Picture Perfect Places to Pop the Question in Benicia

Photos by Luke George Photography

Photographer Luke George was on assignment on the Benicia waterfront preparing to capture that special moment when a groom-to-be kneels down on one knee, reveals the ring and asks the woman he loves to marry him. But something was amiss.

It was supposed to be a surprise. The bride-to-be did not know.

Her future husband (he hoped!) had hatched the plan in secret consultation with George; they had agreed to cross paths at a certain pre-arranged spot where the big event was going to happen. Only, the two men had never met in person, talking only on the phone.

“I told him to look for the tall guy with the camera,” recalled George with a laugh. “Apparently there was another tall guy with a camera on the waterfront that day. He proposed and the bride said yes, but nobody took any pictures of it. When I showed up they had already left. No one was there.”

Fortunately, after clearing up the misunderstanding, the couple and George returned to the waterfront to re-enact that special moment for posterity. Everyone went away happy.

On the subject of the most perfect places in Benicia to pop the question, it would be hard to find a more qualified authority than the tall guy with the Nikon. A photographer for Benicia Magazine and other businesses around town, Luke George has shot weddings at the Jefferson Street Mansion and countless proposals. Now, however, he gets together with his clients in-person beforehand to avoid any possible mix-ups.

The most popular time and place for question-popping, according to George, is the First Street Pier at sunset.

“The end of the pier is good,” he told me, “but really, pick your spot.” Another site he really likes is the Neptune’s Daughter statue on the public walkway behind the Tannery Building. “You can get layers of information in the shot. The amber hills, the waterfront, that old yellow building on the wharf. And without the crowds.”

Surprisingly, perhaps, considering how picturesque it is, the Benicia harbor is not big with the question-popping set. It is, nevertheless, very much in demand with families for family portraits and pictures of new high school graduates. “The light is really great there for portraits. There’s a grassy area near the yacht club, and you can get the masts from the sailboats in the background.”

The quality of light is key for any photographer, professional or amateur. “Watch the light,” George advised. “What is the scene you’re trying to set? Pick the spot with the best light so that the picture turns out the way you want.”

Before every proposal he shoots, George checks out the agreed-upon spot and observes what the light will be like at the scheduled time. Then, on the big day, he poses as a sort of tourist who just happens to be taking a stroll on a waterfront promenade taking pictures. He and the groom-to-be exchange furtive glances and when the man of the moment drops that knee, up steps Luke.

Another go-to locale is Ninth Street Park. Though it can be busy at times, at sunset when things settle down, it can provide lovely backdrops of the water, the flagpole on Commodore Jones Point, and those glowing amber hills across the strait. Benicia also has many pleasant camera-ready park settings (such as the gazebo at the top of First), but when it comes to creating Instagram buzz, you must have water in the shot, evidently.

Not all waterfront locations are created equal, however.

The 12th Street Park, although pretty, is too darn windy. Nobody likes their hair blowing all around while getting their picture taken.

Restaurants on First Street have no doubt seen their share of pop-the-question moments, particularly the ones with water views. George often works with Michelle Heberling, a local caterer who arranges private dinner events that are held on the courtyard of the Sweetness and Light flower boutique. After enjoying a romantic dining experience with his (supposedly) unsuspecting sweetheart, the groom-to-be screws up his courage and does the deed just as the Houdini-like George appears from out of thin air.

The question must be asked: In his experience, has he ever seen a groom turned down? “I haven’t seen a no. Ever,” responded George. “The grooms are pretty confident, pretty solid that they’re gonna get a yes.” Hurrah for that!