It goes without saying that a proposal is a big step in any relationship. And when offering a lifetime of commitment to another person, some like to go above and beyond to make the moment incredibly romantic – by hiring a full-on band, say, or through popping the question at a special destination.
Often, too, the request of marriage comes totally out of the blue for the one being proposed to. That may have been the case when Michael Kent and Fiona Newlands were in the northern European nation of Iceland – on a trip that Kent had decided to make even more memorable.
Yes, when the British couple were wandering around the capital of Reykjavik, Kent got down on one knee. And their surroundings couldn’t have been more picture-perfect: Newlands and Kent got engaged surrounded by snow on a quiet street and under a bell made up of fairy lights.
Little did Kent and Newlands know at the time, however, that they had company: a stranger who immortalized the proposal by taking a snap of the proceedings. Indeed, the couple were initially so overwhelmed that they didn’t notice the photographer; it was only when she approached them that they realized she had been there the whole time.
And, graciously, the mystery woman offered to share her image with the newly engaged pair. Kent and Newlands accepted, of course. So, with shaky hands, Kent typed out his email address in order for the photographer to send the picture across.
However, Kent didn’t receive any email, leading him to believe that he may have mistyped the contact information he had given. Nor had he any way of getting in touch with the photographer – meaning the chances of seeing her again were pretty slim.
In 2015 Kent explained the situation to Today, saying, “We went back to our apartment. I checked, and there was just no email, so I went, ‘Oh, I wonder if I put it in wrong.’ So, I worried, and the next day, it still wasn’t there.” But he wasn’t going to give up entirely.
Instead, Kent decided to employ the power of social media to find the person in question. He posted on Facebook, “Dear internet. Last night I proposed to Fiona Newlands in Iceland. A random woman took our picture as it happened (we didn’t know she was there). In the aftermath I didn’t take the lady’s contact details, and I’m worried I gave her the wrong email.”
Kent went on to say that it would just be a nice surprise to get the photo, although it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he didn’t. “If we could find that picture, it’d be incredible,” he wrote. And he added in reference to a photo of the street where the proposal had taken place, “Below is the scene of the crime. If we can’t find [the picture], that’s life, I guess. I’m still very lucky.”
However, at first, Kent’s post attracted congratulations rather than any information on the photographer. Well wishes flooded in, with one commenter writing, “Awwww, you big romantic, you!! Congratulations to you both.” Another took a more humorous approach, joking, “When I saw this, I assumed that was Front Street [in] Consett and you had proposed in a discount frozen supermarket round the corner. Congrats.”
But although the messages may have been well received, they didn’t help Kent with his case. The post was shared dozens of times to no avail, too. As a result, then, Kent decided to take his quest onto Twitter, tagging a handful of accounts from Iceland in his plea for help on the social media site.
And, thankfully, the tweet caught the right eyes, since one Twitter user replied to say that they recognized just who Kent was looking for. They wrote, “I know this woman. Her name is @JessicaRBowe.” Kent’s delight shone through, too, when he replied, “@JessicaRBowe oh my god thank you so much.”
Bowe, who is originally from Wisconsin, had been a resident in Iceland for seven years at the time when the photograph had been taken. And on her way home from the pub on the evening of the proposal, she had come across Kent and Newlands standing in the snow.
In fact, it had been the snow that had initially charmed Bowe and led her to get her camera out. Then from nowhere, Kent and Newlands had walked into view, he had gotten onto one knee and Bowe had taken her shot of the pair.
And Bowe later admitted that she had been overwhelmed to witness the proposal. She told Today, “I can’t say I was more excited than them, but I was pretty excited.” She carried on, “I was just standing there in shock, thinking, ‘Is this happening? Is this what I think it is?’ It was surreal. It was like a scene from a movie.”
“Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time,” Bowe added. She also recalled seeing Kent’s hands shaking when he passed on his contact details, adding, “The man’s hands were trembling as he entered his email address on my phone.”
Then, when she had gotten home, Bowe had tried to email Kent the picture. Ultimately, though, the message had failed to send. And that setback left the snapper disheartened – not least because the couple had seemed so thrilled to receive the photo.
Bowe told Today, “I kind of panicked, thinking, oh God, they were so excited to have this photo and now they’re not going to get it.” But that didn’t stop her from sharing the image with the world via her personal Instagram account.
And as accompaniment to the scene, Bowe wrote a caption that read, “So, this was a special night. I was leaving Bravó after a few happy Friday beers and snapping some pics of the lovely falling snow, with Hallgrímskirkja church in view up Skólavörðustígur, on my usual way home when this couple got engaged on the spot.”
Bowe went on, saying, “I gave them a moment and then asked if they would like to have this picture as a memento. The man’s hands were trembling as he entered his email address on my phone, and I got some nice hugs of appreciation. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time.”
And, perhaps inevitably, Bowe received her fair share of praise for the update. One commenter wrote to the photographer, for instance, “I’m sure they appreciated your kindness! Beautiful moment to capture.” Someone who knew Kent even found their way to the post. They said, “Michael is my godson. All my friends & family that I have told about this had seen the photo, and some had seen it on TV. Many thanks!!”
Bowe was struck, too, by the impact that the image and its backstory had seemingly had on others. That wasn’t something that she had previously experienced – perhaps because, as she told Today, she primarily uploads “silly pictures or slice-of-life photos” to Instagram.
By way of explanation for the incredible reception the photo has received, then, Bowe said to Today, “Amidst everything that’s happening in the world right now, it’s just nice to see a little humanity happening. And I think that’s a big part of why [the image has] been picked up and spread as widely as it has.”
And Kent’s efforts eventually had their reward, as he and his fiancée got to meet Bowe again. He posted a snap of the get-together on Instagram, too, with the caption, “Reunited with @jrbowe, the photographer of the now infamous picture.”
Furthermore, Kent took to Facebook to express his elation at eventually finding the mystery photographer. There, he wrote, “I can’t believe what’s happened. The woman who took the picture of me proposing to Fiona in the street posted it online after I put my email in wrong on the night. Through me posting on Twitter, we were reunited with the photo. I can’t believe it.”
When Today later asked Kent and Newlands whether they would invite Bowe to their wedding, however, Kent laughed and said that they hadn’t even decided on a date yet. He added, “Honestly, we don’t know what we’re going to do. But, of course, she’s more than welcome if she can make it.”
Conversely, in 2015 Bowe was asked by the BBC if she was expecting to be part of the big day. And in response, she admitted that she would “love to crash [Kent and Newlands’] wedding – randomly, just as [she] did taking the photo.”
But Kent and Newlands aren’t the only couple to have had their proposal snapped by a stranger. In 2018 a similar story emerged of a photographer who captured a man popping the question to his girlfriend while the pair stood on a cliff edge in Yosemite National Park.
More specifically, the two had been at Taft Point – one of the park’s many landmarks. And this time around, Matthew Dippel had taken the shot of the proposal, although he had actually been lying in wait to snap his friend Josh at the cliff edge.
Upon having captured the image, however, Dippel was eager to uncover the identity of the happy couple. And much as Kent had done when trying to find his own mystery photographer, the Michigan man went onto Facebook in order to begin the search.
Dippel posted on the social media network, “Alright, internet, I need your help. Help me find these two. This was taken at Taft Point in Yosemite National Park on October 6, 2018. I took this photo and would love for them to find it.”
Since the snapper made his request, moreover, the post has been shared more than 20,000 times; it has also received a staggering 12,000 reactions. Nor did some hesitate to comment on the beauty of the shot, with one Facebook user writing, “Congrats. This must be every photographer’s dream photo.”
Then, just ten days after the initial plea was made, Dippel announced that he had discovered the identities of the couple. He explained on Facebook, “UPDATE: I FOUND THEM. Everyone meet Charlie Bear and his fiancée, Melissa – the happy, happy couple that was out on the point in my Taft Point proposal. In short, I captured the second proposal – the more special and official one, in Charlie’s words.”
Dippel continued, “Huge congratulations to you two. I wish I was able to meet you in person and hug you. I’m glad I finally found you to share this special moment with you. Thanks for being so awesome, [and] maybe one day we will finally meet in person!”
The online community joined Dippel, too, in celebrating the couple’s happy news. One commenter wrote, for instance, “Congratulations, Charlie and Melissa. What a blessing for you that Matthew Dippel captured your special moment in that fabulous photograph! Well done, Matthew.” Meanwhile, another simply said, “This makes me so happy!”
Not everyone had initially been so enchanted with the image, however. One individual even admitted that they had previously had reservations about the photo’s authenticity – not least because the couple seemed to have been improperly dressed for hiking.
Meanwhile, before Dippel posted his update, news broke about a pair who had been found dead at the bottom of Taft Point. A Facebook commenter therefore pointed out that the viral nature of the image may have encouraged the tragic couple to themselves head to Taft Point.
And, sadly, the two people who passed away after their Yosemite adventure weren’t the only ones to have died at the park in 2018. When speaking to San Francisco-based station KPIX in the aftermath of the accident, Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman revealed that the number of fatalities for that year were now in double figures.
But, fortunately, no harm had come to the couple whom Dippel had captured on film. And many people pose on Taft Point without incident, according to the photographer. “It’s a super-popular place in Yosemite. Really popular for engagements, proposals [and] weddings,” he said to CNN. “There were at least three or four different brides and grooms up there doing their post-wedding photos, so it’s definitely not an uncommon thing to see up there.”
All in all, then, both Dippel’s and Kent’s quests appear to have had happy endings. And the two stories seem to each have a shared moral, too: regardless of any drawbacks to social media, it nevertheless retains the potential to bring unlikely people together.