When New York City-based photographer Ash Fox was first asked to document a couple's planned proposal, her initial reaction was, "You can't have one private moment?!" Still, she took the job and dutifully showed up, camera in hand "and I saw how incredible this moment is," says Fox, who now swears the on-bended-knee occasion is actually more romantic than the wedding day. "The wedding to me is more of a performance for friends and family," she explains, "and this is a very candid moment, just for you and your partner." Since that first proposal in 2011, Fox has captured—and meticulously planned out—close to 1,000 "Will you marry me?" moments.
After shooting a few, "I started to realize what worked and what didn't," she explains. "And I found that when new guys approached me, I could guide them as far as the steps and strategy to get the best reaction." Soon she found herself scouting venues, booking singers ("I only use musicians who perform with the top artists: Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., Seal,") and even laying down rose petals all in the name of making dreams come true. "It was a progression from photographing them to becoming their partner in crime and their coach in the process to becoming the person who orchestrates every element," says Fox. "I'm doing everything—I'm a one-woman operation."
She'll also execute anything an aspiring groom can dream up, but she says her private rooftop proposal packages in Times Sqaure "are just foolproof romantic things girls love." To make the events even more spcial, she finds ways to personalize each one. "I've had some crazy ones where they're like, 'I want fireworks and ballerinas and red carpets," she recalls. "So I have to bring them back down to earth."
But as long as it's legal, she's open to trying it. Some of her favorite moments come when a guy really knows his wife-to-be. One guy wanted to pop the question to his Game of Thrones-loving girlfriend in front of a castle, so Fox scouted out a manse in nearby Tarrytown, New York, coached the boyfriend to tell his love they were going to a wedding, and then posed as the photographer capturing each couple as they walked in. When her client dropped to his knee, "It was perfect," she recalls, "because she loved fairytales."
Another potential groom had Fox reserve a table at a library-themed bar for him and his bookworm girlfriend and place a copy of her favorite tome, Jane Eyre, on the shelf. (When she opened it, there was a heart shaped cut-out and a message asking for her hand in marriage.) "I'm sitting there behind this big newspaper hiding my camera," reminisces Fox, who's also posed as a restaurant maître d', a winery employee, and a fellow tourist. "They walk in and like clockwork she sees Jane Eyre, pulls it down, opens it up and he's down on one knee. Moments like that make me cry."
In fact more than six years in, Fox says she still regularly finds herself teary-eyed. "I definitely get emotionally involved in every proposal," says the pro. "It's always new to me. I'm not jaded." After all, she realizes she gets to be a person who literally makes dreams come true for a living. "I want the people I work with to really have everything that they imagined come to life," says Fox, adding she's considering increasingly grander moments. (On her wish list: a private fireworks proposal and one in every major city, which is why she tries to book clients every time she travels.) Continues Fox, "It's just beautiful to witness and see how it all comes together. I'm so blessed. I have the best job."