Our Engagement Story
Today is *drum roll please* our SIXTEEN MONTH ANNIVERSARY!!! In all honesty, I feel like after you hit the year mark, and you know you're getting married in less than four months, there's not as much of a focus on the monthly successes of staying together. But hey, today's a little different. In part because I love the number "16" (4 was my favorite number for a long time, then 8, and now I'm not exactly sure... but any multiple of 4 is pretty good), in part because we got into the double-digit days away from our wedding a couple days ago, and in part because I never shared our engagement story, and this is something I want to cherish and remember.
I'm calling this "engagement" story because it's not just about the actual proposal, but everything leading up to it + some of the back stories of our engagement day photos #bonus
So here's the short version of the proposal story (in case you don't care about the details and just want to skip to the photos):
Matt proposed to me on Monday, December 19th on a Christmas tree lot located in 12 South — the area that we had our first date. He decorated a Christmas tree with our pictures as ornaments and included Santa hats on top with "Mr." and "Mrs." (that part may have been the work of his friends). It was perfect. And we even got to keep the tree! We concluded the night by celebrating with friends at Waffle House :) #engagementdoneright
The long version:
It wasn't exactly a surprise that Matt was going to propose. We had gone to look at rings in August, before he went back to Utah, and he talked to my parents in person when we were both in Los Angeles in November. December was the first time since August that we were both in Nashville. He had also told me that he had planned it to happen before Christmas. Which really narrowed down the available days he had seeing as it was my friend's wedding a couple days after he returned to Tennessee, I didn't think he would do it on a Sunday, and I was leaving on Thursday to go to Los Angeles for Christmas, so if he waited until Wednesday then I would definitely know when it was happening. So I logically narrowed it down to Monday or Tuesday. (I realize this sounds like I was overthinking it and ruining any kind of surprise element but 1) I know, you're right 2) I really can't help it 3) I am an avid puzzle solver and 4) I was genuinely upset that I was figuring it out.)
To make matters a little less of a surprise — a couple weeks before this happened, we were talking on the phone and he asked if I wanted to go one night to the Christmas tree lot at 12 South. After saying "sure" — we had walked around it last year and reminisced about our first date and looked at all the cute houses around the block and thought about our future — I woke up the next morning and my first thought was "I know how he's going to propose." I was actually very impressed and it made perfect sense and was so well put together. But the problem was... I knew. So I asked him about it because #honesty. And he gave some kind of nonchalant answer that made me feel like it wasn't the proposal. So I eased up, relieved my unconscious sleeping state hadn't totally ruined everything.
So as we were driving to the Christmas tree lot, Matt was really quiet. And I got kind of nervous. I think I say I like surprises. But I really can't even know that a surprise is happening. Because suspecting it just makes me want to figure it out. Even when I'm trying not to. So I started getting really nervous and self-conscious wondering what it would be like, how I would react. Like, is this the moment after all?? Sometimes it's just really difficult to be "in the moment."
As we parked, I debated whether I should say anything, but then I was just so nervous and reasoned that I had no reason to be since I thought Matt implied this wasn't where he was proposing that I asked him before we got out of the car, "Are you going to propose to me here?"
I know. Why did I do that? I just didn't want to be nervous about something I didn't need to be nervous about!
Matt pulled it off really well though. At first he sort of froze. And then gave another answer that made me relax.
As we're walking over to the lot, I saw a bonfire going on with a bunch of guys. We learned later that they were having a Christmas tree lot work party with a bunch of Christmas tree lot owners in Nashville. This was not part of Matt's plan. But I relaxed because I knew for sure it wasn't happening. One thing I told Matt was I really didn't want people around because it made me too self-aware and I just wanted it to be him and me, and maybe some person to take some photos — but not in a way where I would know.
We started walking around the lot and looking through the Christmas trees. And then I saw it. A cute Christmas tree all decorated and lit up with two Santa hats on top. It took me a moment to register what was happening. I walked over to it and looked at the photos Matt had placed of different moments from our relationship. It was really sweet.
He started saying something about the pictures, but once I realized what was happening and also realized there were probably those guys watching us I kind of moved us over a little more away from the guys so we could have this moment. I didn't realize that I was rushing him through a prepared speech (another thing I asked if he could make part of the proposal). I actually still haven't heard it haha.
And then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. And I said "yes."
Then he closed the ring box and gave me a big hug. All the guys from the bonfire cheered and came over to congratulate us.
I asked Matt for the ring at this point... he says he's never proposed before so he completely forgot about the part where you put the ring on the finger haha.
Then some guys were talking to us, and it took me awhile before I realized it was three of Matt's best friends — Ryan, Theordore and Matthew — and they had been there the whole time to protect the tree and document it for us!
One of the other great surprises of the night was that one of the tree guys came over and told us we could take the tree home for free! It was their gift to us. I thought that was so sweet and gracious of them to do. He even helped us get it strapped to the car.
Christmas tree in tow, we drove over to Waffle House where Matt had told some of our friends to meet us. The funny part was we waited about 40 minutes for some of my friends and they had gone to another Waffle House on the same road and were waiting for us!
After phone calls to family and friends, text messages and all around announcements, we went back home. That was really the hardest part was not having my family there to celebrate with. But I was so happy I'd be seeing them in a couple days.
It was surreal to now be officially engaged. I honestly didn't know exactly what that meant to me or how it would change our relationship, if it did at all. But looking back, I feel like crying in appreciation for this moment, and the thought Matt put into it to make it special for me.
Our relationship is always growing, and I love that. I love that I get to be with someone who makes me feel so loved, allows me to make mistakes and be better, who is so kind and considerate of others, who works hard and wants to travel and is curious about things like I am. If I ever took the time to write a list of all the qualities I'd want in an eternal companion, he would exceed them. I feel so grateful to God for putting us on the same path, placing me in Nashville at the exact time Matt was, and giving me the faith to pursue this relationship, even knowing the hardship distance might bring.
As far as those engagement photos...
Matt and I have to be pretty purposeful with our time. Being long-distance, just like with the engagement, there are things that sometimes have to fall under a specific timeline. Before we had gotten engaged, we had already picked a photographer and scheduled the engagement session. Not because we were in a rush, but because I knew that after December, there was no set date for Matt to return to Nashville before April, and we needed photos for our save-the-dates and invitations.
I couldn't take any more days off work and the next weekend was new year's weekend so that wouldn't work, and Matt was leaving right about after that, sooo we had just a couple options limited to that week after Christmas. We initially decided on the morning after I returned from Los Angeles. Meaning I arrived in Nashville around 10pm Monday, and then we had a photoshoot the next day. And not just any photoshoot. A sunrise photo shoot. Eden (of Eden Ingle Photography — our amazing photographer that took all the professional photos on this post), agreed to do this. Because she's awesome. And because I work a swing shift — usually 11am to about 7:30pm — which means that by the time I got off work it would be dark. Which... isn't really great for photos. And sunrise has the other kind of best light of the day. So sunrise it was.
THANK GOODNESS it rained so much the night that I returned from Los Angeles that we had to reschedule the sunrise shoot from Tuesday to Wednesday. That gave us a little more prep time.
"Prep time" included face masks, making Matt look at inspiration engagement photos (mostly for my own self-assurance because I'm pretty awful at having photos taken of me), and having all clothing options strewn across the living room trying to match shirts with pants and shoes with jackets. Here is the highlight of prep time:
And then came the sunrise morning. I was up super early making sure I was ready. We made a mistake staying up so late prepping because I was really feeling the tired that morning. And Matt... well he felt so tired that he didn't wake up.
As 6:30am approached and he wasn't answering my calls, I realized the hard truth. I texted Eden about the situation. Instead of freaking out in any way she was completely chill and made me way more at peace, and let me know that it was completely fine and to just let her know when we were about to be there. #tendermercy #wechosewell
By 7am — the time we were originally supposed to be meeting Eden at the park in the 12 South area — I resolved to drive 20 minutes south to Franklin to try to wake him up. As I was about to get on the freeway, he called and I was so relieved. We missed a little bit of light, but it all worked out. And we continue to learn that sleep is never something to sacrifice.
It was such a fun shoot, and I am so so grateful for Eden! Seeing all 500+ pictures afterwards was fun and gave us so many to choose from. So, to highlight this shoot, here's some cute ones to start off:
I'd also like to point out that 1) because it was so early in the morning in December it was also really cold — you could see our breath in some of the photos and there was frost on the ground 2) it's actually quite hard to take pictures in a hammock — you're bunched together and don't have a whole lot of positioning control and 3) I just love Matt so much.
...he makes sure that I'm my eyes are protected from the light that was making me tear up...
...he's a great dancer...
...he doesn't try to flee when my cold hands touch his warm face...
...he is so huggable...
... his hips "do not bear false witness" (as he often testifies) ...
...and he loves Waffle House breakfasts like I do.