A local couple recently returned to the Gayborhood spot where they met nearly 10 years ago — this time, accompanied by the “paparazzi.”
Amita Mehta proposed to Kristen Kemp July 15 at the corner of 13th and Locust streets, with the help of surprise-engagement company Paparazzi Proposals.
The Lambertville, N.J., residents met through mutual friends at the now-defunct Bump, which used to operate at that corner, during OutFest 2005.
“She was very high-energy and just beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. Even though she was wearing a hoodie,” Mehta joked.
Kemp said she was immediately attracted to Mehta’s confidence.
“She was incredibly confident and you could tell she just loved life,” she said. “I just saw so much positive energy.”
Mehta, 43, joked that she played “hard to get” at first but the pair dived into dating. At the time, Mehta was living in Wilmington, Del., and Kemp in Reading. Mehta, who works in the financial-services industry, got a job offer the next year in New York City and moved there, while Kemp, 34, a teacher, followed in 2007 after the school year ended.
But, both “country girls at heart,” they moved to Lambertville, across the bridge from New Hope, six years ago.
Mehta said the couple always shares a kiss when they wake up, resists anger in disagreements and tries to be one another’s cheerleader in all situations, a sentiment Kemp echoed.
“She supports me in each and every thing that matters to me, everything I’m passionate about. And I give her the same support,” she said. “That’s the serious side, and on the other side, we just have fun. She makes life fun; that same energy and passion I initially saw in her has never changed.”
While they didn’t have a formal discussion about marriage, Mehta said that next step seemed natural — and she began planning to pop the question.
“My personality is pretty big and Kristen’s more simple and private,” she said, noting she brainstormed a number of proposal possibilities, including popping the question on stage at a concert of Gavin DeGraw and Shania Twain, whose song “Forever and Always” they consider their own. “But I thought, you know what, I want to make this about Kristen; going big on this one means going simple. And I thought, Philadelphia. That’s where we first met, and what better place to get engaged than in a city that represents freedom, liberty and equality?”
While Bump is no longer in business, Mehta decided to propose outside the building; while she was planning an intimate moment, she wanted to make sure it was one they could remember — which is where Paparazzi Proposals came in.
The company was founded in 2011 by former paparazzi photographer James Ambler, who conceived of the business after realizing he had no photo coverage of his own proposal. The only surprise-engagement company that offers nationwide service — and which was featured on the 2013 season of entrepreneurial-reality show “Shark Tank” — Paparazzi Proposals connects proposers with local photographers who covertly capture the moment. The company also offers add-ons to up the wow factor and city-specific packages.
“In New York City, we have an option where you can rent out Times Square and use a Jumbotron to put your proposal message on there,” said Paparazzi Proposals social-media manager Hilary Ribons. “It can be anything big like that to something low-key like getting engaged at home or on a rooftop. It depends on what’s special and meaningful for the couple.”
Mehta contacted the company with her plan and they set a date, to coincide with Kemp’s incoming flight to Philadelphia from a visit to Utah. Mehta purchased a special ringbox that contained a video camera to carry the custom-designed ring she had made at Goldsmiths Jewelers in Lambertville.
Mehta sent the photographer a picture of her and Kemp and he provided her a map of the intersection, designating where he would stand and where she should position herself.
She picked up Kemp from the airport after her red-eye flight and suggested breakfast in the city. Kemp said she wasn’t suspicious until she spotted Mehta hiding what looked like a box behind her back on the walk to 13th and Locust, but joked that Mehta, a Gemini, is often unpredictable so she didn’t focus on it.
The only hitch in the plan was the inclement weather — but Mehta said her worries about the rain evaporated when she approached the corner and saw the newly painted rainbow crosswalks at 13th and Locust streets, which she hadn’t known about.
“I was nervous but it was an excited type of nervous,” Mehta said. “I had practiced my little speech over and over but I was really emotional; normally, I’m practical and she’s more emotional, but I was really choked up and couldn’t even get the words out. But she was just smiling ear to ear.”
“I’ve known for years that she’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, so to see her down on one knee giving this gift of love and this promise that this is forever was just magical,” Kemp said. “My heart was beating so fast and I had this huge, stupid smile on my face.”
Kemp laughed that, while Mehta rehearsed the angle with the ringbox video camera — making for amusing footage of her proposing to planters at their home — the angle was a little off that day.
“All you see is my stomach and from my nose down; despite working out consistently, the angle of my stomach is not all that flattering,” she laughed. “But that makes it all the more entertaining. And right after she showed me the ring, we kissed and miraculously the angle changed so we got this incredible footage.”
Kemp said she was thrilled to learn that the moment had also been captured by Paparazzi Proposals. Kemp noted she spotted the photographer across the street during the proposal but figured he was a passerby.
“I thought maybe this was some small-town tourist excited to see a gay proposal happening; I didn’t realize he was hired for us,” she laughed. “It’s amazing to have those pictures now. Looking at them, you can see how we’re both on cloud nine. I’m usually a little bashful with PDA, but there are so many pictures of us kissing because in that moment everything just felt so natural and that was all captured in those photos.”
The rain ended up being an afterthought, Mehta said.
“It rained on our parade but we loved it,” she said. “We were just two giddy girls in the rain.”
The couple spent the night at the Hilton celebrating their engagement.
They are planning a local July 2016 wedding and plan to use one of their proposal pictures as their “save the date” announcement.
For more information on Paparazzi Proposals, visit www.paparazzi-proposals.com.