Brandt + Emily | Chicago Proposal

July 20, 2018

The Backstory

*deep breaths*
Where do I even start on this one? I think I’ll start by grabbing a box of kleenex.

I remember, about four years ago, I met Emily. She was hanging out with a few friends and my brother, Brandt, after church one week. I had never seen her before, had no idea who she was, but she seemed cool. We all ended up heading out to get lunch together, Emily and I the only non-musicians. We bonded over “the-smile-and-nod”, that thing you do when the guys start geeking out about gear. We both have mastered it over the years. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I met Emily the day after Brandt and Emily had hung out for the first time, at a Lydia concert in Chicago. They were friends for a while, but eventually I started to hear her name a lot more. As cool as I thought she was, I was a little hesitant because she was young (as if it matters) but very very quickly I learned that it’s pretty much impossible not to love Emily. 

On the Left you can see Emily after hours of smiling and nodding.

On the Left you can see Emily after hours of smiling and nodding.

It didn’t take long for Emily to become a part of the family. She fits right in with our goofy, bad joke fueled family.


From family reunions, to champaign and onesie girls nights, to family holiday parties, to our “traditional” Christmas movie watching, she came along, and she could hang. 


I had never seen anyone be so perfectly supportive and patient with my brother. They’re goofy, and oh so ADD, and they clicked. 


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Basically from the beginning people have been asking me “so do you think they’ll get married?” At first, in the very beginning I said “I don’t know” because…they’d been together for like 4 months, give it a minute people! 🙂 But pretty quickly my answer turned to “Gosh I hope so”
I could not be more excited to have Emily as my sister in law. She has been such a good friend to me over the last few years…. as I typed that I realized that this means she gets to be my friend forever…. hello mushy, corny, emotions! So glad we have infinite more unflattering selfies to send and receive!


Last year my brother was on the job hunt. He had two jobs he was interviewing for. One in Chicago, and one at Sweetwater in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I think we all selfishly hoped he would get the one in Chicago. But that wasn’t in the cards. Brandt got the job in Indiana and Emily had just gotten an awesome job that she loved in Chicago. So long distance it was. Most weekends involved 6+ hours of driving for one of them. Lots of tears were shed during goodbyes after weekend visits. Emily decided she had had enough of long distance, and that at the end of July she would not be renewing her lease, but would be moving down to Fort Wayne to be with Brandt. Suddenly it wasn’t just friends/extended family asking questions about proposals and marriage. I started to wonder myself. There were a few family functions/holidays in the last 6 months where I was convinced that my brother was going to propose. But he let the suspense build. I kept my pondering to myself. I tried not to put the pressure on…but I just wanted to know! When was my brother going to propose!??? 

A little over a month ago that I finally caved and couldn’t wait to ask anymore. I texted my brother asking “when are you going to propose???” 
I honestly didn’t think I was going to get an actual response! I thought he was going to brush it off, or not tell me because he thought I would spill the beans (I obviously never would have!). But to my surprise he told me that he’s been working on it. He had been saving and was getting very close to getting a ring. He hadn’t gotten a lot of the specifics ironed out, but he was starting to look. 

Then I got a text asking about hints that she had dropped over the years.

Then I got the update that the ring was ordered.

Then I got the update that it was on it’s way. 

Then I got a picture of the ring

It was finally going to happen! 

The Plan

Rewind to last week. Brandt and I spent 2 hours on the phone, going over what his hopes and visions for his proposal were. It’s funny because I’ve had this conversation with clients before, so in a weird way it felt familiar, but it was a totally different thing when you’re putting together the game plan for your brother! 

Another thing that made it feel very different from a client: I was going to play a major part in getting Emily where she needed to be so that Brandt could propose. Usually I’m just hiding in some bushes somewhere, very passive, being as inconspicuous as possible, waiting for the moment to arrive to pop out and start snapping. This was very different, I had to play a very active role.

Brandt wanted to propose at the Blue Line L stop, where they had met up to take the train in together to the Lydia concert downtown Chicago. So how do you get Emily on to the platform, to go into the city, when she herself lives in the city, but we’re both in the suburbs and both have cars at our disposal? 

After a few hours of brainstorming, here was the story/plan we concocted:

My friend Nicole — who is an actual person, one of my best friends from college, who moved from Illinois to San Diego, and recently had a baby — and her daughter were coming to town, and I still haven’t been able to meet her daughter. Nicole has a bit of time to kill before she was getting picked up by her parents, so we were going to meet up. But I had also made plans to hang out with Emily and her family. “Nicole” agreed to meet me at the nearest Blue Line Stop (because the blue line comes/goes from O’hare) which happens to be the spot where Brandt was planning to propose. 

A few days before I texted Emily asking her if she wanted to hang out on Sunday because I was going to be in the suburbs for a friend’s bonfire on Saturday. On Friday or Saturday I texted her asking her what she wanted to do. She told me her family was going to be getting back from vacation so she was actually going to probably hang out with her family on Sunday. So very rudely I invited myself over! “I’ve only met them once! I’ll come with you!”

The Proposal

A.K.A. The day I lied my butt off.
Before heading over to Emily’s parent’s house, I plant the seed that I am going to meet/pick up my friend later in the afternoon, but I’m not totally sure what time she would be getting in. 
So then I get to her parent’s, her family had just gotten back from a vacation the night before, so they shared pictures from their trip, while the world cup final played in the background. Eventually somehow we ended up watching some documentary about North Korea. You know, the happy stuff. I had changed Brandt in my phone to “Niko” and made his picture a picture of Auden, Nicole’s beautiful baby girl, so when Brandt texted, Emily wouldn’t be tipped off. I waited for Brandt to say he was at the station. I started gearing up to go. I suggested Emily come with me. After all Auden would be there, and Emily loves babies! 

“No, I’m around babies constantly at work, I don’t feel like going anywhere” 

Somehow in all of our planning, accounting for so many scenarios and curve balls, this was not one we had considered. What if she just won’t come with me to the station? 
I shared some glances with her mom, her mom said that she was going to run out for some errands, and so no one was going to be home so Emily should go with me. 

Thinking on my feet I offered donuts. It was my Hail Mary, knowing donuts are Emily’s weakness. She very reluctantly agreed to come with me. I didn’t want to push too hard, I could tell she was peeved but I knew it would be worth it.

So we drive, pull into the parking lot. She points me over to the “Kiss and Ride” lane, I quickly blow past it and say I’m going to park cause “Nicole wants help with her stuff”. At this point I see the finish line, I just need to push past and avoid questions. I can see the light! 

Before we left her parent’s house I pulled my camera out of my bag because I wanted to “show her this venue” that I had shot at the weekend before. This giving an excuse as to why my camera would be out. 

So we parked, to my surprise, Emily doesn’t ask questions about why she needs to leave the car and come with me. Then we walk up to the turnstile and I know the question is coming “why do we have to go up on the platform?” Because really, why would we both pay to go on the platform. I just push through it and say she wants help carrying things, she had told me that she had a lot with her. 😉 While we rode the escalator up I swore he gave me this suspicious look like she knew something was going on. 

So I make it to a good spot, Brandt texted me when he got on the train, now we just have to wait. I spout out how I’m so excited to meet baby Auden. But Emily gave me that look, so I’m nervous, and I start to feel like I’m overselling it. I needed something to get her mind off of things. 
“Emily, where are we going to go grab donuts after this?” So Emily pulls out her phone and starts looking for nearby donut shops. 


The first train comes into the station, I’m looking nervously, but no “Nicole”. I honestly got nervous for a moment that we somehow ended up at the wrong spot. But no, there’s no way. So more waiting. 
Then I get a text from Brandt saying that they’re pulling in. (My parents are in the last car, and her parents followed behind Emily and I and were hiding out of view) 

I didn’t spot him right away. He was behind a few people in the crowd. Emily looked up, looked down the platform and somehow didn’t see him. She looked right at him pretty much, I was waiting for her to react. But when she looked over at me, and I had my camera ready to get her reaction, she gave me this face! She told me later that she just rationalized it with “she’s a photographer, it’s not that weird”

Brandt was able to walk right up behind her and wave without her realizing! 

As Brandt stands her up, she spots our families walking up, I think she started to figure it out. 

I’m not crying! You’re crying! 

I mean, we DID promise donuts….

Luckily I was able to be convincing enough, she said she had no idea. And really didn’t even catch on until she saw her parents. 
I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this and was able to take pictures of it! I definitely cried into my camera for this one. Lets be honest, there wasn’t a dry eye there! Can’t wait to see what is next for these two! 

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