A Romantic Sunset Proposal on Kiawah Island

man on one knee proposing to his girlfriend on the kiawah island beach

Every proposal I photograph is a rollercoaster of excitement from start to finish. The partner proposing is ALWAYS nervous (hint to those thinking of proposing to their significant other, you’re gonna be nervous and it’s 100% normal), but so far every single one has gone without a hitch! N chose to propose to E near sunset on the Kiawah Island beach, and here is how it went.

Planning the proposal

N + E were vacationing to Charleston for a long weekend, and N decided it would be the perfect time to propose. He got in touch with me to photograph the proposal, and we started talking about location options. He’d already done a ton of research, and was hoping to spend the day on Kiawah Island and propose that evening near sunset on the beach.

the great lawn looking toward the ocean at The Sanctuary
sea grass on a sand dune at sunset on kiawah island

Kiawah Island is about 45 minutes south of Charleston, and is a quiet hidden gem with a beautiful beach, oak shadowed roads, and a beautiful golf course. The Sanctuary resort is a gorgeous spot to stay and enjoy all of the above, and is where I suggested N take E for dinner prior to (or after) the proposal.

waves softly breaking on the shore on kiawah island beach

I asked N his priorities, and he said he wanted a quiet spot where they might actually have some privacy on the beach. Kiawah isn’t a private beach, but is quieter than some of the other Charleston beaches so we went through pros and cons (he was also considering Folly Beach), and decided Kiawah was the spot.

The Strategy

Since every couple is different, every proposal needs a slightly different “strategy”. N really wanted this moment to be quiet and romantic for E, so we decided the best strategy was for me to be walking the beach looking like just another tourist (though with a camera…y’all I have about a million photos of weird shells from this evening while I was trying to be sneaky). We’d come up with a signal so I would know when he was about to propose (I’m keeping the signal secret JUST in case any of you reading end up with a surprise proposal someday!), and could capture the moment.

I have several suggestions for the partner planning to propose, and one is to practice! Put on the pants or outfit you plan to wear when proposing and make sure you can go down on one knee in it. Practice taking the ring box out of your pocket and opening it – maybe even put a mark on the top so you don’t accidentally open it upside down.

The Proposal Day

All the details were planned – the location was set – the strategy was in place. The proposal day arrived, and it POURED. The entire day was rainy, but the time I was in the car driving from Charleston down to Kiawah was especially bad, I’m talking torrential downpours.

N and I watched the weather (he was, understandably, a bit worried), and although his plans for the daytime had to change a bit due to weather it looked like the rain was supposed to stop just before sunset, so we moved forward with our plan.

It rained HARD the entire drive from Charleston to Kiawah (they were driving at the same time so they had the same dismal weather experience), but the moment I pulled into the parking lot at our designated spot the rain stopped. I got out to the beach and it was COMPLETELY empty, and the clouds were already starting to clear.

birds flying low over softly breaking waves at sunset on kiawah island

About ten minutes later N + E wandered down onto the beach and started their evening stroll. I hung back up by the dunes (photographing shells while I waited for N’s signal), and N was quickly able to find the perfect spot.

rippled sand with clam holes popping up through

The Moment

On the completely abandoned beach (thank you torrential rain!) N went down on one knee and asked E if she would marry him. I wasn’t close enough to hear what he said (that’s another thing, I’ll make sure and give you two privacy for your moment), but I could tell it was sweet from her reaction. I stayed in the distance to capture the whole moment, and then once they’d hugged and kissed and the ring was on her finger she noticed their paparazzi and I said hi!

Man on one knee proposing to his girlfriend on the beach at kiawah island
woman leaning in to kiss man on one knee
woman kissing her new fiancé while he is down on one knee captured in black and white
man puts ring on his fiancé's finger while he's down on one knee on the beach
newly engaged couple share romantic kiss and embrace on the beach at kiawah island
engaged couple hug and look out towards the ocean on kiawah
engaged couple kiss on the beach at kiawah captured in black and white
engaged couple holding hands walk towards the ocean

After the Proposal

We had a mini engagement session on the beach after the proposal. The sunset ended up being soft and beautiful, and the beach stayed pretty quiet thanks to the rain. I absolutely love when the proposing partner decides to hire a photographer to capture the proposal moment. It’s such a special time, and one that most couples want privacy for, but it’s so nice to have the moment documented beautifully so you can remember it and also share with your loved ones. It’s also nice to relieve a bit of stress by bringing someone in to help you plan who’s photographed MANY proposals.

engaged couple holding hands and smiling at each other while they walk into the water at the beach
engaged couple hugging and standing in shallow water at the ocean
engaged couple wearing blue smiling at the camera in front of the ocean at kiawah island beach
close up of an engaged couple nose to nose during their engagement photo session
couple leaning on each other and holding hands walking down kiawah beach
couple holding hands and walking in front of the water at the beach
woman kisses her fiancé's hand while they walk toward The Sanctuary at Kiawah
black and white image of an engaged couple holding hands and leaning on each other walking towards the camera on the beach
woman looks at her new ring while holding her fiancé's hand on the beach
engaged couple kiss by the sand dunes at sunset on the beach
engaged couple hug and lean on each other captured in black and white
engaged couple hug and lean on each other by the dunes at sunset on kiawah island
couple holds hands and walks through water at sunset
engaged couple hug and kiss and stand in the water on the beach at kiawah
couple holds hands and walks into the ocean at sunset
close up image of a man and woman kissing while she holds her hand on the back of his head showing her engagement ring
engaged couple dance in the ocean at sunset on kiawah
engaged couple kiss in the ocean at sunset
black and white image of a couple hugging
woman hugs her fiance from behind while standing in the shallow waves of the ocean
engaged couple walk up a boardwalk on the beach at kiawah
close up of man and woman's legs standing on a beach boardwalk while they hold hands and kiss
woman sits on a railing on a beach boardwalk while her fiancé hugs her
close up of diamond engagement ring on a woman's hand while she hugs her fiancé
engaged couple kiss while the woman sits on a railing on a beach boardwalk in front of The Sanctuary at Kiawah
Close up of engaged couple's hands while they kiss in the background
newly engaged couple lean together and smile on the beach at kiawah

Best wishes for a long and happy future, N + E! And if you’re thinking of proposing to your significant other, reach out! I’d love to help you plan, and to capture your beautiful moment!


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