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Expert Advice

5 Tips for Pulling Off a Surprise Proposal with Professional Photographer

Local photographer Carly Arnwine shares her tricks of the trade.

By Caroline Cunningham Photograph by Carly Arnwine.

A proposal is a fleeting moment--one question, four words--that lasts in the memory of the couple for a lifetime. That’s why many grooms hire photographers to capture all the joy and excitement. Charles Rigoglioso entrusted his surprise proposal to Paige Howe on the National Mall to photographer Carly Arnwine. Here’s her tips for pulling off a perfectly photogenic proposal.

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Timing is critical.

DC is stunning in the spring, the monuments can be perfect and less crowded at night, and Rock Creek Park, for example, is gorgeous with autumn colors. Also, it’s no secret that the best light occurs in the morning or evening.

Have a back up plan.

One future groom and I perused the grounds at Meridian Hill Park. We came up with a Plan A and a Plan B and he simply texted me 30 minutes prior to popping the question. A Plan C is great too in case of a downpour or an unforeseen event.

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Engagement Photos

This Dog-Friendly Happy Hour Was So Believable, She Didn't Realize It Was a Proposal

Charles Rigoglioso made up a "Barks and Blazers" event to get his girlfriend and their dog to the National Mall.

By Caroline Cunningham

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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Real Weddings

Pink Oxon Hill Manor Wedding With a Breakfast Cereal Bar

Whitney Hamilton and Patrick McCarthy wed on May 15, 2015.

By Caroline Cunningham

Every wedding is beautiful in its own way, but when we see weddings that have so many fun details and pops of creativity, that’s when we get the most excited. Whitney Hamilton and Patrick (Pat) McCarthy’s wedding was filled with their fun ideas--from the cute pajamas the bridesmaids wore while getting ready to the sparkly pink tablecloths at cocktail hour to the amazing cereal bar where guests could grab and fill a bowl for some late-night snacking. Every moment of the beautiful day at Oxon Hill Manor was captured by Astrid Photography in the photos below.

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Shows & Events

September 2015 Wedding Dress Trunk Shows and Sample Sales in Washington

By Caroline Cunningham Image courtesy Amsale.

Labor Day Sample Sale

The high-end designer boutique is offering a sample sale with wild discounts on their couture gowns. Wedding dresses will sell from $999 to $2,500, so RSVP via info@carinesbridal.com ASAP to reserve your spot. Carine’s Bridal Atelier. 1726 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-965-4696. September 1 through 2.

Hayden Harlow 2016 Headpieces

The soft and romantic headpieces, veils, and sashes will be available all month long at for brides to find the perfect companion for their gown. Elizabeth St. John Atelier, 321 Scott Dr., Silver Spring; 301-204-2663. September 1 through 30.

Mira Zwillinger

The intricate embroidery and subtle sparkle of Mira Zwillinger’s 2016 “Stardust” collection will be available for brides to try at the Georgetown boutique. Carine’s Bridal Atelier. 1726 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-965-4696. September 10 through 13.

Watters

Flowing ball gowns with layers of tulle and barely-blush dresses are staples of the Watters collection at Love Couture Bridal for the weekend. Love Couture Bridal. 12500-B Park Potomac Ave., Potomac; 301-610-5683. September 11 through 13.

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Shows & Events

Chicka-Fandango Productions Relaunches as Revolution Event Design With a Blowout Bash

From grannies to goats, it was one wild night.

By Caroline Cunningham

Where can you find baby goats, a tattoo parlor, and grannies, all together? Try the Fandango Productions and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom relaunch event as their newly merged and rebranded event design and production company, Revolution.

On Thursday night, Revolution Event Design and Production threw a massive relaunch party at their new headquarters in Baltimore. The 100,000-square-foot warehouse was filled with a maze of mini parties, each with their own theme, caterers, and florists from the DMV area. Invitations were sent out, advertising the theme “Tattoos and Tassels” and proclaiming the event “the party of the year” and asking invitees to see “how the party people party.” And from what we could see, the party people party hard.

You know you’re getting yourself into trouble when you’re handed a map upon entering a party--any event that requires its own map is sure to be an assault on the senses. And that’s exactly what this overblown warehouse event was--the night began with a room decked out with floral creations by Sweet Root Village, followed by a trip down a hallway to the tattoo lounge, where Have Fun Be Lucky tattoo parlor was set up to ink guests with the image of their choice. Following the tattoo bar was a free-for-all trip through the maze--here’s where the map came in handy--filled with different themed strips sponsored by local vendors, including a voodoo bar, a silent disco, a truth or dare bar, a “Who’s Your Granny” gameshow-style party game, and a Tuscan-themed room that included a wine bar and real baby goats.

Many bridal vendors' handiwork was on display at the event, so start day dreaming about your bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and wild receptions as you browse the photos of last night’s festivities below.

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Styled Shoot

Bright and Tropical Styled Shoot at Worsell Manor

We’re swooning over these spring blossom-filled photos.

By Caroline Cunningham

We’ve never seen a King protea we didn’t love--and that holds true for the amazing tropical floral centerpiece in this styled shoot at Worsell Manor. All the pretty spring blooms were photographed by Laura of Laura’s Focus Photography, along with the gorgeous table setting put together by Katie Parks of White Oak Weddings & Events. Altogether, this styled shoot is perfect inspiration for a spring barn wedding reception.

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Real Weddings

This Outdoor Ceremony at Woodlawn is Proof a Little Rain Won't Ruin Your Wedding Day

Lindsey Grumbo and Erik Seidlitz wed on April 25, 2015.

By Caroline Cunningham

If someone had told Lindsey Grumbo that it was going to start pouring down rain during her wedding ceremony to Erik Seidlitz, she never would have believed them. And if they had told her that she would still love every minute of it, she wouldn’t have thought it possible. But even though it rained all throughout Lindsey and Erik’s “I do’s,” the pair’s sense of humor kept their spirits afloat while bright rainbow golf umbrellas kept their guests dry. All the drizzly beauty was caught on camera by Kirsten Marie Photography at the elegant Woodlawn property.

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Real Weddings

This Amazing Meridian House Wedding Was Planned in Just Four Months

See inside our Summer/Fall 2015 cover wedding!

By Caroline Cunningham

You may recognize this attractive couple from Washingtonian Bride & Groom’s most recent cover. But there are many gorgeous shots by K. Thompson Photography in Alex and Rob’s wedding that are magazine-cover worthy—from the beautiful bridesmaids in their mismatched dresses to the 1930s Chrysler that the bride’s father loaned to the couple for the night.

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Engagement Photos

Dreamy Rowboat Engagement Photos at The Regent at the Stonehouse

Emily Lyons and Bryce Selby are set to marry on October 24, 2015.

By Caroline Cunningham

If this engagement shoot looks impeccably planned, that’s because it was. The bride-to-be, Emily Lyons, is a part-time photographer, so when it came to her engagement shoot with her fiancé Bryce Selby, she knew exactly what she wanted it to look like, and she knew she wanted Elizabeth Fogarty Photography to be the one behind the lens. And in our opinion, it’s pretty clear she chose well.

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Real Weddings

Classic Purple Virginia Wedding Filled With Plenty of Happy Tears

Shelby Cochran married Brian Kaufman at Rust Manor in Leesburg.

By Sarah Zlotnick

As pretty as the florals and the bridesmaid dresses may be in this classic purple wedding, our favorite part is the emotion that clearly runs in the Cochran family. Shelby's father's face when he sees his daughter for the first time—amazing. And Shelby's own expression during her first look with husband-to-be Brian? Equally unforgettable. This is what weddings are all about, folks—having the time and space to show the ones we love how bowled over we are by their presence in our lives. We're so glad Carly Fuller Photography was on hand to capture the magic!

Brian Kaufman met Shelby Cochran at his own birthday party at Dupont bar The Big Hunt—mutual friends had invited Shelby along thinking she would be a good match for their orthopedic surgeon friend. That night, Shelby wondered if each and every guy that walked through the door was Brian, but when a leather jacket-clad, motorcycle-helmet-carrying guy showed up, she knew there was no way it was the man her friends had in mind. As it turns out, she was dead wrong, but the pair clicked quickly. Neither can recall what they talked about that night, but both could feel the electricity.

"She was thoughtful and worldly and kind," remembers Brian. "She had a genuine zeal for life. I knew I wanted to be a part of that, to share in that happiness and joy."

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