AJ and Sydney
How We Met
It was another night full of anticipation in the FIJI fraternity house on the Kansas State University campus, and my young and ambitious soul was ready for a night to remember. Little did I know that when that stunning woman in the red shirt came walking up the stairs from the main lobby with a group of girls would change the course of my life forever. I couldn’t help but admire her beautiful blonde hair and absolutely stunning smile that truly sucked the air from my lungs from pure astonishment. I looked and noticed that I knew one of the girls from high school that was with her group and immediately sprung into action! I caught up with her simply with the intent to somehow introduce myself to this beautiful woman and by the grace of God I somehow had the opportunity to awkwardly and nervously say, “Hey I’m AJ… what’s your name?” She smiled and said, “my name’s Sydney nice to meet you” and what followed was what felt like immediate chemistry. She was so down to earth and easy to talk to which is such a rare thing to find in a woman of her caliber and looks. I knew I had just met the most amazing human on the planet, so I had to make my move. “Hey, um, so I was wondering. I would like to try and continue this conversation over coffee or something… can I, uh, get your number?” She looked at me and gave me that big smile that I love and said, “Awh, that’s so sweet…. But… I have a boyfriend I’m so sorry…” And that’s when the knife went straight in the heart. We then had to say our goodbyes and she walked away with her group leaving me speechless and ultimately determined to one day gain the opportunity to take her out on a date and make her know I was unlike any man she had ever met.
Time continued to roll and periodically she would make her way back around to FIJI for a party and every time I made sure to muster up the courage and determination to ask for her phone number and the same phrase, “sorry I have a boyfriend” would continue to stab me in the heart. However, each time she would say this I would respond with, “that’s okay we can be friends, but as soon as your single I’m taking you out on a date.” She would always respond with an eye roll and say, “ohhhh okay sure well I’m happy we can be friends”.
Two years of this rejection would go by and by this time I was a senior in college looking for the next big steps in my life. I had been single for 4 years and it wasn’t easy getting my heart broken or disappointed for that amount of time, so I decided that I wasn’t going to try and look anymore. Which led to that random Tuesday night hangout where the most unlikely person showed up that I actually hadn’t seen in months.
I was hanging out with my brothers with a few other friends and I saw in the corner of my eye to my surprise, Sydney, walking over to join our hangout. As usual, when I saw her my heart leaped with excitement and I couldn’t wait to talk with her. I made my way around to her and said, “soooo… how’s your boyfriend?” She then answered with a sheepish smile, “um… I actually don’t have one” I swear I heard the heavens open up and angels began to sing! I then said, “oh reallyyyyy?? Well how interesting! Do you remember the promises I’ve made these past couple of years?” Of course she responds with a confused “no”… So I eagerly reminded her, “I promised each time you rejected me that as soon as you became single that I would ask you out on a date, so if I think of an exciting date like swimming with sharks or skydiving… you know the usual… would you go on a date with me?” She giggled and said she would of course go on a date with me, which open up the heavens for a second time. I then FINALLY got her phone number and I was officially in business! There was only one thing that I knew… I was not going to mess this up and miss out on dating the most incredible human I had ever met.
**I am adding some additional information, because what followed was some unbelievable circumstances that had to happen in order for us to get to today.**
We started dating officially and we became madly in love with one another. We dated for a year and a half before it was time for her to graduate and go on to the next big step into the real world. The unexpected happened when she told me that her big opportunity was going to be in Washington D.C. where she accepted a position with Lexis Nexis. I still had one more semester left until I graduated at Kansas State and I had absolutely no clue where I was going to work. This created such a fear as there were an unreal amount of unknowns and the dreaded words “long distance relationship” was going to become a reality. We had built up a good foundation and we felt that we could definitely handle the challenge regardless of everyone believing that long distance was an impossible task.
Unfortunately, that challenge proved to be unbelievably great. After many months of long distance and me not finding anything close to her for a new job we began to lose hope. I made a promise to myself and Sydney that I would not move anywhere unless it was the best choice for my career, and that was understood and what Sydney absolutely wanted. There was about two months left until I was going to graduate and I still didn’t know what I was going to do. It was freaking me out and things just kept getting tougher and tougher between Sydney and I, but we continued to find some faith and fight for our love.
One morning I was in my sales 101 class and we had a guest speaker come in and he begin talking about the company he worked for. I was very intrigued and impressed with this business and started to fall in love with the idea to try and apply to work with this company. In the middle of his presentation he said these incredible words, “My younger brother just became the new sales manager of a brand new branch in Richmond, VA and he is looking for a sales guy… anyways back to what I was saying..” My ears immediately perked up and I did my research. I had never heard of Richmond before but when I looked up the location I saw that it was only two hours away from D.C. and my heart leaped! I then remembered that I went to a sales career fair the day before, so I looked in my bag and found I had copies of my resume! I grabbed my resume and went straight down to the presenter and said, “here is my resume, sir, and this is why you should connect me with your brother. I am interested in speaking with him about working in Richmond.” Needless to say he was impressed with my tenacity and when I went through the interview process it was clear that this was the best opportunity, so I accepted a position and moved out to Richmond, VA.
I knew absolutely nobody when I arrived in Richmond which proved to be lonely, but we would have our weekends to at least be together which proved to be much better. We ended up doing one more year of long distance between Richmond and D.C. until Sydney found a new job opportunity in Richmond. We had been dating about 3 years up to the time she arrived in Richmond and things truly were incredible. We developed an unbelievable amount of incredible friends and colleagues who truly loved and cared for the both of us. Sydney and I had never been stronger after fighting through the impossible… which leads us to today… where I moved away from Richmond in pursuit of a once in a lifetime job opportunity in Atlanta, GA. As crazy as that might sound, we had developed such a strong chemistry and faith in our relationship that we knew that we could figure it out like we had already done before. Right before I moved once again, I read this quote that really explains our relationship, “Absence is to love as wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small and kindles the great.”
how they asked
There is only one thing that I knew about this proposal. Sydney deserved the most shocking and beautiful proposal that she never could of dreamed of, so I brainstormed the best I could and came up with an elaborate and complicated plan. One that she would never see coming… which is why I decided I wanted to make it a complete surprise. I knew one other important factor that Sydney made very clear that she would think it would be unbelievable if her family and two best friends from college would be there for our proposal. There was only one problem… Sydney is living in Richmond, VA, and I just moved to Atlanta for business along with both our families and two closest friends who live in Kansas City… Needless to say I was in for quite the challenge, but if there is anything that our relationship has taught me is that persistence and faith is the key!
Sydney and I lived in Richmond Virginia for quite some time and there was one place that was an absolute no brainer as to where I needed to propose. That place is called, Maymont Mansion, which is one of the largest and most beautiful estates in the city of Richmond that has a stunning Japanese and Italian garden with a waterfall, beautiful trees and flowers that made you feel like you were visiting a brand new country. We had tons of memories at these gardens and had taken dozens of visitors to witness the beauty of the estate and it was always a hit. So, I made a call to Maymont to see what I needed to do to reserve the Japanese gardens in order to make sure it was just the two of us. I communicated with their events coordinator about my surprise idea and developed a plan as to how we were going to get her there without her suspecting a thing. Maymont was going to put together a “exclusive brunch” that Sydney’s close friend Shivonne would invite her to. Once they would arrive to Maymont they would have an employee with a clipboard and a sheet of paper with a bunch of fake names as the “brunch checklist” to check the two girls in. The employee would then drive the ladies down to the Japanese gardens and right as soon as she enters she will find the first love note with a poem and our very first photo together. This would lead her down her scavenger hunt where she will have to follow the trail of rose pedals until she finds the next love poem with another significant photo signifying the timeline of significant parts in our relationship that led us to this incredible moment. She would then end at the bridge where I would pop out and surprise her and blow her away with me getting on a knee and flashing the rock!
After that the plan was to make sure Shivonne rushed to get back to where I was going to hold the surprise engagement party with both our families, her two best friends from college and all of our super awesome Richmond friends. All the while we will be taking pictures at Maymont while they are setting up the party. The plan is absolutely perfect right? Well… with any great story there has to be an obstacle or two along the way. The week of the proposal I noticed the weather report was showing perfect weather in Richmond all the way up until Friday night… The temperature was supposed to drop dramatically and there was a 100% chance or rain/snow for the entire day of the proposal. Naturally, I freaked out and couldn’t believe that such horrendous weather would happen in the month of April! I couldn’t believe it! I spent two months planning everything and making sure everything was perfect and that Sydney wouldn’t hear a peep about this proposal, and everything was going perfectly until the stupid weather… I kept looking at the weather report each day and it would only get worse and worse, so we thought of some alternative plans to somehow still make it work with umbrellas and whatnot. So many things would get destroyed because of the weather, but after many frustrating and stressful moments I finally just realized that in life there are some things that you can’t control. The only thing you can do is pray that the Lord has a greater plan in mind and that I need to stay calm and allow things to happen then way they are supposed to.
The morning of the proposal came and everything was coming together nicely since both families and her two best friends made it to Richmond from Kansas City just fine, but I woke up at 4am to a torrential downpour which made my heart sink. I put on my outfit and made double dog sure I had the ring and headed out to Maymont with my photographer Anna. The craziest thing started to happen the closer we got to Maymont… the rain STOPPED! The forecast said 100% chance of rain/snow the entire day but it absolutely stopped right before Sydney was about to arrive! We set up everything at the garden and waited for her arrival and STILL NO RAIN! I couldn’t believe it! She ended up arriving and I as hiding behind a bamboo forest that had the perfect angle to see when Sydney would show up at the bridge from her scavenger hunt. As she was going from letter to letter my heart was racing faster and faster! I saw her hand go up to wipe the tears from her eyes so I knew she figured out what was going on immediately. She arrived at the bridge and I walked out to her crying hysterically. (Side Note: we hadn’t seen each other in two months up to that moment so it made seeing each other that much more powerful.) I was also crying so much and we hugged for what felt like a couple minutes just embracing one another and feeling our love just overcome us. We kissed a ton and finally I was able to speak the words “Sydney there is no way I can live any minute of my life without you right by my side. You are the reason for the man I am today and I intend on exploring this life with you until I die. So, Sydney Quinn Pugh, will you marry me?” I flashed the ring and an outpour of cries along with YES came out of her mouth!! It is easily the most powerful moment of my life that I will never forget!
We then took plenty of pictures throughout the Maymont mansion and all the while she had no idea what was about to happen next. I tried to play if off that the two of us needed to talk about our engagement and just enjoy the moment just the two of us over ACTUAL brunch. So we went to Sine Pub downtown and as we walked in there stood 45-50 of our friends who yelled surprise and absolutely shocked Sydney once more! I was honestly prepared to take her to the hospital for when her heart would fail from so much shock!! The greatest moment of that surprise was when Sydney saw her family and two best friends standing towards the back. She squealed so so loud and rushed to hug them and they all embraced her with so much love. Everyone was so so happy and we truly had the greatest day of our lives, but more importantly it was the greatest day of HER life which was why I did everything I could to make that all happen. So many things could of gone wrong, but God truly had His hand on us and blessed us for being faithful to Him. We actually looked back at the forecast around the time of the proposal and saw all the green and purple clouds surrounding all of the state of Virginia, but right at the time of the proposal (I KID YOU NOT) we saw the rain clouds open a giant hole that only surrounded Richmond! You can’t get any better sign than that! I am truly the luckiest man alive and I cannot wait to marry the woman of my dreams who fought tooth and nail for four and a half years with me to overcome the craziest odds in order to be together.