How does one tell a story to which everyone already knows the ending?
& A story that contains nuanced details — many of them only meaningful to me?
& A story I’ll be retelling for the rest of my life?
& A story that I didn’t fully appreciate until it was over?
I recognize that some of you have probably heard my engagement story near close to 100 times (rounding up /aka ad nauseum). For those dear dear people, I hope you enjoy Emily March Photography‘s sneaky photos of the event (I included an abridged story at the end).
For the non-jaded, I’m warning you there are a lot of details.
Unabridged version: Good grief. Where does this even begin?
Preface: Shall we set the scene at Hopewell High School, in Mrs. Hallman’s newspaper class? Bryan and I didn’t date or “like” each other then. But that’s where we first “met.” He was two years older and wiser (although that’s debatable).
Two years passed and I ended up a freshman at Carolina (Bryan convinced me). Bryan was a junior. We dated. Things were lovely: basketball games, Franklin Street restaurants, drama classes together…!
Then, Bryan went off and away to be an important big kid in DC for two years. And our relationship was tested like gold in fire.
It was refined.
This semester, we’re both back in Chapel Hill: he in UNC’s Law School and me in the Speech-Language Pathology Master’s Program (if you’re keeping count, that’s 8 years of knowing each other, 4 years of dating. Whew!).
The Story: This past Friday, I had planned to attend our men’s season-opener basketball game with Bryan and a few friends from my program. I’d even planned a fun dinner at Foster’s Market beforehand!
It was such a beautiful day (although I wasn’t in the best of moods — oh, the irony). Around 3:30pm I had the best of intentions to head out for a run, but my housemates intercepted me with a letter and mysterious black bag (entrusted to them earlier that week). The card was a few paragraphs of apologies from Bryan:
“You’ll have to forgive my deception — we’re not going to Foster’s or the basketball game tonight.”
Me: Um, excuse me?
“…all you have to do is put on the enclosed dress…”
Me: Um, excuse me? (peering into mysterious black bag)
“……pick you up at 4:30pm sharp!”
I was visibly flustered about abandoning my friends for an event that I had planned. But at this point, I knew exactly what Bryan had planned for the evening, and Susan and Claire (my housemates) were all “GO, Go Go!”
I managed to collect my nerves in a warm shower, tried to be simple with my hair and mascara. I was slightly self-conscious of the bright-whiteness of my dress. I didn’t say a word to Susan or Claire. Little did I know, they were smiling behind their hands the entire time…
My ride (Bryan’s brother, Scott) arrived promptly. As expected. I slipped into the backseat, pestering him with questions.
Me: Wait. Why are you here? What are you doing tonight?
Scott: So. Uh, tell me about Speech Pathology. What exactly is it again?
In the car I found another card, a frisbee and tulips (my favorite). The card instructed me to find “a small table with a white tablecloth in the spot we play frisbee.”
Scott stopped in front of the Old Well (with about 50 tour group people) and I spotted the table immediately. There were cupcakes, champagne and a candle.
And yet another card.
This one was the longest yet. It was mainly Bryan’s summation of our relationship, our faith and a declaration of love. Most poignantly for me, he had quoted sentences from our past (and ongoing!) correspondence (yes, I’m a handwritten card person).
Then Bryan showed up.
This was all still surreal to me. I whispered, “Wait. I haven’t finished yet.” I skimmed through to the end and then looked up.
Honestly, much of what happened here is a blur. I knew what was coming, what was happening, but it was all surreal. What I remember and love is what Bryan repeated from his card:
“Your faith has made made me a more passionate servant of God,
Your spirit makes me a better adventurer
and you challenge me to make me smarter. “
And of course he had a ring.
And the down-on-one-knee thing.
And of course I said ‘yes.’
And then I spotted Emily behind a tree in the quad.
Me: “Is that Emily? Are there other people here?”
Bryan: “Just keep throwing.”
But of course that was impossible. I saw my parents and Bryan’s parents walking around the corner from Old West dorms.
And the reality hit, the tears came.
My family is my nucleus, my compass, my (constant) encouragers. I can’t imagine anyone else I would’ve rather seen in that moment.
We all went dinner together and I got to hear the entire backstory; namely, that they had ALL KNOWN about this since May.
Yep, that was when Bryan asked my parents for their permission.
Epilogue: Later that night, my friends threw a surprise party at my apartment (they had known for weeks!). I’m either oblivious or Bryan and Co. are exceedingly sneaky.
I’m still debating that one.
After all, he did give me “The Meaning of Marriage” as a gift for my birthday…
Afterword: As much as I hadn’t been wishing, waiting, dwelling on the “when will this time come?” I know I am ready for this next step (Uh, except for that whole wedding planning part. Thank goodness for fashionable sisters.).
I’ve known for a while that Bryan is the one I want next to me on this journey.
The abridged version: On Friday, November 9, Bryan surprised me by proposing marriage in the McCorkle Place quad near the Old Well. I said ‘yes.’ My family surprised me by driving up and celebrating over dinner. Happy Day!