Where do I even begin with this?
I could begin with the moment I saw this astounding girl on eHarmony and really hoped she’d message me back. Or maybe the hours we spent on our first date, sitting in the park outside the library talking about where we were on 9/11. Or our second date where I was made french toast, then proceeded to get lost in the wilderness not once, but twice. But I’ll fast forward through some of the tremendously wonderful past few months that I’ve had to get to the “good part,” the part I know you really want to hear about. The part that starts with the ring.
She had been so sly as to clue me onto a wedding ring that had been posted on her Pinterest years ago. I found the Etsy page that let me order her ring, handcrafted from a private jeweler near Black Butte, Oregon. This was back in March. She knew the ring was coming (because I’m terrible at keeping surprises) so we slowly got the ball rolling on planning a wedding. Slightly non-traditional, but at the same time we both knew that we had found the person that we wanted to marry. I mean, a ring was on the way, my intentions were made known, so why not start planning?
It was a grueling four months, meandering in this purgatory of knowing the ring is on the way, but not “officially” being engaged yet. Kristen knew it was coming, but she didn’t know exactly when it would arrive or how I had planned to propose except: 1) It would likely be in Cannon Beach, on the Oregon Coast, where I had first asked her to be my girlfriend, and 2) I would give her fair warning that she should get a manicure shortly before I planned to propose. There were a few instances in those months when she straight up asked me “So… has the ring come yet?” to which I longingly told her “Not yet.” We simply waited. That was until Tuesday, July 23. I received an e-mail from the jeweler letting me know that the ring was en route. So naturally I did two things. First, I freaked out. Second, I started making plans.
I made plans with her to go to the coast the following Tuesday, July 30th. We both had the day off, so we could take the entire day at our leisure. But I had another plan. Our first date was sometime late last July, and though we’d forgotten the exact date, I had wanted to re-create the evening to commemorate the year that we had known each other. I’m a romantic, what can I say? I tell her my desire, not letting on that it’s a huge deal, but just that it’s something I’d been wanting to do, and it’d be a nice addition to our “special coast trip.” Our date consisted of going to one of our now-favorite restaurants, Thai House, then walking down by the river and picking blackberries, then getting ice cream at the old-fashioned ice cream shop near the heart of downtown Hood River, and walking across the street to the park in front of the library where we would sit and talk until long after sunset. We decided to do all that again, and I decided that I would surprise her with a proposal that night at the park.
The next few days, however, I waffled on whether or not I should take her to the park or to the coast. They both had their advantages; the coast was remarkably beautiful and breathtaking, while the park was locally significant and equally a landmark of our relationship. After asking a few educated, knowledgable confidants their opinion, I eventually settled on the park. But I also decided to get a few friends in on the fun.
We attend a small group on Sunday nights, and I told everyone about my plan after Kristen had left early for work. I had already planned to have my friend Josh follow to take pictures and capture the evening for us. What I hadn’t planned, however, was inviting our new friend Sarah to come as well. As it turned out, Sarah had some experience with wedding photography and already owned a fancy camera, which meant I wouldn’t have to steal Kristen’s fancy camera from her room. The trap was set. Kristen and I do our romantic date re-creation. Josh and Sarah take pictures at the park. Fun stuff.
Now it’s Monday morning, E-Day, and I go to pick up my engagement ring from the post office because, of course, they tried to deliver it on Friday but I wasn’t home so I had to wait the longest weekend of my life before finally holding the ring in my hand. And can I be honest with you? When I got back into my car to look at the ring, my stomach got tied up in such huge knots, I almost threw up. I was so nervous and excited I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I felt confident she would say yes, but I still wanted to make everything go off without a hitch because you only get one shot at this. Kristen is really good at planning, and I’m not great, so I almost thought about having her help me plan it. After all, she had already started to suspect something was up by this point. But no — I would see this plan through. I had to work that day, but my coworker was kind enough to come in early so that I had plenty of time to prepare. It bought me an extra hour and a half until Kristen thought I would be off work and we’d get ready for our date.
After I got off, I had a bit of time to kill so I took care of one important thing — I asked for her dad’s blessing. He lives in Virginia, so I hadn’t yet had a chance to meet him, and we had only briefly talked prior to this conversation. I called and we ended up talking for almost thirty minutes as he got to know me, asked me about my life and ambitions, encouraging me to let “the King reign.” After one of the most nerve-wracking conversation of my life (including the question “what will you do if she says no? Will you hit her?”… he’s a joker) he eventually gave me his blessing.
I come to Kristen’s house, she’s still getting ready, and I go to the other room to bite off all my nails. She comes down the stairs like that scene in “She’s All That,” except she has always been the most gorgeous woman I know, still somehow even more so in this moment. We sit inside at Thai House, though we’d originally eaten outside. It was a sweltering day. We ordered the same food we got that first date, though on our first date, our entrees were accidentally delivered to a separate table who, incidentally, loved our choices. I barely ate two bites, as nervous as I was. We played with the idea of breaking our tradition and not going blackberry picking, since the temperature wasn’t cooling any time soon. But as we get in our car to leave to the next spot we see something odd. There’s a man about 20 feet in front of us, sneaking around a broken down van acting very suspiciously. Kristen is a 911 Dispatcher, so both our minds quickly went to criminal activity. What was far stranger was the man, now hiding on the opposite side of a mini-van, seemed to be lifting his phone to take a picture of us. What a creeper! Feeling quite startled, we drive around to see this man hunched down in the fetal position, hands over his head, desperately trying to hide from us in broad daylight. Something smelled fishy. Kristen dialed the non-emergency police line to report suspicious activity as we begin to remove ourselves from the scene. After she hangs up, she verbalizes possibilities as to what that could be about. “You didn’t tell someone to follow us, did you?”
I had totally forgotten about Josh and Sarah, thinking they wouldn’t show up until the park, but they had shown up outside Thai House. This made it fairly easy to act as if I was just as surprised as she was, because, well, I was. Josh set up behind the van and Sarah was practically inside a dumpster. Talk about dedication! After everything clicked, I tried to bust out a text to Josh and Sarah warning them that incarceration may be in their future. Luckily, they were gone by the time police arrived, though apparently we had a couple of friends interrogated on the scene!
Kristen and I, attempting to recover from our alleged Peeping Josh, skipped blackberry picking and went straight to ice cream and the park. I was acting weird, sending some quick texts to Josh and Sarah to make sure everyone was in position. We eventually sit in the park, enjoy our ice cream, and get started talking through some of the pre-marital counseling “homework” we’d been given the prior week.
Our questions started out with unspoken or un-communicated expectations going into marriage. I said my piece, which was a jumble of nervous words, barely making sense because I couldn’t keep my mind off what I was about to do.
(A short aside. At this moment, one of our friends Justin, who happens to work at an adjacent coffee shop, appears out of nowhere to come say hi. We awkwardly say hi and make small talk, though it’s difficult to hear over the sound of cars and his distance from us, so he eventually decides to text me. He says “hi.” To which I respond with “DUDE GO AWAY.”)
Kristen follows with some of her expectations, and one that stood out was “no lying.” Of course, I had presumed that going into a forever-relationship, but I also wanted to clear the air. And so I begin with something along these lines.
“Kristen, I love you so much. I really appreciate everything you have to say, but I think this is as good of an opportunity as any. I want to enter in to this relationship with no lies, and to the end I have to make a confession. When we saw that guy by the van, I think I know who it was. I asked Josh to follow us tonight because… well, maybe I should just do this.”
And I got down on one knee.
I won’t trouble you with the somewhat saccharine sentiments that followed. I expressed my love and appreciation for her. And you know what?
She said yes.
Josh and Sarah appeared for pictures and a champagne, and Kristen called the cops to let them know it was a false alarm. After a few minutes to calm our excitement, the four of us went to Solstice to celebrate with some appetizers and wood-fired s’mores. Our owner, Aaron, bought us a round of drinks while the rest of the staff chipped in for a bottle of champagne. I was surrounded by coworkers-turned-family congratulating us with hugs and cheers. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect day, a more wonderful celebration, or a more awe-inspiring bride-to-be.
We’ve already picked a date and made a deposit on a venue. We’ll be married on April 24th, 2015 in Canby, Oregon. We’ll be spending the next 8 months not just planning for a wedding, but preparing for a marriage. I’m incredibly honored and blessed to have found someone who thinks I’m funny, who encourages me to be a better man, who makes an effort to know me and love me even at my worst and most childish, while we get to enjoy being a little bit child-like together.
I want to say thank you to all of our family and friends who have celebrated with us in every point in our relationship so far. So many people have played a huge role, and there are literally hundreds of people who have helped to shape and form the people we have become and are becoming. A shout-out to eHarmony, because apparently something went right in our match. If you’ve read this far, you obviously care about us quite a bit, so thanks to you as well! Additionally, we both feel humbled in the light of a Savior who has called us to grow closer to Him as we grow closer to each other. I’m excited for “Our Story” as it has been told and will be written for many years to come.
This isn’t the end. We’re constantly reminded this is only the beginning of a new chapter.
But oh, what a wonderful beginning.