How we met: Brad and I met 6.5 years ago on May 18th 2008, I was 16 at the time. We were working at our local Chick-fil-a. Brad always tells me that he admired me from day one. Me on the other hand, I was not exactly interested in guys as more than friends at the time because I enjoyed having my guy friends as they were. I was also extremely shy and people were lucky to get anything out of me other than a “hello” and “goodbye”. My twin sister, Beth, was also working at Chick-fil-a with us and her personality was the complete opposite. So Beth and Brad would talk and joke around all the time. I would join in every now and then but again not much when I did and it was usually just little laughs. After about 2 months, Beth and I invited Brad and our other mutual friend/coworker, Gary, to church and Sunday ultimate frisbee. It took us awhile to get Brad to come to frisbee but after a month or so we were able to convince him. Within our little group I slowly began to open up a little more. As I did Brad began to talk to me more and would always take lunch breaks when I did and he would try to start conversation there or after church and frisbee. Eventually he ended up asking someone (probably Beth) for my number. We started to communicate a little more through text messages.
One day, Beth and I were getting ready to leave work, about to head to the beach for a week long trip, we stopped to give Brad and Gary little goodbye hugs. As Beth and I left and headed out she pointed out how Brad most definitely gave me a much “different” hug (frontal and slightly longer) than he gave her (side) and how she was positive that he was crushing on me. At that time I began to realize I also had a crush on him as well. On October 31st, after a few months of light flirting and wondering, Brad finally admitted he liked me and wanted to pursue a more serious relationship. At the time my dad did not want me to date until I was at least 18, but preferably after I graduated college (he was very conservative). So Brad and I had to remain close friends and wait it out. When I turned 19 Brad called my dad to discuss dating but my dad wasn’t ready and I didn’t know how to push my desires. He tried again when I was 20, my dad still wasn’t ready. It was a very hard, emotional journey, having to wait so long and with my dad not wanting anything to do with Brad yet. He didn’t like boys near any of his 5 daughters. The oldest too had been enough for him so far. But Brad and I both felt very strongly about our feelings and remained as patient as we could be. In the fall off 2012, I moved out of my parents house and Brad and I began to hangout a little more. Brad was preparing to talk to my dad one finally time to ask for his blessing to date me. We had planned that it would either happen right before my 21st birthday (December 26th) or right after. Unfortunately my dad passed away on December 1, 2012 before Brad could talk to my dad again.
My mom allowed Brad to come around the house because she knew he was a huge supporter in my life and that I needed him during that time in my life. Brad waited until about mid-February to talk to my mom about officially “dating” me. My mom happily agreed. This coming February (2015), will mark 2 years for us dating. Brad has been a great supporter over the years through my ups and downs, as I finish college and pursue a career. Recently I was talking to my mom about my dad and she shared with me something I will treasure and carry with me forever. She told me that my dad said that he did eventually want to accept and welcome Brad into the family and that he hoped they could be friends. I was always under the impression he hated Brad and would never accept him and as his little girl all I wanted was his acceptance. Hearing that meant the world to me and I live confident knowing that he would have loved Brad.
how they asked:Brad and I have been talking about getting married for many years. So it is no surprise to many that we knew when we wanted to get hitched. We had a date picked out before he even asked because we knew we wanted it to be in the fall after I graduated from college in the Spring (2015). He told me at that time that I should expect to see a ring before the end of the year. So when October hit, then November, and I still hadn’t seem him on one knee yet, I pretty much knew it would be in December. And it just so happened that he had a whole week off from work for Christmas break from the 14-19. During the week before his vacation, he asked me if I’d like to go to NC to pick out a Christmas tree for his house. Being a mountain lover and only having cut down one tree in my life thus far (back when I was very young), I was more than excited. As we got closer to the date he picked (the 14th) I began to pick up some hints that the proposal might be that day. First he would bring up the Christmas tree farm EVERYDAY at lunch the week before. He would say things like “I’m so excited”, “It is going to be so fun”, “I emailed the owner to make sure they have everything we need”. Then he began to make comments about my nails everyday, 3 days prior. So you may see why I began to get the idea. My twin sister and mom had no idea though, or so I was convinced. They listened to my wondering thoughts and even wondered with me, making comments like, “Well he hasn’t asked for permission yet.” On Friday evening, December 13th, after Brad got off from work we went out shopping for a tree skirt and lights. At one point he said to me, “Hey, what size ring are you again? 5 1/4 or 5 1/2?” “I am probably going to start looking for a ring soon because my funds have not come in as I had anticipated and I haven’t started yet.” At that moment I played along and answered the question but in my head all I could think was, “Okay, is this for real or is he trying to through me off.” “Oh well!” I was trying not to over think this all too much, I needed to leave some surprises.
On the 14th we began our 3 hour trip to NC at about 11am. At the halfway point Brad asked me, “Hey who was that photographer you really liked again?” Inside I was thinking, “Okay he is definitely not doing it now, he doesn’t remember my size, he doesn’t know my favorite photographers name and he has showed no sign of asking my mom for permission.” So I let that go inside my head and decided I would educate him a little and began telling him about her. We stopped for lunch and I took out my phone and showed him her logo and was in the process of showing him a photo she had taken. He thought the lady in it was a photo of Karin (the photographer I love) and said “Oh she looks interesting.” I then told him it was not Karin but a photo she took of someone else. His response was “Ohhhhhh.” So I thought again to myself “He doesn’t even know what she looked like. Okay he definitely isn’t doing this or he probably didn’t get Karin to photograph it (which was okay but I knew he wanted photos as much as I did).
Well we arrive at Little Switzerland Fraser Fir tree farm (fyi: South Carolina does not have any Fraser fir Christmas tree farms, which is our favorite kind of tree). We walked up to the barn where you check-in and purchase the trees. As we talked to the owners they began telling us about a proposal that occurred their 2 weeks before and it was the first one they had ever had their. We then headed out toward the trees that stood on a large hill with a cabin on the top. We wandered around some and got to the top where I began to take pictures. Little did I know, Karin, was dashing from the barn where she had told the owners our plan, after Brad and I left (they were so shocked and had no idea), to the Christmas tree covered hill. She followed us up the hill and remained hiding as I took my photos on the clearing next to the cabin. Apparently, at this point, Brad was desperately trying to see if Karin was near us because he didn’t know what kind of car she drove and didn’t even know if she was there yet. He spotted her (as I am still snapping shots) and they began waving and giving each other the thumbs up. I finished up and we walked around the cabin and started working our way back down the hill again. Out of the corner of my eye, as Brad pulled his hand out of his pocket ,while we’re walking, I notice a small square lump in Brad’s pocket. MY HEART STARTED POUNDING. All I could think about at this point was “Oh my gosh that has to be a ring box and oh my gosh he is going to propose.” I still had no idea that sweet Karin was dodging behind trees following us as we worked our way down the hill. Brad began to ask me every now and then as we passed trees, “Hey do you like this one, what about this one?” Trees weren’t even on my mind anymore. My responses were, “That one is too tall/short”, “I don’t know, I guess”, “Do you like it?” At about halfway down the hill, with the barn in site, we came to another tree and Brad asked again, “Do you like this one?” I replied, “Sure this one seems nice. Let me take a few more pictures though.” I set down my bag, pulled out the camera and took somemore snapshots. I placed the camera down and turned around toward Brad and the tree. When I turned around Brad told me to walk around to the other side and see if there were any bare spots. So I walked around to the other side and stopped as Brad asked me slowly, “How does it look.” I responded with a simple, “Good.” My heart was pounding even more at this point because I could sense the change in his tone and knew when I walked back around the tree he would be on one knee. Meanwhile he later told me he was looking to see if Karin was nearby while I did my search. He said they waved again when they saw each other. Next he said to me, “Okay, come back around to this side and let’s get this thing cut.” When I came around he was indeed on one knee and smile and said to me, “Joyce Southwell, will you marry me.”
As I said yes, with a huge smile, I notice the owners of the farm and their sons down the hill, all looking up toward us. Brad stood up, hugged me and put the most beautiful ring I’ve seen, on my finger. I began to turn a little and kept admiring my ring.
All the sudden I somehow caught sight of Karin walking toward us. Seeing her, not knowing she had been there the whole time, and thinking about how amazing my fiancé was for remembering the name of my favorite photographer and actually getting her to come shoot our engagement…I began to ball and hug Brad again and then Karin. I was so overjoyed and excited. The rest of the afternoon, while taking photos and cutting down the tree were all small cake toppers that made the day that much more special and exciting. On the ride home I had plenty of time to make tons of calls to my family and friends. When I got home and shared the story with Beth and told me that she and mom both knew, that she had reached out to Karin for Brad and that he had asked for my moms blessing for the proposal. Later that evening my best friend, her fiancé, and her little sister all came over to congratulate us and spend some time together with us. It was the most romantic and exciting day I’ve ever had with Brad, leading into what will be a wonderful time of wedding planning with my twin for our double wedding next year and anticipation of our special day of starting our lifetime together.
Photos by: The Mcdowell Photography Project