Hannah and Cooper

Image 1 of Hannah and Cooper

How We Met

It was the first day of spring semester, my sophomore year of college. I stood outside theory class and chatted with a friend, when this new boy came up to introduce himself to me. I had that rom-com internal moment of “holy crap- this is the cutest boy I’ve ever seen in my life”. He asked my friend Aaron if I was the girlfriend he had been talking about and we both quickly said “NO!”. Cooper then, in his ever charming way, swooped in to introduce himself. I was smitten! (just ask any of my friends…) He sat next to me in class, we talked and bonded over the fact that he was from North Carolina which happened to be my favorite state. I looked forward to theory class so much more because I knew he would be there- (no offense, mr. lovely).

That semester I was cast in our schools production of Godspell. We had a last minute drop out for a guitarist and Cooper was brought in to take over. I was obviously excited and also very nervous. I couldn’t help but think that this guy was way too cool to like a crazy musical theatre girl. None-the-less, he was kind enough to offer me rides to and from rehearsals, since I didn’t have a car. During those five minute rides, I would try and figure out if he was flirting back or if there was any interest. Come to find out, he was seeing someone back home- stab in the heart- so that was that. I was a little heart broken, but thought that he probably just wasn’t the right guy for me. And he wasn’t- not yet… :)

Over the next couple of years, we both dated other people and stayed friends at a distance.

My senior year (Coop’s junior year), we both ended up in the same Music History class. Cooper sat behind me and would tease me and pass notes sometimes. I was always happy to see him come to class (when he didn’t miss his alarm…lol). Our friendship was rekindled, but I still didn’t think anything more would come of it! I was pretty confident that Cooper Bascom would never look at me in that way.

Fast forward to the very last day of finals for that semester. In true Hannah fashion, I had procrastinated on a final paper for the music history class and was sitting in our campus coffee shop when I got a text from cooper. He asked if he could join me and write our papers together. I of course said “yes!” but thought it was a little weird that I was about to be hanging out with Cooper…

Hours later, neither cooper or I had made any progress on our papers but we had talked and laughed the night away. I texted my friend Ellie “I think Cooper Bascom is flirting with me!!!” And she encouraged it lol (shout out to Ellers. Thanks girl!) It seemed too good to be true. I was leaving the next morning for Christmas break and thought that there was no way this was going to go anywhere because of the timing, but after spending almost the whole night talking, he still texted me the next morning and from then on, we just never stopped talking!

After a month of FaceTime and 4 hour phone calls, he came to Orlando to meet my family and to ask my dad if he could date me, and the rest is history! He wasn’t messing around :)

how they asked

“Turkey”. Most people call each other “baby” or “sweetheart”, but cooper and I aren’t most people.

About half a year into our relationship, we must have been goofing off and it caused my mom to say “You guys are just a couple of turkeys” and we thought it was hysterical, and we never stopped calling each other “turkey”. I know, weird, but there is a point for me telling you this! Just wait…

Its hard to put it all in the right order because so many little things went in to this day. So stick with me through the small details, because they’re important!

First of all, I had absolutely no idea. I told cooper that all I wanted in a proposal- was to be surprised! I told him that I didn’t need to get my nails done or be in a fancy dress or heels because thats just not our norm, so I would have been suspicious! I said I would rather be in a long sleeve tee and shorts with my hair in a messy bun than to know its coming and ruin the surprise! Also, cooper and I love hiking mountains and I assumed that was how it would probably happen. He had asked me a couple weeks before this, when I would have a weekend off of work to make a quick trip to north carolina and maybe go hiking- so I figured he would propose during that trip! He also had talked to me before about having a photographer there- because a lot of people are sneaky and have a photographer hiding in the bushes to capture the moment- but I told him I didn’t need that, and that I wanted him to do it however he wanted! He told me he would like it to be a private moment so that was another reason I didn’t suspect it to happen the way it did… Lol sneaky boy!

Sarai had taken Cooper and I for a photoshoot months before this and we fell in love with her shooting and editing style (hello india earl prodigy!) and of course with her sweet and spunky personality! So when she asked us to be a part of another photo shoot, I got giddy with excitement and thought I was talking cooper into something that he probably didn’t want to do- but he’s always a sweetie to me and was on board for another shoot!

I was the one in contact with Sarai so I had no idea that he was planning behind my back and setting up his own ideas with her.

We were supposed to do the shoot in early September, but then the hurricane Irma came and we had to cancel it. Poor cooper had the ring burning a hole in his backpack the entire duration of the hurricane, as we were all stuck in my sisters house together for days!

After that was all over, I looked at my schedule and realized i had a day off, so on a tuesday- I messaged Sarai and asked her if she was available the NEXT DAY to do the shoot and she said yes, so I double checked with Cooper and he was free so he had less than 24 hours to get all the last minute details ready and to inform my family that it was happening that next day.

Sarai had a vision to have me in a flowey dress and coop in trendy clothes and have us jump in the water. We set up the plan to meet at Rock Springs. I had even sent Sarai some photos I found on Instagram of specific spots we should try to find and take photos at. And of course, she was texting cooper those same pics saying “This is where you should propose!”- I was literally setting up my own proposal without knowing it. (sneaky coop)

The morning of, I was second guessing my dress choice and my mom overheard me so she suggested we go find another one. Cooper was getting his hair cut, (and getting a last minute ring box detail taken care of), so he told me to go ahead and off we went.

Im proud of my mother for being so calm and normal- she did not give it away at all, but helped me pick out a dress that fit me and the shoot well, and I’m so glad she did! It worked out perfectly.

While we were out, I even pointed out one of the rings she was wearing and she had me slide it on my fingers. Then she gave me her other rings to see what size my fingers were. I even told her “now you can tell cooper what size I will need!” lol…

I went home and cooper was waiting for me there- I showed him my new dress to get his approval- and his reaction said it all. (He later told me he was trying to hold back tears- but I was so far away from him that I didn’t notice).

Right before we left, I looked down at my purity ring and said “oh! I should leave this here- I don’t want people to see it in the pics and think its an engagement ring”…that was a pretty significant moment for cooper to see, as he knew he was going to replace that ring in just a couple hours.

We drove out to Rock Springs and Sarai pulled up at the same time- but even though they had both called to make sure it was going to be open- it was CLOSED! They both still wanted to go in (of course) but me being the rule follower I am, was so nervous and didn’t want to get in trouble. There was a fire station across the street so cooper decided he would go ask them what their opinion was. Sarai and I stayed in the car and he went in by himself and told the firefighters what was going on and they were so excited for us and told him “just go in! Ask for forgiveness, not permission” and they told him that if he told a park ranger what his plan was, they would probably help us out! So off we went!

We parked in the front and started walking, when some maintenance guy in a gold cart stopped us and told us we needed to leave. (He was extremely rude about it…) cooper tried to negotiate with him, even whispering that he was proposing to me and that he would offer him cash or whatever he needed if he would even give us 15 minutes. The guy said he couldn’t help us (when really, he just WOULDNT) and he followed us back to our cars and waited for us to leave. We took our time finding another last minute location. I felt bad, because I thought I had dragged cooper out there for a shoot that wasn’t going well, and he was internally stressing because his proposal plans had just been destroyed.

Sarai was on the phone and she found a state forest that seemed beautiful in pictures and she got a license to shoot there and even a gate code to get past the locked gate.

As we left rock springs, I literally said to cooper: “well- that put a damper on my plans to propose to you” (wow Hannah. way to go!)

I’m always teasing him about how I will propose to him so he played it off well and laughed with me, making jokes about the proposal I had planned. (this is one of my favorite moments of the day).

After searching for the new place for almost an hour, we found it. Seminole State Forest. In the middle of no where Florida lol

We parked near a lake at the front of the park and there was no one in sight. We saw some potential photo spots but we wanted to actually go deeper into the park to see if there were other options. Sarai, somehow lost her phone which had the gate code and the license on it! We tore her car apart and still couldn’t find it. Finally, after cooper ran around the parking lot for a while- he found it on the pavement, luckily before we ran it over, and we headed in.

It was a long strip of a one way dirt road that was supposed to have beautiful tall trees surrounding it, but because of the damage of the hurricane- almost all of the trees had fallen or were burned in a controlled forest fire. We pulled off to check out a lagoon in the middle of it, and the water hadn’t been moving because of hurricane damage and the smell was unbearable! The road was harsh and poor cooper was hitting his head on the car ceiling. Everything was going wrong. I was feeling bad for making coopers day stressful, but he obviously had other reasons to be stressed! Poor guy.

He later told me that at that point he was thinking “I can’t do this today. Its all wrong. Im going to have to reschedule and figure something new out!”

Then Sarai slammed on her brakes because- five wild TURKEYS ran across the road in front of us. Cooper and I bursted into hysterical laughter because Turkey is kinda our thing and we NEVER see them! We thought it was so stinking funny.

That was the moment he decided- “now I HAVE to do it. because- TURKEYS!”.

We turned around and ended up going back to the front area of the park, with a beauitiful lake behind it. We were completely secluded and it ended up being a perfect spot for some photos.

Every pose we did, Cooper was anxiously waiting for Sarai to give him the code words, but as it got closer to sunset, she asked if we could wait it out and get the last few shots closer to the lake during that time. We sat in her car for about 30 min before the lighting was right and then hopped quickly out of the car to catch that golden hour just right!

As we were walking, cooper casually mentioned that he “forgot” he brought the gopro. I didn’t think anything of it, because we film a lot of our adventures together so I told him he should def set it up and we could make a cute video out of it! As he set it up, Sarai was “test shooting” with me to get the perfect angle and lighting. Cooper joined me and we waited for her to give us the instructions for the next shots.

Cooper was looking extra sweet, kissing my hands and starting to look really emotional. I just thought he was being the sweetie that he always is:

Then Sarai said “Oh yeah…this is definitely the money shot” and thats when I saw it in Coopers eyes.

He got teary and started talking about how crazy the day was, and how crazy our lives are in general, how it would always be a little crazy, but that he couldn’t imagine spending a minute of it without me. Then he got down on one knee, pulled out the tiniest, most beautiful wooden box (that happened to be passed down from generations of Bascoms before), and said:


Image 4 of Hannah and Cooper

“Hannah Beth Neal, will you marry me?”


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And then the sobbing happened lol and I cried out “yes!!!!!”

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I literally couldn’t believe after the insane day that we had, that it would end so perfectly.

I wouldn’t change a single detail about this day, and Im so thankful Sarai was there to capture it so perfectly.

If you’ve made it through all the details, I owe you a cupcake or something.

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Special Thanks

Sarai Helene Ault
 | Photographer