My story starts long before Holly’s. To offer a little background, I’ve always known that engagement was something extremely important to her, and that she had some very specific visions for the way in which it would be accomplished. A lot of that revolved around surprise. We had our fair share of disagreements leading up to times that she thought it would happen (namely her birthday of this year), but I was fortunate that some of her friends were helpful in throwing her off the case.I had known for years how excited I was to do this. Fun fact, I even gave Holly a promise ring when we were in our first year of college. This has always been serious. But I’d wavered on how I wanted to pop the question. I had thought about involving puppies (existing or new-to-us), doing it out of town, and some other plans that bordered on over-extravagant. The exact plan came to me in the dead of night, in early March. I had decided that her birthday was too close to her cousin’s wedding in California that we were photographing later that month, and I needed a good plan for our upcoming seventh anniversary. It was simple, personal, and a perfect next-step in our evolving story.
I woke up and knew; it would be at the spot of our first kiss, it would overlook the skyline, it would be at sunset and I would need the help of one of our closest photographer friends to make it really inconspicuous. I had to get Holly dressed up and feeling like a princess without her having any idea that me getting down on one knee was even a possibility. One of the things that I love about Holly is her attention to detail, and I knew that this had to be something that would exceed her high expectations.
Fast forward: we’ve been doing a portrait shoot with out good friend Paige Vaughn for about an hour, it’s 95 degrees outside, and the ring is burning a literal hole in my pocket. My plan was to have her family and friends behind me when she turned around and saw me on one knee, but they were not where we were expecting them, and I was getting anxious. There were a couple times when I thought I was going to pass out. But then I saw a hand wave from around a wall, Paige gave Holly an excuse to turn away from me, and I was free to get down.
I had a short speech prepared. Holly and I’s relationship is so rich with history and shared experiences that I had a lot that I wanted to tell her, more remarkably a lot of things I’ve never told her before. But when she turned around, my heart nearly exploded. Upon seeing her expression I was flushed with the most intense, poignant love I had ever experienced. Tears just streamed down my face; I was so excited to be moving forward in a life I share with the greatest person I’ve ever met.
I was fortunate to have the support of our friends and family (most tangibly some of Holly’s closest friends) and the breadth of this undertaking wouldn’t have been possible without it. More than anything else, I just wanted it to be special, memorable, and personal. I know I’ll never forget it.
A few weeks ago we met up with Paige V. for a drink and she mentioned wanting to do a styled anniversary shoot. She knew our anniversary was coming up and asked if we would be models! We didn’t have any plans and we thought it would be fun so, why not! She told us her friend Abbie at Blumen Floral would make us a bouquet too, which was the cherry on top!!
The day of, I wasn’t really thinking about it, as weird as that sounds. My thoughts were more wired towards this being a good shoot for Paige, that she could use the shots of us and that it would be a good excuse to get a new headshot. We walked all over town lake, having a blast, and we ended up at the Long Center close to sunset.
It felt like the session was dying down. Paige was saying she was out of ideas, and AJ was getting so hot in his suit he was kind of delirious (how did I not catch on then??). Then Paige set us up for one more bear hug, and she put me in place first. She backed up and didn’t say anything. That second when she didn’t direct AJ made me realize, AJ already knew what to do. I looked over to her and she had her camera up and that’s when I really knew. She told me to turn around but I couldn’t. My feet were frozen. All the years of anticipation, romanticizing and craving this so badly came up and so suddenly disappeared. I was like Leslie Knope, taking my time to look around and soak it all in. I turned around and there AJ was. He was crying and all he could say was, “I just love you so much.” He couldn’t even ask me and I couldn’t even say yes.
When he got up, he motioned to the small crowd that had formed of strangers so excited for us and standing there watching. In my head I was like, “Yeah, it’s really sweet of all these random people visiting the long center to come over and watch us!” Through my tears and excitement I didn’t even realize who it was. All of the sudden it hit me and I lost it. My brain and my heart couldn’t handle that all of these people who had told me for a long time that they had no idea about this, had actually been planning it with AJ this whole time.
If you’re like, okay seriously, it was your seven year anniversary obviously you had to suspect something, y’all have been living together for so long, there’s no way you could be completely and whole heartedly blindsided by this – let me explain how all of this went over my head. Keep in mind, these are just things from the past week, not the months of this same kind of stuff happening:
I saw Mallory that morning (that morning!!!) to get our nails done, and as I was leaving I said I’ll let you know if anything happens tonight! I laughed about it and she was casually like yeah please do! Aaaand now I know, right before she came to see me she had a dropped the ring off with AJ. AJ had it shipped to her house (because I’m a snoop) and had been holding onto it for a week. That whole morning she was talking to me about regular, non-proposal stuff (obviously), and I still have no idea how she did it. She’s the sneakiest person I’ve ever met, but definitely in a good way.
My parents had known for about a week, and I still have no idea how my mom didn’t spill the beans. Mom, I love ya, but you’re really bad at keeping a secret and even worse at lying. But somehow even after spending ALL day Mother’s Day together, she didn’t let it slip! She was supposed to leave Wednesday to visit my brother on the Appalachian Trail, which totally threw me off the scent. I thought she was already gone by the time the shoot even started.
I saw Paige Y. (different Paige!) the day before, we went and got coffee and she asked me like she always does and if I have any clues on when it was going to happen. And I told her, like I always did that I have no idea. I told her I was just going to relax for a while because my parents are going out of town and I was sure nothing was going to happen while they were gone. She said she hadn’t heard anything from Chris, her boyfriend who’s close with AJ, and that I better text her as soon as it happens because she wanted to be the first one to know. She also mentioned that her and Chris were going to get margs to tomorrow to celebrate them not drinking for a month, and if we wanted to come after our dinner we could! I told AJ about that later, in case our plans didn’t run too late. Needless to say, we did end up getting margs that night. And I didn’t have to text her after it happened, because she was right there when I turned around.
Kelsey had been on a trip to Seattle and Oregon for about a week and wasn’t supposed to come home until Saturday. Earlier, we were texting about the possibility of AJ proposing during the anniversary shoot (I even said I hoped he didn’t because I wanted my parents to be there…that’s foreshadowing if I’ve ever known it), and Kelsey said he better not do it while she was out of town! One more reason why I put the thought out of my head. Wednesday morning Kelsey texted us a picture of a cute bunny she saw that morning on a hike. Later I found out that was an old photo of a bunny, because that morning at 7am she was on a plane back to Austin. I hadn’t seen her in a week, and there she was with everyone else. I couldn’t believe it.
I would say Kelsey being there surprised me the most, but in her hands was a phone with my brother on the other end, watching all the way from Virginia!!! He hadn’t had a signal all day, but somehow, magically, he had one just minutes before it happened so he could be there. I just about lost it when I saw him.
Everyone casually said we can celebrate together after some more photos, unless I wanted it to be just us! But of course I wanted to celebrate with everyone, and I told Paige she better come too! She accepted the invite like she didn’t already know what was about to happen…
We pop more champagne (and drink more champagne…) and end up at Matt’s El Rancho. They walk us to our table where I’m expecting just Mallory, Paige, Kelsey and my parents. But we walk into a room and everyone is clapping and then I realize IT’S EVEN MORE FRIENDS, like a huge table the size of the room full of friends THAT WERE ALSO IN ON IT!! I literally had to sit down, it was too much to handle. I got handed two margaritas almost immediately (that also helped), and the rest of the night is a blur of hugs and tequila (my two favorites things).
I’m still just floored by how many wonderful, thoughtful, generous, sneaky, loving people we have in our lives. To everyone who was in on this, who helped prepare and helped hide it, thank you. I can’t say thank you enough. Especially to Mal, Kelsey and Paige (and Chris!) who I know put in so much effort to make this so special. Paige V., I’m so grateful that you were there to capture it all, that you were such a huge part of the planning, and especially that you celebrated with us after! Most of all, thank you to the mastermind of the whole entire plan. Thank you to my best friend, my soulmate, and my now fiancé. Day after day, you make my dreams come true. I can’t wait to start this new season of life with you.
A huge thank you to everyone below! None of it would be possible without this amazing team!
Photography: Paige Vaughn Photo
Bouquet: Blumen Floral
Hair and Makeup: Blo Fifth Street
Cookies: Kellie’s Baking Co.
First Dress: Gal Meets Glam Collection
Second Dress: Morning Lavender
P.S. I have to mention the cookies…when we got to the restaurant I was thinking about how little Turbo at home was the only one not involved and I wish he would have been. And then I saw the cookie with him saying “My mom said yes!” on my plate, and I lost it. And then I saw that everyone had a little Turbo on their plate and I REALLY lost it. I’m crying again. I can’t handle the thoughtfulness!!! Here’s a bad iPhone photo of them but COME ON, the cuteness!!