It finally happened. Grab your tissues.

You guessed it: Chase and Rachel are getting married. But oh, the story is too good to keep from you. If you don’t have tissues handy, I implore you to grab as many as possible. Also, this post is LONG, so I hope you have a little time to kill.

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These two were some of the first people who ever let me put my camera in their face. I really did get to watch their relationship from a very unique perspective in the beginning. The first photo was taken in 2010, about two months after they had first started dating, the second was taken in 2011. I know I say it about nearly everyone I shoot, but these. These are actually my favorite pictures. These people are amazing. And gosh I’m so lucky to be part of this engagement story. I let Rachel and her mom, Terri, read the first draft of this before I was even close to posting it… But you both had to guess I would add more to this story.

Since graduating from CBU, I think I’ve asked Rachel when Chase was going to propose, every other week. Hey you remind Chase to call me when he wants to propose. I don’t care that you live in Texas. I’ll fly out.

It was March 27. Chase sent a group message to Rachel’s closest friends and family members asking us to record videos of ourselves telling her how much we love and appreciate her, what we remember about when they met, how we feel about them together… all that. My antennae went up. So I sent Chase this text: Whenever you want to propose you tell me and I will get on the first flight to Texas to capture it.  And he responded: Lol sounds good! I’m probably buying the ring this next month I should have enough money by then and I’ll probably propose towards the end of May/early June. I found out that he’s one big fat liar, he didn’t wait to buy the ring. Chase bought the ring the day Rachel tried it on and said, “this is THE ring.” Of course, he couldn’t let her know that he got it. So while they were at Robbins Bros. he got Terri on the phone and asked how he could play it off. “Oh just tell her you can’t afford it. Easy.” He did. She wrote it off. And then started the next three months of sneaking.

Rachel and I are actually twins. Seriously. We have the same birthday and she’s about 8 hours older. Fun fact. Well, this year on our birthday we were texting. Someone was a little tipsy (Rachel), and this texting exchange happened. “Chas is my lover.” Yeah? you ready to marry that guy? “Yup” Do it “I’ve been ready. I’m workin on it I’m tryin to speed it up” Remind him that I’m ready to fly to Texas aaaaaany time.

Two days later Chase told me. “I’m doing it June 26th.”

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetWell, damn. Wanna know the kicker in this whole story? I was set to fly back to California from North Carolina on June 27. They live in Texas.

I told Chase I couldn’t do it, that’s just too much travel for two days. It didn’t even take a full day for me to completely regret my words… I remembered that love does insane things. Love doesn’t need to think about it. Without thinking, I looked up flights and told Chase I would be there. No question. I promised her I would be there. This is what you do for the people you love. My dad said it was silly. Yeah, it is. It’s silly to just buy a plane ticket for a 15 hour trip. But sillier things have happened.

What was nice is that he gave me more than a month’s notice. When I called him up I said, “listen, I get paid on Friday, this is the flight I’m thinking about, but I NEED to make sure I can get back to NC in time for my flight back to California since my tickets have already been purchased.” Yes, I’m insane. My flight to Dallas landed at 1, my flight back to Raleigh took off at 6:15 the next morning.

THE PLAN: Rachel will go to come home from work and head off for a girls day with Natalie, Cheryl (her sister in law), and her aunt and cousins. I’ll arrive in Dallas at 12:50 where Chase, Joshua, and Raul will be waiting (with Rachel’s camera) to pick me up, take me to In-N-Out, and drive out to her family lake house. That gives us a few hours to decorate the dock with candles and rose petals and set up the cameras to capture the whole thing. When Rachel arrives, her dad is going to read her a letter as he walks her to the dock. When she sits down at the end of the dock, she’ll watch the video. Sometime while she’s watching the video, Chase will appear behind her.

THE REALITY: Chase had so much stuff to get done, there was no way he’d be able to do it if he had to wait around for me at the airport. He couldn’t steal Rachel’s camera because he was afraid she’d notice it was gone, so he just grabbed her 70-200 telephoto and her battery charger. Along with Joshua and Raul, Rachel’s brother Jordan drove up to the lake house with them to help set up. Her aunt Jill picked me up from the airport, we picked up dinner for everyone from On The Border, we got me In-N-Out God Bless Dallas and went to pick up Grandma. Then we set out to the lake house.

IMG_5561When we arrived I saw that Chase, Joshua and Raul were setting up the dock so that it looked like a little canopy/cabana area. Chase bought 80 yards of burlap (80 flipping yards of burlap) to use for decorating and obviously  re-purposing for the wedding.

One of the most entertaining parts of decorating was that the boys would get an idea with their head, go about halfway with the idea, and then ask me what I thought about it. I pretty much always made them do some ridiculous modification to whatever they were trying to do. Hanging the lights? They (Joshua) wanted to string them around all sides of the enclosure. Joshua why would you do that when the only “wall” of burlap that is going to be seen in pictures is the one she’ll be sitting in front of?

We started to get a tiny bit stressed out over the fact that the candles wouldn’t stay lit because of the wind, so they extended the “wall” of burlap on one side of the dock to help block the wind. It helped a little bit, but we got to the point where we knew we weren’t the producers of The Bachelor and just had to suck it up and deal with the fact that not all candles would be lit. Oh well. Chase went to shower and get changed. We were all super gross from the humidity and sweating and running all around to get this done.

Cheryl was charged with the job of letting us know when they were 15 minutes away so that we could all get into position. Joshua and Raul were all over the place with Go-Pros and their phones, making sure we got video of everything. Chase and I were hiding down at the dock. Her dad, Adrian, was sitting on the back porch waiting. All the other men (Micah, Darren, Ethan, and Jordan) were hiding in one of the rooms. And then the girls pulled up.

Rachel was under the impression that they were going to start their girls weekend at the lake house with dropping off their things before going out to dinner. Fun fact, she was actually really annoyed with Chase for really no reason at all. He ran out of good lies the night before and she was getting annoyed with the BS he was feeding her, yet she was still completely clueless about what was happening. She was spam attacking him with texts and Facebook messages because he “wouldn’t respond” and when that didn’t work, she sent Joshua and Raul texts trying to get in touch with Chase.

Somehow they got Rachel on the back porch, where she saw her parents who had the letter in hand. With Terri on her right and Adrian on her left, they walked her down to the dock. I didn’t even bother hiding. The jig was going to be up about three minutes from that point. I had my camera in front of my face for their first few steps, and then lowered it just enough so that she might actually recognize me. She did. And I heard her say, “WHAT are you doing here?!” And then both our faces exploded with tears. I saw Adrian grab her hand and (because it’s me) I yelled at her to get her sunglasses off the top of her head. Terri read her the letter from Chase to Adrian, and then a letter that Terri and Adrian had written to Chase and Rachel. Once she had finished reading, they sat Rachel down to watch the video. When the video ended, Chase appeared.

Chase and I actually semi rehearsed how he would walk in and propose. I told him to give her a minute to absorb it all, so he should sit down next to her before overwhelming her. This actually made Theresa and Cheryl (who were standing on the porch and could only see silhouettes) say, “he BETTER NOT propose sitting next to her.” And Jordan said, “we all know Bonnie will yell at him if he tries to. Come on.” Duh, of course. Chase clearly couldn’t wait much longer and slipped down to his knee. And the rest I’m sure you’ll be able to put together.

So, for those of you who couldn’t be there, but wanted to be: I did my very best to get it all, I hope it feels like you were standing there with me. I’m 100% amazed the photos came out in focus, that’s how much I was crying. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever been part of, despite the fact that I’m not sure if I was crying or sweating more. In case you were wondering, yes, that combination is quite the special sensation.

Rachel, I’ve never been happier to drop money on anything in my life. Also, I’ve known this was coming since that one time we Skyped when I was in Kansas City. We all have. The day before Natalie flew out I was just being a fibber about being depressed about Texas. You’re welcome. Chase, thank you for making me one of the biggest surprises of the day. This will go down as one of my favorite days, only next to the day you finally get married and start making babies, seriously, I want nieces and nephews to spoil.

Disclaimer: yes, I put a logo on these. If you’re family and want access to the photos without, fill out the contact form and I’ll email you the link.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda Melson says:

    Linda says that is the most beautiful story I have ever heard, I am so happy for Rachel and Chase. Congratulations to Mom and Dad McDaniel.

  2. WOW!! Your photos are AMAZING!!! Wish you lived in Manteca, CA

  3. Lori Kelley Tubbs says:

    Loved viewing this…Just so fun…wonderful…The Best!!!
    Beautiful Girl…Great Family…Really Lucky Guy!

  4. Elizabeth thank you SO much!! That’s so nice to hear.

    I actually have some friends in the NorCal area that I’ve been wanting to visit, it might happen this month… if it does should I swing by Manteca for a portrait session??

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