How this future groom pulled off the ultimate surprise engagement in the Outer Banks with a photoshoot

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Outer Banks engagement
The perfect surprise. Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

When William Wojciechowski was ready to propose to the love of his life, Katherine Hill, he knew he wanted it to be a complete surprise, so he conspired with his sister. It just so happens that his sister is Catrina Earls, owner of Catrina Earls Photography. Will and Kat had been trying to coordinate with Catrina’s schedule to have a photoshoot to celebrate their new home. It was the perfect guise for a surprise engagement.

Read how William and Catrina conspired to pull off the ultimate surprise engagement and then read Kat’s take on it all.

Outer Banks engagement
William is pensive before the big proposal. Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

Stress and joy for William

Outer Banks, NC surprise engagement
Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

My sister and I had been planning a photoshoot with Kat and myself for quite some time. We wanted to have our first set of photos for our new house. But what Kat didn’t know was that the photoshoot was actually a complex proposal plan. (Hiding a diamond ring inside a duffle bag in the closet you share with your significant other for a couple months is pretty stressful.) Fortunately, I have an amazing sister who coordinated this entire moment perfectly and was one of few people that were key parts to the happiest day of my life to date.

We went to the Outer Banks for the shoot, and the whole time, I was so worried Kat would find the ring, or I would lose the backpack I’d hid it in. When “P-Day” arrived, I took a handful of quiet walks, trying to prep myself by rehearsing what I wanted to say. But when I saw Kat on the beach, I was speechless. I walked up to the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and when she turned around, I grabbed the ring (created by A.R. Morris Jewelers) from my back pocket and dropped to one knee. I was frozen with emotion, except for a few tears of pure joy. 

After what felt like an eternity of speechlessness, I was finally able to ask the question she had been waiting for. After she said yes, we saw dolphins breaching the surf, had to run home briefly through a monsoon, and got to take sun shower photos with rainbows in the background. That day truly makes for a compelling and wonderful start to our next chapter in life. 

—As told by William

Big sister knows best

When my baby brother found the girl he wanted to marry, he asked me for my help. Being a wedding photographer he knew I’d be able to help capture this special moment and I was so honored and excited. He kept throwing out ideas and finally I came up with the idea to do a styled shoot. I had wanted them to model for me before and timing never worked out, but we had a trip planned as a family to the Outer Banks (Corolla Beach), so this was perfect. 

Outer Banks, NC surprise engagement.
A perfectly staged photoshoot turns out to be the perfect surprise proposal. Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

The styled shoot was a great cover to get them both dressed up (Kat’s wore a custom dress from Erin Foley with RCB Fashion) and William and I made sure to have all of Kat’s favorite things there to make it special for her. Jessie from Amaranth + Artifact was instrumental with pulling this off. She created the beautiful bohemian picnic backdrop with sunflowers from Bells & Whistles (Kat’s favorite) on the beach. 

I remember that day, the forecast was iffy, but we decided to give it a shot. We got everything set up and the skies were still clear. Then some dark clouds started rolling in, so I made the call to Kat down to the beach ASAP before we got rained on. It was then while we were waiting for Kat that I looked at my baby brother. He was staring at the ring in his hand, pacing the beach. I couldn’t tell if he was nervous, excited, or both. I’m pretty sure it was both. I had goosebumps and was trying so hard not to tear up. 

Kat arrived to the beach and William went to her and led her to where I was standing. We got everything set up for the photos and then I asked Kat to come and stand in a certain spot. When I told her that she was in the right spot and to turn around, she turned to see William on one knee. Tears rolled down my face when I watched my baby brother propose to his love. 

We snapped more photos, but then we saw a wall of rain moving towards us. We bolted for the beach house, but still got caught in the rain. Once the skies cleared we went back down to the beach to take what would become their engagement photos. 

—As told by Catrina, big sister, conspirator and photographer 
Outer Banks surprise engagement
Surprise! Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

Kat’s perfect day

To start, my soon-to-be-hubby is not the best at keeping secrets. He said a few things that convinced me he was about to propose, but I had no idea when.

Going to the Outer Banks had been planned for about a year, so to me, it was a much-needed vacation and an excuse for Will to get dressed up and for us to take nice pictures together.

The day of the shoot was both slow and hectic. We waited a good part of the day for the props of the shoot to arrive. Once they did, we started on my hair and make up. Not 30 minutes into it, Catrina (Will’s sister and our photographer) called saying I needed to come down to the shoreline immediately because a storm was coming. I ran down to the beach and up the dunes.

Outer Banks surprise engagement
Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

Still winded from running through the sand while trying not to trip over my dress, I see Will waiting for me on the beach. He looked even more handsome than he normally did. In that moment I felt like we were the only people in the world.

We took a few pictures together, and then Catrina directed me to go stand under the display. In what felt like a slow motion scene right out of the movies, I turned to look back at the camera as Will got down on one knee.

Outer Banks surprise engagement
Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.

Within a few minutes of saying yes, there was a boom of thunder and a strike of lighting. Right when we got to the top of the dunes, we could see the rain coming in on both sides of us and were caught in a huge downpour. Once the rain stopped, we went out to take more pictures. The sky had this beautiful soft glow, there was a rainbow over the ocean, and we even saw dolphins. It was the absolute definition of cloud nine.

—As told by Kat

Outer Banks surprise engagement
Photo courtesy of Catrina Earls Photography.
Katherine and William will be married in April 2020.
A version of this story appears in the fall issue of Carolina Bride magazine.

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