Charlotte Engagement Session

Charlotte Engagement Session.

How we met: told by Sarah: Matt and I met the summer before our sophomore year in college at Appalachian State University. We were orientation leaders for the incoming freshman class. We were instructed to meet our groups at the bottom of a dorm I had never been to on campus. I walked into the gathering area and saw this very handsome guy sitting at a table talking with some friends. He instantly caught my eye. I knew I had to talk to him, but, I didn’t how to break the ice. After reasoning with myself for a good bit, I finally came up with enough courage to make a move. My plan was to nonchalantly take a seat at the table and casually join in on the conversation. As I got closer to the table I noticed that he was wearing a pair of Croakies around his neck that said “Pawleys Island.” I grew up going to Pawleys island, and, I knew that was my “in” to spark up a conversation with him. I sat down and we began to reminisce about family summer beach trips to Pawleys. We continued the conversation into families and our hometowns. We quickly learned that we both spent most of our childhood in Charlotte, and, had houses just a few minutes from each other. Talking to him was so easy and natural. As we spent more time together, I eventually learned that he was planning to study abroad in Spain for the spring semester. Talk about a potential long-distance relationship! We decided to just take things a day at a time, however, the next four months flew by. There wasn’t a single day that we didn’t see each other- at lunch, in between classes, at the library, anything to be together. When the day finally came for Matt to fly off to Spain, I felt like I was losing my best friend. The person I spent all of my time with was now 6-time zones away. I had struggled my freshman year to connect with Appalachian and the mountains. Matt changed all of that. And then he was gone. We spent many hours, days, and months on Skype, connecting with one another. I received letters and postcards from Spain in my school mailbox almost every single week. That is the relationship I have with Matt. We truly are that best friend for each other, but, the love I have for him and the love I feel from him are what I cherish the most about our relationship. Fast forward almost 7 years and here we are. There have been many formals, college days and nights figuring out life, trips to Pawleys island, nursing school, job changes, a move to Charlotte, many learning experiences, tons of grateful moments and best of all, a whole lot of love in between! He is the person that makes me laugh when I am upset, calms me down when I am uptight, and shows me how to enjoy life. You would think being a nurse that I would know how to put others first and how to live like each day is my last, but, Matt is the one that teaches me that every day. I am so thankful for that day I walked into a dorm neither of us lived in and met the man who will become my husband.

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How I proposed: told by Matt

“…I am supposed to propose to my girlfriend in 1 hour! So, unless you can bring me the correct rental keys in 20 minutes, I am breaking a window to get this ring!”

That was me, well at least a very unhappy and stressed out me on the phone with the cabin rental lady. But, lets hold that thought. My proposal story starts some 45 days before.

Every engagement jewelry commercial had tried to prepare me for this moment. I had found the perfect lifelong companion, best friend, and, love of my life in Sarah, check. I had survived the “hey, so, uh, I would like to marry your daughter…” conversation with the future father in law, check. All I had to do was confidently stroll into a jewelry store and pick out the perfect wedding band and ring combination with the perfect mix of Cut, Clarity, Color, Carat, and, PRICE, to perfectly symbolize my love for her, our 6 year long journey, and the promise of the future to come… Oh boy, no check. This could be considered a daunting, nay, terrifying challenge to complete. Fortunately, I had my father’s teachings on my side. My father is a principled man; a man that does his research before ever stepping into a store. A man who will go from store to store searching for the best deal (these were the days before Amazon). A man that won’t show the store clerk his true interest until he is headed for the check out line. So, to every jewelry store in Mecklenburg County, lets dance. I spent countless hours bouncing from store to store, reviewing the many combinations of diamond and band. I took careful notes and frequently reviewed my findings with the future mother and sister in law. I had found a few options that I liked, but, I knew I needed the ONE. I knew I needed the wow factor, the one that practically screamed, “I belong on Sarah’s finger!” The one that described our story and the future story to come. So, I kept searching. My search ended one day after work. I visited a mom and pop jewelry store (I prefer independent businesses to chains if at all possible) that was actually open past 5PM. As usual, I strolled in and half confidently, half awkwardly informed the clerk that I was searching for an engagement ring. I received the usual, “Oh congratulations! I’m so happy for you! Who’s the lucky girl?? Etc.” I was then escorted to the engagement ring section to peruse their wares. Almost instantly, my eyes found it. I found the ONE. My teachings tried to convince me to keep the poker face, but my heart overruled. Within 48 hours, my challenge was complete, check.

When you date someone for as long as I had dated Sarah, you are very careful to not tie your shoe in any remotely beautiful area. Surprising her with a proposal outside of Mecklenburg County was going to be tough. Fortunately, I was able to craft an ingenious plan with my future mother and sister in law compatriots. The plan was for my trusted partners in crime to convince Sarah to plan a girl’s weekend in Boone, bonus points if you can get her to think it is her idea. My compatriots executed the plan like a veteran team of CIA operatives; bonus points awarded. The “plan” was for the girls to spend Saturday furniture shopping, visiting a winery, taking a late afternoon hike, and, then spending the night in Boone. Meanwhile, myself and a few of my future groomsman got a cabin Friday night and celebrated the impending engagement of yours truly. Saturday morning all of my future groomsman congratulated me one final time and headed back, except for Carter. Carter and I scouted out the hike and choose the spot for my big surprise.

As we were heading back to the cabin I was unable to locate the keys to the cabin. Ask anyone that knows me well, and you will find that I am not one to lose things. As strange as it was, the hiking trail was 30 minutes away from the cabin and the all too important hour was quickly approaching. And of course, that perfect ring was located inside of that cabin. We made the decision to proactively contact the rental company and ask for a spare key. Surprisingly, we were informed that they did not have any “spare keys.” Briskly, we drove back to the cabin to search for the keys. I prayed that I had stupidly left the key in door. My prayers were sadly not answered. In a panic I called another representative from the rental company, and, was happily informed that the rental company did in fact have spare keys! In a false sense of relief, Carter and I drove to the rental company office to pick up the spare key (20 minutes each way). As we got back to the cabin, my heart sank all of the way to sea level. The key wouldn’t work! We had been given the wrong key! Instinctively, Carter found a large rock and pressed play on his camera. We were going to break a window and video the whole thing! Out of desperation, I placed one final call to the rental company.

“…I am supposed to propose to my girlfriend in 1 hour! So, unless you can bring me the correct rental keys in 20 minutes, I am breaking a window to get this ring!”

Yep, you guessed it, we are caught up on the story. Now for a twist in the story you didn’t expect, the uninformed, wrong key wielding rental agent actually did show up in that 20 minute deadline with the correct keys! In the fastest 5 minutes of my life I said goodbye to Carter, took a shower, changed, brushed my teeth, grabbed the ring, and, was out the door. For the next 20 minutes, the speed limit sign seemed more like a suggestion than a rule. Miraculously, I beat the girls to the trailhead.

I sprinted up to my engagement spot only to come up on the sight of red solo cups, and to hear the sounds party music. Oh no, there is party going on where I am supposed to propose! I would find out later that the 30 plus people and the half dozen dogs had gathered to celebrate a person’s life that had been lost. In the meantime, though, I had a proposal to save. My photographer nicely asked the partygoers to move out of sight for a few minutes. Graciously, the crowds hid behind the bushes, right next to me. For the next few minutes, I caught too many dad jokes to count. “Hey this is the easy part; the hard stuff is yet to come!” “Hey it isn’t too late to back out! There is still time!” “Hey, lets take a look at that ring!” As thoughtful and timely as these comments were, I had no time to respond. I had figure out how to get from behind this bush and on a knee in front of Sarah without completely blowing it.

A minute or so later I finally heard the sounds of female voices and laughter. Two of them were my CIA operative colleagues, the other, Sarah. Smartly, my future mother in law convinced the sisters to turn their back to the bushes and pose for a picture. This was my moment. I quietly escaped from behind the bushes and away from the 30 best joke tellers this side of the Mississippi. As I approached Sarah, I realized my sneakiness was working too well, she wasn’t turning around. I had to get her attention somehow, so in the most romantic thing I could do at that moment, I tapped her on her shoulder. In the next minute and 30 seconds, I fortunately remembered to get down on one knee and ask Sarah a specific question about spending the rest of her life with me as my wife. Most fortunately, she said yes. Check.

PS My world traveling groomsman Carter of Carter Wong Vlongs truly did make a YouTube video that documents the whole engagement day ordeal. The video is titled “DRONE FOOTAGE IN BOONE + BREAKING INTO A HOUSE TO SAVE AN ENGAGEMENT.” Give it a watch and check out Carter’s other outrageous videos, its good stuff.

Photography: Dani Nicole Photography