galib — Thanks for your kind words. Yes, the public library does require a photo permit.