A DC Tog in Dixie: Nailing the Surprise Proposal

There comes a time in every married couple’s life when one realizes the capacity the other has for lying.

That time usually comes before the marriage itself. It even comes before the engagement. It usually comes when someone gets down on one knee.

Such was the case for Saeger and Taylor, a couple visiting Austin for the day to hike Mt. Bonnell. For Taylor, the day held the possibility of stunning views, some amazing barbeque, and maybe a sunset selfie or two. For Saeger, the day held the possibility of getting the right answer to a very important question. And as part of that, planning the details of his proposal with me in secret.

Engagement and Proposal at Mt. Bonnell in Austin

Saeger found me weeks before their visit. We talked details, finalized the time, and exchanged photos since we wouldn’t get to meet before the proposal. Having scoped out the spot two days earlier, I sent him detailed instructions on where to surprise Taylor, including day-of tweaks to account for the crowds.

Every text, every phone call, had a lie attached to it, and probably even more than I knew – a sick friend, a last-minute school emergency. Family members on both side spent weeks lying by omission. And as the two approached Mt. Bonnell’s overlook, it was clear that those lies paid off: An exuberant Taylor took in the incredible view, not noticing Saeger’s distraction.

Engagement and Proposal on Mt. Bonnell in Austin

A funny thing happens when one person proposes to another: They gain an audience. Even in a spot like Mt. Bonnell at sunset, arguably one of the most beautiful views in Austin, people take notice. What starts as confusion for everyone but the proposer morphs into comprehension, then a collective tension as the entire room – or the entire mountain – anticipates the answer. There is a collective joy in witnessing such a personal and pivotal moment, and a respect for everything that led the couple to that point.

I’ve been honored to shoot engagement parties, weddings, maternity portraits, newborn photos, and high school graduations – it is not lost on me that those moments spring from the moment I shot with Saeger and Taylor.

In the end, I think Taylor got her barbeque. Everyone on Mt. Bonnell that day got a show, and I got the great shot above. And thanks to some admirable planning and a few weeks of lying, Saeger got his yes. 

Engagement and Proposal on Mt. Bonnell in Austin 2