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Romantic, Foggy Mountaintop Surprise Proposal Engagement Session at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas








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I can’t believe I’m just now getting around to sharing this romantic, foggy mountaintop surprise proposal turned engagement session at Petit Jean State Park from New Year’s Day in 2022! It has to be one of the prettiest engagement sessions I’ve gotten to photograph. So, even though it’s been a minute, I just KNEW I had to make it official by getting it on the JVP blog. This session is also near and dear to my heart, as the groom, Tyler, is my cousin and I went to high school with (and cheered alongside) the bride, Katie!  Crazy how life turns out. ?

So, a little backstory on this day because it truly was so wild how it came about. This was originally supposed to be a styled shoot, that we’d been trying to plan for months, (if not almost a year by the time we did it!) However, while we were tossing around the idea of them modeling for me, I ended up having to spontaneously move out to West Texas for six months. (Military life.) So, we pushed it to the back burner.

While I was there, Tyler called me and mentioned how he’d been wanting to propose to Katie, but wanted to do it when all of her friends and family could be there. So, he suggested we use the styled shoot as the opportunity for him to propose! I loved the idea of an engagement session at Petit Jean State Park, so we decided we’d do it once I got back to the Little Rock area. We moved back around November and planned the styled shoot *aka surprise proposal* session for New Year’s Day.



engagement session at petit jean state park



As we continued to plan, I was able to get my sister, Kimberly Bearden, (who’s an amazing makeup artist,) to agree to come up the night before and stay the night so she could do Katie’s makeup the next day. Perfect! Then, Tyler’s mom suggested how neat it would be to be able to have all of Katie’s friends and family there when we got back, so they could all celebrate with her. I also texted my friend Ellen, who’s an incredible videographer, and she agreed to come and film the entire thing! I told Katie it would be for my new website, but it was totally for them. ? So, we began the process of getting the entire house ready to host 100 or so people for their special day! It truly turned out so beautiful, and I’m so thankful to everyone who helped make it possible for them.

While Katie and Tyler were on their way down to Sheridan the night before the session would take place, Katie wasn’t feeling too well. She had mentioned several times that we could reschedule, (but little did she know, we had an entire production going here — so that wasn’t an option.) ?  They ended up making it and we had a blast that night.

The next day, we got up, ate breakfast, and started hair and makeup. All of that went perfectly, and we began loading up to make the 1 1/2-hour drive to Petit Jean State Park. I had checked the weather that morning, and it was only showing it to be overcast. But as we started our journey, all I could see on the radar was… you guessed it… rain.

Since the session was taking place in January, we didn’t have many hours of daylight. By the time we finally got to Petit Jean, we had maybe 45 minutes to do everything we needed to, (including the time it would take them to get dressed.) So, we headed straight to Mather Lodge and got to it. After they got dressed, we sped over to the overlook I had planned for the proposal to take place.


But plot twist: once we got to the overlook, it was so foggy you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face; much less the entire mountainscape I had planned on having as the backdrop. ?


So, knowing we only had very little time to execute this shoot, I had everybody jump back in their cars and sped back to Mather Lodge. There was an overlook right beside it that I decided I’d have to make work. And looking back on the images now, I’m so glad I did.

But I’ll be honest, in the moment, the fog was stressing me out. However, looking back, and seeing it in these images — I realize it truly made it. By the time we got to the second overlook, I had maybe fifteen minutes to make the entire thing happen, and it turned out magical. ?

As if the day wasn’t beautiful enough, Katie had some intentional, sentimental touches that truly made the day even more special. Tyler’s bow tie and the ring she was wearing have a beautiful backstory (which you can read below!) I also had Katie put, in her own words, her overall thoughts and feelings on her engagement session at Petit Jean State Park! ?



“When I was younger, I told only my mother and my best friend that I would love to have a Bow tie as a “token” that would be a constant reminder of God’s plan for my future husband. Something that I could pray over every morning and every night symbolizing the husband I dreamt of and that would embody everything it meant to biblically be a “Priest” of his home. I of course added my selfish prayers for his looks, personality, and countenance. 

My best friend eventually got me this bow tie – long enough after my mention of it that I had forgotten. Before gifting it to me, she and my mother both prayed over it. From that day on, before I went to bed and right after waking up, I would walk across my room and pray over the tie. Over the years, my mom would often go up to my room when I wasn’t home and pray over it as well. I swore I would never tell ANYONE of what it represented until I had found my husband. Tyler would see it all of the time and ask its meaning – I told him I had made a promise that I couldn’t tell him until I was engaged. He understood but would pry often. 

When planning the photoshoot you mentioned that Tyler needed a long black tie and that they couldn’t find his old one. Even though you asked for a long tie, I took a VERY deep breath, and thought back to my oath of not informing anyone of what the tie meant – let alone wearing it! –  and offered up the bow tie since it was black. I felt hesitant but was ultimately at peace since I truly felt like Tyler would one day be my husband. You asked why I randomly had a black bow tie and I was reluctant to explain, but I did.

After the engagement took place, I told Tyler while we were on the mountain that he was wearing THE tie. He FREAKED. “Oh no no no! Katie you didn’t have to do that!” Knowing how special it was to me. He immediately asked if he could know the whole story behind the tie now that we were engaged – so I of course did and told him that he was wearing A WHOLE LOT of prayers. He nearly cried!”



“When I was 14, my daddy took me on a “proper” date. He said that it was to make sure that I had been shown exactly what I deserved and exactly how I should be treated so that I would have no questions about how it should be once I started dating. How he treated me on this date should never be any greater than how another man should treat me on a date. He said I deserved this kind of treatment and only a worthy man would provide it. So if a date was ever any less, then I would immediately know that he was NOT the right guy. 

On this date, he gave me a diamond and blue sapphire (my birthstone) ring. He very adamantly informed me that I was to wear it on my ring finger and was NEVER to remove it from that finger until the RIGHT man replaced it with a ring that held a Biblical Covenant – a wedding ring. 

Whenever I dreamt of my engagement or prayed over my future husband, the picture of getting to move this ring to my right hand was a moment I would be completely giddy over and dreamt of for 9 years.

At the engagement it was like this moment was in complete slow motion for me – I tear up even writing about it. I took a breath and smiled so big when I got to look down at my left hand, flash through all of the memories and meaning that this ring held, and then move it to my right hand.

It’s held its place on my right hand ever since.”



“A COMPLETE DREAM COME TRUE. The way that everything happened – I truly had NO idea what that day entailed. I love surprises more than anything and this was a true surprise. Since the photoshoot had been planned nearly a year prior and you, Tyler and Kim did so well at moving me away from any thought it could be an engagement – I was completely shocked!

With the way that the dreary and off-schedule day happened, I had no thought of it ending in engagement. I was pampered and LOVED the day, but was in no way led to believe that It was a proposal. I felt like a princess – styled exquisitely by you and Kim, photographed and filmed, and the man of my dreams on one knee atop a foggy mountain. 

Since I was 12 I had explained to my mother, in detail, what my dream engagement weekend would be. The proposal and the party following was every one of those details and MORE. 

I lived a true fairytale that weekend and I can’t thank you, Tyler, and my mom enough. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”





Needing a photographer for an engagement session at Petit Jean State Park? Or, searching for a wedding photographer in 2024 or beyond? I’d seriously LOVE to serve you! Click the button below to reach out. 🙂


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