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The real Love Island: The Skye photographers making a business of dramatic proposal pics

Local photographers are seeing a growing trend of people popping the question in spectacular locations.

Josh Flax proposed to and Charlie Gothelf in Skye
Josh Flax proposed to and Charlie Gothelf in Skye

The planning is often done with military precision, surprise being the key, the outcome not always certain.

Proposing marriage used to be a quiet, private occasion, perhaps over a candlelit dinner or a romantic walk.

Increasingly, however, would-be grooms are going to great lengths, and heights, before going down on one knee.

The more dramatic the better.

And there must be a photographer on hand to capture the moment.

Turning a proposal into a business

Rosie Woodhouse and Penny Hardie have turned this trend into a business, and around Valentine’s Day they are waiting for the next call.

Isle of Skye Proposals emerged when the pair realised what had been an aside to their separate wedding photography businesses was becoming more popular.

Skye is a go-to proposal spot due to its spectacular scenery, and for its connection to the Outlander TV series.

Marriage proposal on Isle of Skye with scenic background.
Skye’s dramatic scenery makes it a popular location for proposals

Among those who have used the spectacular island backdrop for a proposal is Josh Flax, 34, a business consultant from London.

Last year he popped the question to his fitness instructor girlfriend Charlie Gothelf, 28, on The Quiraing walk in north Skye.

“I centred on Skye for a number of reasons”, he said. “The beautiful scenery, we both like the outdoors and we like hiking.

“I really wanted to embed that into how I wanted to propose. It gave it a personal element.

“And I knew Charlie would appreciate it if we had someone better than myself and my poor photography skills to capture the moment.”

Photographers disguised as hikers

Rosie and Penny chose a proposal spot for Josh and the unsuspecting Charlie who was convinced she was walking to a remote venue for brunch.

The initial location was changed after campers set up tents where the special moment was to take place, and a new setting was quickly found.

As Josh went down on one knee the photographers, disguised as hikers, produced some prosecco and snapped the engagement.

“Charlie was very surprised, we were both very happy and we got some great photos”, said Josh.

The couple now plan to marry in Hertforshire in August.

Isle of Skye Proposals business owners Rosie Woodhouse and Penny Hardie.
Rosie Woodhouse (right) and Penny Hardie have turned the trend into a business

It was another success for Rosie and Penny who, five years ago, photographed just a handful of proposals in a year.

This year they have more than 50 bookings.

The global phenomenon of dramatic proposals started in America, says Penny, who moved to Skye in 2017 from Hampshire.

She runs a wedding photography business and self-catering accommodation on the island.

“The whole trend has come from America where it is a must to have a photograph of the proposal.”

How to find the perfect marriage proposal spot

For some soon-to-be fiancees, the proposal is expected but not the time or location. For others, it is a complete surprise.

One was told she and her partner were heading into the Cuillins to find a James Bond film location.

Another was expecting to go to a ceilidh in an old manse.

Rosie and Penny suggest locations as well as advice on how the proposer should kneel and even what they might say.

Google Maps pins and the What-3-words geocode system are used to ensure the couple get to the exact site for the proposal.

Another method is using a pink ski glove with a rock inside to mark the spot.

Marriage proposal in front of Dunvegan Castle.
Castles are popular spots for popping the question

But even with extensive planning, things can go wrong, due to Skye’s weather or other unforeseen problems.

“We had one shoot where we had to abort at the last minute because there was a wedding taking place at the location for the proposal”, said Rosie, who grew up in Skye.

She now runs her own photography business specialising in weddings, elopements, portraits, and commercial photography.

She also runs the Skye Wedding Sketcher which creates watercolours and oil paintings of the happy couples’ big days.

As with Josh and Charlie, the photographers find ways of staying hidden until the right moment.

Rosie says: “We very much sell it to the client as we are just two middle-aged women out bird spotting or taking landscape pictures. Literally nobody ever notices us.”

How do you dress for a wedding proposal on Isle of Skye?

When the proposal has been made and accepted, some couples opt to change from hillwalking gear to more formal clothes.

Rosie said: “Sometimes guys have brought a dress in a backpack just in case.

“I had a guy at Neist point who, after the proposal, ran all the way back up to the car to collect a dress and high heels for his bride-to-be so she could have some dressy photographs too.”

Penny recalls another occasion when a man from Argentina brought his girlfriend, her sister and her mother, as well as his future best man to Armadale Castle.

All arrived in kilts, dresses and high heels.

Proposal taking place on the island.
For many couples it is a must to have a photograph of the proposal

“He said he had told everyone that it is a Scottish tradition when visiting castles that you dress up.

“They had spent three days of their holiday visiting castles fully dressed.”

So, has it ever gone wrong?

“We’ve had an incredible success rate with proposals, although there was once an embarrassing ‘No’ which we would rather not talk about.”

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