Autumn and David

How We Met

An important part to this story is that David and I are both card-carrying synthetic organic chemists. Officially, I met David during a recruiting weekend at a university we were both considering for our PhDs, though I don’t remember him at all. He likes to say he thought I stood out to him immediately, and I believe him because through all the free alcohol I have a memory of doing really well at the bowling event with the faculty that were present to convince us to join that chemistry program.

To make a long story short, David and I both accepted our offers to attend that university, and serendipitously ended up working in the same research laboratory. There were four of us that started in that laboratory at the same time, and I started studying with the other girl in the laboratory. As girls do, we talked about the boys. Our first official opinion of David was that he didn’t talk much, leading us to once joke he “was like this table” (I don’t know why I’m telling that part to everybody who can read this, I am SO SORRY I ever thought that!). After lots of long days in the lab together, my initial opinion of him began to shift to thinking he was actually incredibly intelligent, a little shy, and soft-spoken. Definitely began to strike me as more of a “deeply thoughtful and a little mysterious” type and less of a “table” type.

Time went on and we started making excuses to be around each other. “Come look at this really cool reaction I just set up!” “Can you show me how to work this program?” “Do you have time to run to the library with me? I need help finding something.”

Soon it became less work-oriented and somehow we weirdly kept forgetting to invite everybody else.

“Let’s have a ‘wine Wednesday’ night with the lab and watch scary movies!” “Shoot I forgot to invite everybody… want to still do it?”

“Let’s go on a camping trip after we’re done with our comprehensive exams and invite everybody!” “Oh everybody else said it was too last minute, want to still go?”

Even though we were in our mid-twenties it took a LOT of courage and very cautious approach to finally bump knees and touch arms during movie nights, and to see how the other person was doing at work without a fabricated excuse to be talking. We were stuck in a PhD program together for the next 5-7 years so if we were wrong about how the other felt it would be a very long, very awkward time (chemists aren’t historically known for handling uncomfortable social situations with grace). Very eventually we both got the hint (ok, it took almost five bottles of David’s homemade wine and us FINALLY kissing to realize we both LIKE liked each other). We started dating “in secret” at first, mostly because we were having a lot of fun with the thought that nobody else knew (everybody else knew), then made it official after I weirdly asked “if it was ok” if I told David I loved him. He said “yes, why wouldn’t it be? If that’s how you feel. Is that how you feel?” I charmingly replied “well yeah, of course, that’s why I’m asking.” Again, eventually, we got to the point where we were both sure of the other’s feelings and he told me he loved me too!

how they asked

Chemistry also somewhat comes into play with the proposal. Four years into our PhDs now, we were both accepted to go to separate, back-to-back, week-long conferences in the northeast. We wouldn’t see each other for two weeks! So it wasn’t out of the ordinary when David suggested we go on a date when we were both back. I told him to plan it and I’d be there. Now, for the last six months or so, every time David would do something remotely romantic, my very first thought was “oh my god I’m getting proposed to.” When David told me “I booked an afternoon in Piedmont Park for us and hired somebody to take cute pictures!” My first thought was “oh my god I’m getting proposed to!!!” At this point, after lots of romantic evenings and no proposals so far, I had developed a mental “checklist” to see if I even should be getting all nervous and excited. I applied it to this situation, as any rationally-thinking scientist might.

Autumn's Proposal in Atlanta, GA

Has he been acting weird? No, we even worked today, he’d be acting weird if something was up.
Has he had the opportunity to go pick out/set/pick up a ring? No, we live together and work together, I would have noticed. Any weird receipts? No, except for that one fast food receipt I found cleaning the car but he said that was from when he was running an errand with a coworker.
Have my parents or friends been acting weird? No, haven’t talked to my mom in maybe two weeks (and she SPILLS ALL THE BEANS) and my best friends haven’t like, asked when the last time I painted my nails was or anything like that. The most important: ring box in the pockets? Let me tell you, I looked at all those pockets. No ring box.

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Ok, confident I wasn’t getting proposed to and this was just another cute date planned for us, I relaxed and enjoyed the park. It had been raining all week and even earlier that day, but the rain broke and it was a gorgeous southern afternoon.

We hit all the spots the photographer wanted, got to the last one, and I had my hands on my hips getting ready to say thank you to the photographer and find a place to eat. David, chiming in, says “before we lose the opportunity, I’d like to share the reason we’re really here.”

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He pulled out this beautiful, tiny blue velvet box from his pocket (HOW THE HECK DID I MISS THAT?! I specifically looked!!!”), got down on one knee, opened the box and took my hand.

I barely saw the ring, I forgot about the photographer, and I started to hyperventilate a little bit as I semi-blacked out while he was saying all these beautiful things he thought about me, about how his family loves me and he loves me, and he can’t imagine a life where we’re not together, before asking if I would marry him. I don’t remember if I said yes or if I nodded but I’m pretty sure my knees gave out and I caught myself on his shoulder before he stood up to hug and kiss the crying mess that was me in that overwhelming moment. My hands were trembling but somehow he got the ring on my finger regardless.

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I remembered the photographer was there and asked “DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?!” and as she was telling me she knew the whole time, another lady in the park came up and was taking pictures. It took me too long to realize IT WAS DAVID’S MOTHER and his parents had been literally hiding in the bushes watching the entire proposal! I obviously cried harder, asked again “DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?!” and hugged the both of them. His mom reminded me to FaceTime my parents (they live in Wisconsin) and after re-learning how to work my phone I got my mom on FaceTime. Crying, one last time I asked “DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?!” (Everybody knew).

She started asking details, where he asked, where we were now, and while I was trying to explain what Piedmont park was like, David grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me around. My mom and dad were standing RIGHT BEHIND ME! David had arranged for them to fly from Wisconsin to Atlanta earlier that week so they could be there for the whole thing and celebrate with us. I absolutely lost it at seeing my parents, who I hadn’t seen since a year before at Christmas.

There was so much crying and hugging, and after fixing my makeup (I was very worried my eyelashes had fallen off and were sitting on my cheek or something) we all spent the rest of the evening at a restaurant on the Chattahoochee River that David and I went for our first anniversary. The rest of the weekend we spent around Atlanta with my parents before they had to leave to go back to Wisconsin, and after they left and it was just David and me in our apartment alone again, it fully hit me that I get to ACTUALLY MARRY this incredible man that I spent so much time pining after, trying to woo, and figuring out the intentions of. I’m just glad the night was out of the ordinary for us and we were able to get engaged on such non-awkward, straightforward terms!

Special Thanks

Linda Carroll
 | Photographer