Ashley & Joon | McGovern Centennial Gardens Proposal

I have the absolute fortune to photograph for amazing people, and Joon and Ashley are just that. It's been a privilege to have known them all through college and then photograph something as special as their engagement. In the weeks that Joon and I spent planning his proposal to Ashley, I can just feel his heart brimming with love for Ashley, and after working with them throughout the day, it was exciting to see how much they adored each other, God, and their community of friends and family. So thank you both for the privilege to document such an intimate and exciting milestone. I can't be more happy to share these frames with everyone. 

As much as I want to write more, Joon and Ashley have both shared their perspectives from their journey so I hope you all enjoy reading it. Cheers! 

JOON: Ashley and I had been talking about marriage for a few months now so finding the right time and place was the second most difficult part of this whole planning process. How do you surprise a girl who knows she’ll get asked the big question by the end of the year? Lies. Lots and lots of lies. Honestly, this was the most difficult part of the proposal because every time I tried to hide the fact that I was going to propose, I’d legit feel like a terrible human being.

It wasn’t until mid-June that I found the exact diamond and setting Ashley would like. I spent a few weeks going to and fro from jeweler to jeweler in hopes of finding the right ring. A lot of times, Ashley would call me on the phone while I would be at the jeweler and I would have to tell her that I was hanging out with friends to avoid any further questions on what I was doing at the moment. Some nights we had small arguments about how lately, I wasn’t setting up enough time for us to talk – especially during the weekends. About half of that amount was actually me spending time looking for the ring and devising plans on how I’d propose, but I couldn’t say anything to her so I just kept my mouth shut and apologized. Ohhhh but little did she know…

Once the date was set, I sent out a Facebook invite and begged everyone multiple times to not spill the beans on the surprise. I had told Ashley that I would be traveling to Miami on a business trip in July and that the next time I’d see her would probably be in September for Labor Day. Everyone did an amazing job in keeping quiet, or in some instances, completely avoiding her which made the moment all the more surprising. For the location, I chose McGovern Centennial Park because Ashley and I often spent our free weekends walking the garden and reading/talking in the shade. It just felt natural to choose that park for the proposal. 

The week of the proposal, was actually one of the busiest weeks of my life. I had managed to somehow plan the proposal on a weekend where I had to prepare for Prime Day during the week leading up to it and also get ready to present to my biggest vendor the follow week. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting much sleep that week. (Praise Jesus for keeping me healthy, both physically/mentally, that week!) During this time, my super awesome friends back in Houston helped in ensuring that the surprise/after-party would be successful. Such a blessing to have those friends help! I wouldn’t know how else I could’ve pulled off such a surprise without them. 

ASHLEY: After Joon moved to Seattle I began to take more serious steps to try and transition to the Pac Northwest as well. The Thursday before his "business trip" to Miami, I remember texting him about how extremely bummed I was feeling about the whole job search. He tried to encourage me by saying he was sure something good was going to happen in the near future. I remember thinking, "I know, I know...God's timing." Little did I know he wasn't only referring to job opportunities!

The next day I went to a "going away brunch"for friend who would be moving to the East Coast. As usual all of them wanted to wear dresses and as someone who doesn't usually dress up, I begrudgingly obliged. I jokingly told my friend Rae Anne, "I'm doing this for you..." Afterwards we agreed to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for the new exhibit but as we drew near, my other friend Katherine continued to drive past the usual parking lot. Confused, I asked where we were going and received a vague answer, "Oh there's another parking lot on the other side.." Several minutes passed and we were going further and further away from the MFAH. I asked again and received another vague answer, "Oh I forgot the Centennial Gardens." Weird..I didn't think much more of it...  

JOON: On the morning of the engagement, the girls went to brunch with the excuse that it was one of the last brunches they would have with one of our friends who would be moving out-of-state for grad-school. This worked out well since they wanted everyone to dress up – which was how we made sure Ashley didn’t show up to the proposal in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. After the brunch, the girls brought her to the garden for the surprise. She walked into the rose garden and the moment she saw me, she knew. The rest of the proposal went by pretty quickly. I whipped out the guitar, sang the song I wrote for her, and finished with some final words before getting on one knee to pop the question. The Texas heat must have gotten to her, because she said yes and now we’re stuck together forever and ever. 

ASHLEY: Upon arriving, it was strange that I seemed to be the only one confused as to how Kat could have left something in the garden. The only time I wouldn't know something everyone else would know about is either my birthday or I was getting engaged. Since it definitely wasn't the former, I hesitantly contemplated the latter. "No way, get that out of your head. You just had a going away brunch for Rae! Besides, Joon said he was in Miami, he wouldn't lie to me." It seemed too selfish to think I was going to get engaged the day we were supposedly celebrating Rae. However a small voice was telling me that just in case, I should go to the bathroom to let my hair down and freshen up a little. Walking out of the bathroom, I thought about how lame I'd feel if there wasn't actually a proposal. 

The girls guided me to a arched walkway in the gardens. I remember my heart racing as I realized my earlier musings were becoming a definite reality. It didn't fully hit me until I saw Victoria taking photos - upon which I immediately started tearing up. SIGH. My whole life, I never knew why girls would cry during their proposal and here I was, becoming that girl - so basic. I turned the corner, my face bloated with tears, and saw Joon waiting for me. At that point, it was kind of a blur with the shock, the heat, and before I knew it, Joon was on one knee and the ring was on my finger! I'd also like to take this time give a shout-out to Peter for running around and shooing away wandering Pokemon GO players from our proposal site as Joon was singing. 

After our photos we went to a coffee shop to escape the heat, call our parents, and pray together for the first time as an engaged couple. At the engagement party, I was completely blown away and touched by our friends who came together to celebrate such a special day with us, especially those who came in from out of town.  


JOON: Thank you to all our friends who came to celebrate this special moment with us, especially those who traveled from out of state and city. Super special thanks to all our friends who helped out with cooking food, opening up their apartments/rsvp-ing the clubhouse, and cleaning! And an extra extra special thanks to Kat, Joanne, Rae-Anne, Peter, and Chris who spent many hours helping me plan and execute a wonderful proposal/after-party.

ASHLEY:  In all, it was the most successful surprise I have ever experienced. I had no idea and was extremely impressed with Joon's planning and everyone's ability to keep things on the down low, or maybe I'm just super oblivious. It is just beyond words, how blessed Joon and I are to have such precious friendships. A big, big, thank you to everyone who was involved and came together to celebrate!