Rashaun is one of my best girlfriends: we’ve known each other since we battled our way through a biology class together in college. I’ve known Dampier, her man, since they met at Dick’s Drive-In while Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were filming the White Walls music video. Now they’re grown-ups: Rashaun has a Master’s degree and Dampier works at Amazon. They’re both genuine, creative, loyal friends, so I couldn’t have been happier when Dampier told me he was going to propose to Rashaun.
It started on a Wednesday in early July, when Dampier assembled his braintrust (read: three of Rashaun’s closest friends) in my living room. Over a bottle of vino verde, we developed a super-secret plan.
The whole thing was staged one week later at Discovery Park, which is a 534-acre oasis nestled against the shores of Puget Sound. The ruse was that I was getting new headshots taken, and I wanted Rashaun there “for moral support.” As far as she knew, there would only be three of us on the beach that evening: just the two of us and Bryan (the photographer). Dampier, of course, had told her that he was “working late.”
It was a sultry Seattle summer evening, and we spent an hour exploring the winding trails and sweeping vistas in the park. We never got around to taking headshots, but we did have some fun with the camera. Of course, it helps that Rashaun moonlights at Anthropologie, so she is always dressed like a bohemian goddess.
Eventually we made our way to the water. I disappeared to “park the car,” leaving Rashaun and Bryan to “scout locations for the shoot.” Of course, that was all a ruse, which Rashaun realized at exactly this moment:
Surprise! Dampier was zoomed gallantly up to the beach, looking like a Disney prince. In one hand he carried turquoise balloons, because they’re Rashaun’s favorite color. In the other hand was the ring they had picked out together: an antique 18-karat white gold band with a beautiful sapphire and tiny accent diamonds, which dates from 1910.
It was just the three of them on the beach: Rashaun, Dampier, and the photographer. Dampier got down on one knee and said some quiet wonderful things. Rashaun said yes.
After the newly-engaged couple spent a few minutes alone together, Bryan suggested a walk down the beach…
…where I had snuck away to meet Rashaun’s family and friends, who had secretly set up a sunset picnic.
Rashaun’s mom didn’t say anything, because she was trying so desperately not to cry. Her dad wore a T-shirt that said “Peace, Love, & Ringo,” and he kept hugging Dampier. Portia made chocolate cupcakes with whiskey ganache. Liz poured champagne. Friends Facetimed in from the East Coast. There were Dick’s cheeseburgers.
We told Rashaun the whole story: the sneaking around, the way Liz lied about having an extra Groupon so she could take Rashaun to get her nails done, the e-mail thread of excited scheming.
Liz and Portia, who had set up the picnic, had given the party a magical ambiance. There were soft jewel-toned blankets layered on the ground, sparkling LED lights in lanterns, and pillows for lounging as we celebrated.
As the sun sank toward the horizon, the mood changed. The silliness shifted into an almost-reverence as the gravity of the evening sunk in: Dampier and Rashaun had just agreed to spend their lives together.
The sunset turned orange and yellow and red, and the light bounced off the water and lit up the clouds. There were smiles and tears. The girls hugged, the dudes high-fived. And slowly, out of the corners of our eyes, we got to watch Rashaun and Dampier adjust to the beautiful enormity of the decision they’d just made together.
Good luck, loved ones. It was a gift to share this evening with you, and an inspiration to watch the community you’ve both built gather around you. And as you move into the next stage of your life together, remember: it takes a village, and we all feel lucky to be a part of yours.
All images are courtesy of Bryan Aulick, who shoots with the Nikon 750 and 810. Rashaun’s kimono is from Anthropologie, and her dress is from Banana Republic. See more photos of Rashaun and Dampier here.