For as long as we have been living in the Washington, DC, area, we have wanted to take wedding or engagement couples portraits on the Fourth of July with the fireworks exploding over the National Mall in the background. Watching the fireworks show on Independence Day is a quintessentially Washington experience, and wedding or engagement pictures of a pair of fiancés or newlyweds embracing with the sky behind them lit up with celebratory explosions give the couple’s betrothal or nuptials an undeniably DC feel.
We finally had the good fortune recently to have a lovely young couple hire us for a surprise proposal and engagement photography session during the fireworks on the Fourth of July. We were thrilled to have the chance to document their love photographically with such an iconic Washington event going on around them, and we were even more excited when we heard where their proposal/engagement shoot was going to take place. The United Unions Building is not as well known as many of Washington’s most famous edifices, but it has the best location for a couples portrait session on Independence Day that a wedding and engagement photographer could ask for. The United Unions Building is just a few blocks from the Washington Monument and has a rooftop terrace that offers a beautiful view of the entire National Mall.
Before the fireworks started, though, we had the great privilege of photographing the future groom getting down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend in a private room adjoining the terrace. It was one of the lovelier and more touching proposals that we have ever captured on film, because the groom-to-be had decorated the space with photos of members of their families accompanied by notes written by them to the bride. Needless to say, the bride was crying tears of joy from the moment her fiancé led her into the room.
After the couple finished looking at all of the photographs and reading the notes, they invited their families (who had accompanied them from Louisiana to Washington, DC) into the room. We took some pictures of them all celebrating and then captured some images of the whole group posing on the terrace with the Washington Monument in the background.
Once the sun went down, though, our attention shifted back to the freshly-engaged couple. We positioned them on the edge of the terrace and waited for the fireworks show to begin. When it did, we literally took hundreds of pictures of them embracing, kissing and gazing into one another’s eyes as streaks of light flashed across the sky above them. We tried long-exposure photographs that showed the emotions on their faces and turned the exploding fireworks into laser-like rays in the night. We also took darker shots like this one, in which the new fiancés’ heads were silhouetted against the light behind them.
What we particularly like about the image featured here is that even though you cannot see the expressions on the couple’s faces, their body language still communicates the love and connection that will bind them together during a lifetime of marriage. The tenderness in the way the future groom is looking at his fiancée is reflected in the slight tilt of her head toward the camera, which shows that she is receiving that love and sending it back to him.