Dennis + Christina / "To Protect and Propose" / by Jessica Lawson


Christina has been one of my favorite people I've met through being in the photography life. I met her when she booked me for her college senior portrait photos. And we found some magic together on that first session.  I fell in love with her and her mom and their story. Christina was adopted by Terri and her husband. But a number of years ago, Christina's dad passed away leaving a big hole in their family. That hole... that hole was filled with an abundance of love and cheering between Christina and Terri. They're adorably close, impossibly funny, and a full of excitement for others. They're the sweetest duo. 

Over the next two years I had the honor of documenting family pictures from Christina's graduation, more senior portraits for her master's, and some Christmas card photos. 

So when Christina's boyfriend, Dennis and her best friend contacted me on December 21st around 10am MST I was READY. I had heard about Dennis, had been rooting for them. And I already knew what he was going to ask.

The star aligned through the busyness of life for Dennis to surprise the crap out of Christina. 

He planned for that December 21st evening to pick her up after work and had a buddy from work she had not met, agreed to pull him over and cause some ruckus. 

Well, sometimes even I forget I live about 5-6 hours away from the SoCal life. But this was for Christina, my sweet Christina, who is better than an instagram ad or wedding planner in spreading praise for me. She is the best. She believes in me. And I believe in them! 

So with my husband's blessing, because he was battling a cold, I took off for a proposal set in 8 hours from that initial conversation.


Dennis' cop friend pulled them over. Dennis had "forgotten" his wallet but told the officer he was a cop at the station across the street. The officer didn't believe him, told him he had never seen him, and asked if he was carrying. Dennis said yes. And the officer said he needed to cuff him until he got some more information. 

Then the officer had Christina get out of the car. But when she went to go get her jacket from the vehicle, Dennis was released. She walked back to him, and he said he needed to ask her something.... and... well...


Christina was STUNNED. She was baffled. And slowly her special guests invited to watch emerged. Inside the officer's car was her mother! Behind the bushes was City Hall. And behind the blinding lights from the cop car was her personal photographer ;) lurking in the shadows lol. 

This was an incredibly hard proposal to shoot.
Proposals are tricky to shoot because as a visual storyteller you don't want to get in the way or be a distraction of what is going on. But in our society we are daily posing for the camera. In these raw, big moments, you don't want poses. You want to document what is really happening. You don't want to corrupt that joy with a direction to smile. 

Proposals can be quick. And can be entirely unpredictable. There's not a steady routine like a wedding, but there is the big pressure of capturing the raw reactions like a wedding. 

The biggest factors I did not have control over was the stupid freaking cold and the lighting situation. There were a few moments where I was literally praying "God please please please help me capture this because I CAN'T feel my trigger finger." Yikes.

But God helped me out, as He always does when I remember to ask. And the tricky lighting situation ending up producing some of the most beautifully romantic and unique proposal photos I have ever seen. 

So with that, please enjoy Dennis + Christina's proposal story.