She arrived at the hotel in a dazzling red dress, ready for dinner to celebrate his brother’s birthday. She had it on her calendar for weeks. It was a rare chance for everybody to dress up and go out.

When they arrived, there were two problems: no one else was there yet, and their table wasn’t ready.

The hostess (a party planner in disguise) apologized profusely for the mix up, and offered them a complimentary Gondola ride while they waited. She suggested grabbing a drink at the bar. After all, it was rather hot. He insisted on a ride together. After all, it was free (and little did she know, part of his plan).

She agreed. He breathed a sigh of quiet relief. And they walked to the docks together.

The Gondolier, in his nautical striped shirt and wide-brimmed hat, helped them both into the small Italian vessel made for two. Seconds later, they were off. She had no idea that the Gondolier was part of the plan, too.

The Gondola inched effortlessly through the waters, soaking in the still September afternoon, and when it reached the lake’s edge, turned, and prepared to make the return voyage back to the docks, the pivotal moment came.

“Would you mind if I sang you an Italian love song?” the Gondolier asked.

“Actually, there’s something I need to do first…” Paul interrupted, as he began to shift to his knee.

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Time stopped.

Everything froze.

You could hear heartbeats ripple across the waters.

Her eyes widened, and she gasped in disbelief.

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From behind the tall hedges where we were hiding, our stomachs tightened and we got lumps in our throats. We held our breath, just like Nikki.

He reached into his pocket, steadied his body, his voice, and his nerves, and asked Nikki one simple question:

“Will you marry me?”

And then this happened…

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And this…

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And this…

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It was one of the most beautiful moments we’ve witnessed in our lives.

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The Gondolier finally sang his love song. They listened as they laughed, hugged and cried together. He rowed them to shore, and in the midst of it all, something caught Nikki’s eye.

In the rush of emotion, the last thing she noticed were the two people with cameras who happened to be following them the entire time. The people who were there to make sure this moment was unforgettable and frozen in time forever.

And it instantly hit her. He had really planned the perfect proposal.

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As the Gondola pulled into the dock, we all hugged, giggled, and screamed exciting screams together.

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We’re getting married!

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You’re getting married!

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Then, just before the Arizona sun dipped below the mountains, we snuck in an engagement session, and captured the raw, real happiness that every couple feels in that moment. Paul and Nikki were glowing.

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When the session ended, we said goodbye to Nikki and Paul. They had a real dinner reservation, and the surprises were over.

Or so she thought.

While the newly engaged couple dined in the hotel restaurant, we snuck up to a hotel suite decorated by none other than the fabulous Bash by Brenly.

Every time we get a chance to work with Bash, we are blown away with the first class execution of every single detail. This perfect proposal wouldn’t have been possible without the perfect planner. Gentlemen, if you’re looking to put a ring on it and make it a day she will never forget, Bash by Brenly will be the decision you are so glad you made. Teamed up with Sugar and Type, one of our favorite vendors, Bash made sure that Nikki and Paul’s friends received the perfect paper products to invite them to the surprise of the season.

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Nikki and Paul love to travel around the world together, so the theme of planes, maps, suitcases, and goodies from across the globe couldn’t have been better.

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A few hours later, Nikki and Paul finished their meal and headed through the hotel lobby for the exit. A perfect night was coming to an end.

Or so she thought.

When they turned the corner, this happened…

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Nikki turned the corner to find all of their closest friends and family cheering and toasting and celebrating the newest engaged couple in town.

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And as a little surprise of our own, we set up our laptop with a slideshow of our favorite images of the proposal, so that all of Nikki’s friends and family could feel like they were right there with them. Their reactions were so beautiful, and showed how much Nikki and Paul mean to each and every person that was there.

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It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Nikki and Paul, thank you for letting us witness a once-in-a-lifetime moment, freeze it in time, and share it with the world. We are so beyond happy for you and can’t wait to share all of the amazing moments that are ahead! Here’s to your amazing future together!

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You can check out the behind-the-scenes of how Nikki and Paul’s proposal came to life by clicking here.

A few months later, Nikki and Paul’s story was featured as one of The Huffington’s Posts “10 Proposal Photos That Prove Romance Isn’t Dead.” Then they got married in Florida, and it was absolutely beautiful! See Paul and Nikki’s wedding photos here.

If you liked this post, you might also like Melissa’s Mountaintop Proposal or Dani’s Cozy Winter Proposal.

Main gear used for this event: Canon 5D Mark III | Canon 50 1.2  |  Canon 70-200 2.8  |  Canon 24-70 2.8  |  Canon 100 2.8  | Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT | Entire gear list here.

filed in: Engagements

    Diane Hoes

    Congratulations, Paul and Nikki. Wishing you lots and lots of happiness in your new life together. What a perfect engagement celebration!
    Hugs, Diane, Gayle & "Mackie"

    Diane Hoes

    Congratulations, Paul and Nikki. Wishing you lots and lots of happiness in your new life together. What a perfect engagement celebration!
    Hugs, Diane, Gayle & "Mackie"

    Ashley Durham

    This TOTALLY MADE ME CRY!!!! Amazing guys, amazing!

    Amy & Jordan

    Aw! Yay! So glad you like it! It’s still one of our all-time most emotional posts! We love Nikki and Paul!

    […] so excited to see Nikki and Paul’s blush and gold invitations featured on Invitation Crush! Nikki and Paul have such a sweet engagement story, and I was so excited to work on their invitation suite as […]