Ashley and Will

Image 1 of Ashley and Will

How We Met

We met online through Christian Mingle! The app introduced us, but the rest was up to us and the Lord!

This is our first photo together! At the end of our first date, at the Harrison Fountain where, over a year later, Will would propose!

How They Asked

One of the first questions everyone has been asking me is, “Were you surprised?” and the answer is – yes and no. Ha! I knew it was coming. I knew he’d bought the rings and asked my dad’s permission, but I didn’t know he would be proposing this weekend. In fact, he’d assured me multiple times he wouldn’t be! We’d obviously talked about marriage and had even set a date and done some of our wedding planning, but he’d assured me it would be May or June before he could propose in order for his plan to work out perfectly. So, yes, I was surprised by the proposal itself, but not by getting engaged… if that makes sense.

Will is literally the sweetest and kindest man I’ve ever met. He knows how much I love to be surprised and I love grand gestures, and he really went out of his way to make our proposal special and unique. It’s something we’ll both remember forever, and we’ll get to share with our children and our families for years to come! (You’ll understand why in a bit!) Will told me well over a month ago that he had a faculty awards ceremony at the university and he wanted me to come. He was getting an award, and he also wanted to use it as an opportunity for me to finally meet his coworkers and work friends. (Before you say “Ashley, how did you NOT see that coming?!” just know – these fancy awards ceremonies are normal in the world of higher education. This was a seemingly normal request!) So, I put the date on my calendar and planned to spend the weekend with my family in Decatur (also, very normal). He also mentioned that it was homecoming week, and because of that, there would be lots of alumni and photographers on campus. Thanks to COVID, the homecoming part was true, so I didn’t think anything of it.

Thursday, I made the drive to Florence to have a date night – another normalcy when I drive into town. After, I drove to my parents’ house in Decatur where I was staying, and Friday was another normal day. I went to see my chiropractor that morning, explored the new TJMaxx, and even ate dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in months. After dinner, I headed back to my grandparents’ house where I’d spent most of the day and got to visit with my uncle for a bit. I didn’t know he was coming, but it also wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. He comes sporadically to give my mom a weekend off from caring for my grandparents, so even though he hadn’t been in a while, I didn’t think anything of it. Saturday morning arrived and I got up early with Molly. The plan was for me to get up and pack my car to head home, then drive to Florence to finish getting ready at Will’s house. Then, we’d head to the awards ceremony, we’d eat lunch, and then I’d head back to Tupelo.

I got to Will’s and grabbed what I needed to get ready. Molly was excited to see him and play with Aubie, as always, and Will was stressed about getting to the school on time. Again, not abnormal. At 9:30, we were “all dolled up” and ready to go. We put all the dogs up in their crates and headed out the door to the school.

We arrived around 9:40. He wanted to be there by 9:45 because the ceremony started at 10. When we arrived early, he suggested that we go check out the progress on the new Harrison Fountain (long story short, although neither of us actually attended UNA for any of our degrees, this fountain is “our spot.” It’s where he asked me to be his girlfriend, as well as where we had our first kiss. About a month after we started dating, the fountain collapsed, and the school has been working to rebuild it. Because it’s so special to us, it was, again, not abnormal for us to make a pit stop to check on the progress and see where things stood.) I told him we should probably go inside so we’d have time for me to meet people before it started, and he quickly responded with “our seating time isn’t until 10 because of COVID, we have time.” He’d definitely thought of everything.

We began to walk toward the fountain from the main entrance. The fountain itself appeared to be finished, but they were working on laying the bricks and pouring the sidewalk around the base of it. There were boards and gravel everywhere, even 3 workers working on the pavement. There was also a photographer taking pictures of the bricks after they’d been laid – again, it was homecoming. I didn’t think anything of that. After I questioned Will about if we could even walk close to the fountain, I was even the one to say “oh, she’s taking pictures – I guess it’s okay for us to be over here.” (See? I really didn’t know what was coming – ha!)

As we got closer to the fountain, we both immediately looked down at all of the new bricks that were being laid. Now, you’re probably familiar with why we’d be so infatuated with the bricks. When they decided to restore the fountain, they also decided to sell bricks for memorials and honorariums as a fundraiser. You could have the bricks engraved with just about anything – in memory of loved ones, in honor of graduates, and so many other things. Again, more normalcy.

Image 2 of Ashley and Will

Once we got to the base of the fountain, about the same time I saw the brick, Will let go of my hand. I read what it said, and when I looked up at him, he was down on one knee. I immediately screamed “REALLY?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?! REALLY?!” Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I’d hoped it was going to happen that day, but based on what he told me, I had talked myself out of the idea and accepted it’d be a few more months. The proposal was perfect.

Image 3 of Ashley and Will

Now, you’re probably putting together the rest of the pieces of this story. There was no awards ceremony. The photographer was one of his friends and coworkers, LaKeva Harris, who took THE most amazing proposal photos. I’m seriously so excited I have these to share with y’all! After I met her and heard the backstory of the day, we walked around campus taking more photos, just enjoying the first few minutes of being engaged. We walked over to the ACON building to take more photos, where more of Will’s coworkers and former students happened to be for tours and other alumni homecoming activities. Getting to see them was a fun surprise!

Image 4 of Ashley and Will

After we finished taking photos, including reenacting the proposal moment in front of Laura M. Harrison Hall, the building where Will teaches and where “his” simulation lab is, he told me our families and a few of our friends were waiting for us at Rosie’s (one of my favorite restaurants) to celebrate. His best friend, Carson, and his wife, Erin had helped him pull off the surprise and decorated a corner in the restaurant. It was, again, perfect.

We wrapped up the day by texting and FaceTiming many of our friends and family (and I know I forgot some people – if I did, I’m truly sorry if you had to learn on social media. In the whirlwind of things, I almost forgot to even text my best friend Lauren, who thankfully, was one of the friends waiting for us at the restaurant.) and going to see our grandparents. My Mimi and Poppi stayed at home with my uncle (the REAL reason he came into town), so we wanted to make sure we went to see them to share the news and so Mimi could see my ring. Then, we headed back to Florence to take his mom’s dinner at his Gram’s house, show Gram my ring and share the news with her, and load up my car to head back to Tupelo.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and if I’m honest, I’m still recovering, but in the best way possible. I say often that Will spoils me, but this proposal truly shows that. He went out of his way to make sure it was unique and memorable, all while being a surprise. I loved that we were able to still celebrate with a few family members and friends (something we weren’t sure we’d get to do because of COVID), and that he truly thought of everything.

Special Thanks

Lakeva Harris
 | Photographer
Carson Hagood
 | Planning