• Lorinda Leigh

Surprise Proposal | Swan Harbor Farm

July 19th was one of my FAVORITE days last year. Not just because it was one of my favorite styled shoots that we've ever done, but because that styled shoot turned into a proposal for two of the best people I know. Nora and I have known Mikey for... oh I don't know... give or take 15 years. We went to high school with his older brother and got to know his family pretty well-- Honestly, we feel like part of the family! We've kept in touch over the years, through multiple moves, and have traveled to attend parties, graduations, weddings, etc. I met Ainsley when I went to Vermont for Mikey's graduation from Norwich and loved them together from that first moment. We were so stoked when Mikey agreed to plot with us for this styled shoot and loved every minute of planning this sweet surprise for Ainsley.

The proposal actually ended up being featured on Style Me Pretty, along with the story I wrote about it, which I've included here...

"Ainsley and Michael’s proposal was one of the most captivating, love-filled and joyful days that we’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Set up like an editorial shoot, our “bride” had absolutely no idea that this day was made for her. Leading up to the big day, we spent countless hours plotting with Michael. We talked dates, details, locations… we set up everything perfectly behind the scenes, meanwhile talking to them both on the side, asking if they would model for us for an upcoming shoot. The most difficult aspect of the entire project was Michael’s schedule. He is an active-duty US Army Soldier and was off on a duty-assignment for the majority of the planning phase. Believe it or not, most of this proposal was planned in just 2 weeks! With Michael’s schedule constantly changing, we couldn’t commit to a date until just weeks before. We had a plan, we knew what details we wanted and had loosely reached out to vendors, but we couldn’t put anything into action until a date was set. Despite the lack of details upfront, this AMAZING team of vendors was up for the challenge. The venue was booked last minute, rentals were put on hold, items were overnighted... these vendors showed up in a way that we couldn’t have dreamt of. All to make sure that this couple, who has spent years navigating different time zones and budgeting for plane tickets, had an amazingly special proposal that they would never forget. We wanted to make sure that the details were not just beautiful, but uniquely them. With Ainsley’s background in architecture we included geometric accents and materials like wood, marble, metal and glass. Also incorporated were the couple’s love of donuts, along with blue and purples, their favorite colors! We wanted them to look back on this day and not see it as a styled shoot that ended in a proposal, but THEIR styled shoot, specifically crafted for THEIR proposal. Watching Ainsley and Michael interact all day was magical! Their love for each other is so clearly displayed in the way that they interact; holding hands every chance they get, stealing kisses and looking at one another in that “lovey-eyed” way, as Ainsley refers to it. This shoot is filled with love. It’s filled with beautiful flowers and personalized details. But most importantly, it’s filled with the promise of forever."

You can also find a video of the styled shoot, and the full interview I did with Mikey and Ainsley (a portion of it is featured on Style Me Pretty) at the bottom of this post!

L: How did you meet?

Ainsley: That is sort of a hard question. I don't think we were ever formally introduced. We went to school together at Norwich University, a private military college. He was a year above me and in the Corps of Cadets while I was a civilian. I'd see him a lot around campus but we didn't have any classes together or anything. One day during my freshman year he sent me a Facebook message asking if we'd met because he'd seen me around a lot. When I said no but that I'd seen him around a lot as well, he joked that it was like we had almost met. So since we had officially said hello to one another over the internet, and could now consider ourselves "friends", if I saw him in the dining hall or out and about on campus I'd say hello, which usually resulted in an awkward hi back.

I was going to be an orientation leader the following year and my boss had told me we needed more leaders, preferably guys, and maybe someone on the corps side of things. Though none of my interactions with him had proven this, I'd heard from many people that he was outgoing, funny, and pretty active on campus so I sent him a message asking if he would be interested. He, to my surprise, instantly said yes and emailed my boss. When training started later that fall, we were paired for a hike up to a ropes course that was meant to create stronger bonds between the team members - clearly it worked. The entire way up we talked about our favorite foods, our fears, ours siblings, etc.. It seemed that each training session we were together!

Michael: I totally was too afraid to go talk to her in person and Facebook messaged her instead.

L: What about the other person caught your eye?

Michael: Her eyes, actually.

Ainsley: Honestly, I don't know. I thought he was the most handsome thing to walk the earth, but I didn't know much about him. When I first first first noticed him, it was in the gym. He'd walk by the cardio room where I was on the elliptical near the door when he was coming from MMA practice. He'd look in, we'd make eye contact, and I'd be think, "ugh I wonder who that is, he is so cute!"

L: Tell us about your first date!

Michael: I’m not sure what she would consider our “first date”. Outside of drifting toward each other during events we had to do as orientation leaders at school, our “dates” mostly consisted of watching movies on her laptop. I may or may not have needed a good deal of “liquid courage” to knock on the door.

Ainsley: The Forest Gump movie where he was slightly intoxicated? If I had to choose, I'd say it was the first Monday we had planned to hang out after our first kiss. He won't necessarily admit to it, but he likes The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. He came to my dorm and we watched them together in the lounge. It's when we took our first picture together too!

L: What about the rest of your dating story?

Ainsley: We kind of just continued to hangout after that spring orientation, but we made it official on February 18th 2016. Facebook told me it was our two year “friendiversary” so I found that cute and texted him a picture. Later that day we were laying in my bed and he asked, "if today is our friendiversary, when is our real anniversary?" I told him "I don't know, we don't have one" and he responded "how about today?" I said ok with the biggest smile on my face. This was 4 days after Valentine’s Day obviously, in which he sent me on a scavenger hunt around town with clues that only I would know the answer to, cute jokes or phrases we would say, experiences we'd had. When I returned to my room, he was playing "Let Me Down Easy" (better than Billy Currington might I add!) on my bed with his guitar. I never thought he would outdo that one, but I think this proposal might have. He knows me so well, proposing at a fake wedding is so me. I have a strange obsession with love and I was constantly (semi-jokingly) proposing.

Michael: It’s certainly been a unique experience. I wasn’t exactly Ainsley’s “type” according to a lot of people and even most of my friends were surprised when we started dating. It just wasn’t a part of my personality in college. We’ve spent the better part of the last two and a half years apart while Ainsley got her Masters and I was off on various duty-assignments. A lot of coordinating FaceTime calls around our differing time zones and budgeting for plane tickets to see one another whenever our schedules lined up. But that’s what has made our relationship so strong, stronger than most, I’d say. We don’t argue because we want the time that we do get with each other to be enjoyable. We don’t have to go out and do any grandiose activity for entertainment because it would only be a waste of time and money since we’re just going to focus on each other anyway. She’s put up with more than I could ever rightly ask for. More than just a way for me to show how incredibly in love with her I am, I hope this also shows her how much I appreciate her support and sacrifice. She’s everything I didn’t know I needed.

L: What do you love to do together?

Michael: Despite that she always likes to be on the move and doing something, there’s nothing better than a movie on the couch after a busy day.

Ainsley: We really love movie nights. Nothing but some good snuggle time on the couch with a movie going is pretty good with us. We like to work out together. We love it when we go somewhere with live music because he country two steps with me. We really like going to baseball games! He loves the Red Sox, and I'm trying to learn to love them as much as he does. But we love going to the games, no matter who is playing.

L: Tell us a little about yourselves!

Michael: I’m an active-duty US Army Soldier. I find myself funnier than other people think I am. I enjoy being outside and have subjected Ainsley to more sporting events than she ever knew she didn’t want to go to.

Ainsley: I just graduated this past May with my Masters in Architecture. Currently I'm a Junior Designer. I'm a Vermonter born and raised, lived there my entire life up until this past June. I have three nieces that are the absolute light of my world! My parents are still together, 27 years now. My father has been a Police Officer for about 28 years. My mother has recently become a nurse. I love fall. I love the color purple. I love children. I love pizza, pretzels, peanut butter, and fruit. I like to think I'm pretty outgoing. Most of my friends say I'm too friendly but I think that’s better than being too bitter. I have a high energy level and laugh often. I really like to be organized, I like things planned out. I love to clean. I'm pretty easy going, it is hard to make me mad. I'm 23 years old but I don't drink - never have. I don't like the taste and I don't like the idea of losing control of my mind and body.

L: So, this proposal?!

Michael: It was terrifying. I always tell Ainsley she terrifies me and she has no idea what I could be talking about but that day, it was on full display. My heart was pounding from the moment we woke up. I hardly remember the drive to Swan Harbor. I dang near forgot to take my shorts off before putting the suit on. But it was better than I had ever imagined. All I could focus on was memorizing every detail of her face when she turned around so I can go back to that moment in my mind. She was as beautiful as ever. Truth be told, I don’t actually remember her saying “yes” but the ring was on her finger and she still came home with me!

Ainsley: I always told him I'd cry. I'm surprised I didn't! But I think it was because it took me so long to process what was happening. Since I had JUST taken the fake wedding bands off my finger, and this was a fake wedding photoshoot, I turned around and saw him on the ground on one knee and just assumed he was holding Hannah's ring as part of the photo. Why that made sense in my head, I don't know. Why would he be proposing if we had just gotten married? Beats me. But once I realized he had a different ring I was pretty excited. He told me he had something to ask me and I felt like I was going to faint so I was like "well ya better hurry up and ask it, before I fall over!" and he proposed. At this point I had already had my hand out like “why are you even asking just put it on already”. I don't even remember saying yes. I just remember him putting it on my finger and being too gentle to push it over my knuckle so I had to fix it. Then everyone cheered. Strangely enough, it was kind of a blur. Thankfully we have it on tape!

L: Michael, you were that nervous?

Michael: No. I was the poster child for “cool, calm and collected”. That is, if the poster child’s hands were blurry from shaking so much.

Ainsley: I know he was nervous, but only because I've heard him tell the story so many times! But honestly I couldn't tell he was nervous! He kept doing the thing he always does when he thinks I look cute or pretty (usually when I just woke up and look like Ainsleysaurusrex or I just left the gym or something - you know when I look the worst) where he smiles a lot and gets all lovey-eyed at me. It’s hard to explain but there’s a look he gets and a way he acts when I can tell he really does love me. He blushes and smiles uncontrollably. He kept doing that any time he walked in during the hair and make up part of the day. But I didn't think anything of it because he knows how much I love love and love weddings and so I thought he was just being cute because he knew I was going to be so excited during the photoshoot pretending to be married to him.

L: Ainsley, did you see it coming?

Ainsley: I hadn't paid much attention to the fact that the donuts and flowers were blue and purple, our favorite colors. Nor did I realize that the theme of the wedding was very geometric and about materials, all very related to my degree. So I guess that was a long answer to no I did not see it coming. Looking at it now, I probably should have but hey, what’s the fun in that!?

L: What was your favorite part, other than being engaged of course?

Ainsley: The absolute entire thing! I've just wanted to make him mine for a while now, so the fact that I know that is actually happening is the best feeling. I guess my favorite part would either be that it really was a surprise or that it happened when I was playing bride. Given that we both knew this day would come eventually, I was truly hoping he would actually take me by surprise and that I wouldn't see it coming. He did.

Michael: The donuts....I mean how happy Ainsley was the entire time. Before the proposal she was just so excited for the photo shoot. I’m glad I could take that excitement higher. She was beaming the whole time, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. And the donuts.

L: You’re engaged! Do you have any plans yet?

Michael: We had a long drive back to Kansas after the proposal where we kinda talked over some rough details but mostly I think we’re just enjoying each other’s company. I just got back from deployment about a month before the shoot and we have a lot of time to make up for.

Ainsley: We don't yet. We pretty much know who we want in our Bridal party. We think the ceremony should be early summer or fall because I get cold easily and he gets hot easily so we're trying to find a happy medium where I won't be shivering and he won't be sweating. We think we want a military wedding. I know I want some lavender in there. That's about it!

L: Anything else you want to share with us?

Ainsley: I want to thank thank thank thank everyone who made that day super special. And I want to thank him for being so invested in our relationship. For knowing me well enough to know what would have made me the most happy that day. For listening to me and believing in us even when our constant distance made everyone else lose faith.

Michael: I can’t thank you guys, Hannah and everyone else for helping put this together. It’s certainly one of those memories we will have for a lifetime.

Video Link: https://vimeo.com/282547841

Venue: Swan Harbor Farm Planner: NoLo Weddings + Events Photographer: HannahLane Photography Florist: MD Bay Blossoms Dress/ Accessories: Elite Secrets Stationary: Dear Darling Design Cake/ Donuts: Cakes by Jason Place Settings: Something Vintage Tux: The Groomsman Suit Hair/ Makeup: Behind the Veil Videography: Ivory Tree Weddings

Linens: Let’s Do Linens, courtesy of Zeffert & Gold Cake Topper: Bash & Co. Jewelry Dish: Love Style Happiness Chair Signs: Letters To You

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