Charles Rigoglioso made up a "Barks and Blazers" event to get his girlfriend and their dog to the National Mall.
Is there anything better than a good surprise proposal story? We think not—especially when it takes place in the middle of the National Mall with all of the gorgeous greenery and architecture in the background and it’s all caught on camera by Carly Arnwine. This particular proposal was planned by groom-to-be Charles (Charlie) Rigoglioso, and it had all the elements of a good heist film: creativity, deception, and jewelry worth stealing.
When it came to planning the proposal to his high school sweetheart, Paige Howe, Charlie knew he needed to do something special. They’d dated for ten years—completely smitten since a movie night they shared when they were just 16—and since they knew one another so well, Charlie knew it would be tricky to keep the proposal a surprise.
Related: 5 Tips for Pulling Off a Surprise Proposal With a Professional Photographer
“I contemplated for a months on how I should go about it,” says Charlie, and he finally decided upon the Reflection Pool by Lincoln Memorial as the ideal spot. “I wanted to pick a landmark where we can not only go back to but also see throughout our daily routine. Another reason is that when we have our own children one day and they go on the typical middle school field trip to the nation’s capital, they will have their own connection with the Reflection Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.”
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This groom-to-be chose the iconic backdrop of the Jefferson Memorial to pop the question.
Joshua and Kristen got engaged at the Jefferson Memorial on January 25, 2014. All photographs by Brittany DeFrehn.
Kristen Callaway and Joshua Hoffman were friends in high school, but despite attending a homecoming dance together it was years before they went on a real first date. Their freshman year of college, Joshua, a financial analyst, sensed a potential romantic connection and began looking for the right moment to ask out Kristen, a legislative assistant. The opportunity came toward the end of the school year, when Kristen bought a brand new dress. “She loved the dress—in fact, it was a dress she had wanted for months. But she told me that she had no occasion to wear it,” says Joshua. “I took that opportunity to take our relationship beyond friendship and asked her out to one of the fancier restaurants I knew.” Lucky for Joshua, Kristen too felt a connection beyond friendship, and they began to date.
Nearly six years later, Joshua decided to propose. He wanted something grand yet still intimate and reflective of them as a couple, so he chose the Jefferson Memorial as the spot to pop the question. “Kristen is uncomfortable with a lot of attention, so I really wanted to be respectful of that and make the proposal very personal and intimate. For that reason, I planned it at night when, hopefully, no tourists would be around,” says Joshua.
After taking Kristen to dinner in Georgetown earlier in the evening, Joshua convinced her to go down to the memorial. When the two arrived, the place was deserted except for a couple of strategically placed “tourists”—Rich Barry, a Spanish guitarist who was playing at the foot of the steps, and Brittany DeFrehn, a photographer, both of whom Joshua hired for the occasion. “After listening to Rich for a bit, Kristen and I walked into the memorial briefly before returning to the top of the large marble steps,” says Joshua. “There, with the Washington Monument in the background, I asked Kristen to marry me.” Brittany captured the entire moment on camera.
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This groom-to-be set up an elaborate fake art gallery opening at Ulysses Room.
Peter proposing to Juliette on November 17, 2013. All photographs by Jennifer Roh.
The story of Juliette Cho and Peter S. Kim’s relationship played out like one of the romantic movies they both love. The two first met through a group of mutual friends and colleagues in New York City, where Peter still lives and where Juliette was visiting for the weekend from Washington. They felt an instant connection and decided on a first date, during which Peter was intent on sweeping Juliette off her feet. After learning that Juliette had always wanted to go to Italy and was a huge Nora Ephron fan, he decided to include her favorite movie, Sleepless in Seattle, and an Italian feast in their date. “It started off with a wonderful tasting dinner and ended with him giving me a personalized tour of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building,” says Juliette, a development manager at Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic.
As to be expected, when Peter, a senior associate at PWC, decided to propose a little more than a year later, he really decided to go all out. “I wanted to surprise Juliette, bring a little of New York to DC, and take a trip down memory lane,” he says. He enlisted the help of Juliette’s friend Jennifer Roh, a photographer, and the two came up with a plan to set up a fake gallery opening at Ulysses Room to showcase photographs signifying important milestones and memories from the couple’s relationship.
The day before the proposal Juliette got an e-mail from Jennifer inviting her to her “gallery opening.” After she arrived at Ulysses Room, Peter led her to a collection of black-and-white photos displayed on the back wall. “Jennie told me the theme of the collection was ‘moments that matter,’” says Juliette. “After perusing the collection for five minutes or so, I still wasn’t getting it, so Peter had to explain to me that these were actually moments that mattered to us.” There was a picture of an ice cream truck in New York symbolizing the walks the couple took in Central Park; an apple for the first time Peter went to University of Virginia, the bride’s alma mater; and skates as a reminder of the time they went ice-skating at New York’s Wollman Rink.
As John Legend’s “All of Me” filled the room, Peter showed Juliette to a table in the middle of the room. Hidden among the flowers on the table was a small mailbox reminiscent of the one Juliette had made for Peter on Valentine’s Day after being inspired by Disney’s Up. “Peter then got down on one knee and proposed. It was absolutely perfect!” says the bride. “I loved that he picked a venue that reminded us both so much of New York, and that he used the mailbox to tie together our Valentine’s Day memory, his love of the movie Up, and my love of the movie You’ve Got Mail.”
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