Cassie and CJ

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How We Met

It all started one cold Saturday night in December. No, wait a second. Maybe it was July? Or was it August? You see, the technical first time we met, neither of us gave much attention to the other. It was a brief interaction at Panera Bread on a warm, sunny day while each of us was spending time with our friends on our lunch breaks. Both of us were friends with the other’s lunch date, so that’s what really even broke us away from our separate tables.

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When we introduced ourselves, we realized we had heard of each other once or twice in passing, thanks to our large circle of mutual friends, but we had never met. And honestly, that quick introduction on the way out of the restaurant never indicated that any type of friendship would begin, let alone a relationship that would lead to marriage. About five months passed before we thought of, saw, or spoke to each other again. In fact, we re-introduced ourselves the next time we saw each other.

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It was December 1, 2018, and we were both scheduled to serve on our church’s worship team. We walked into the night ready to tackle our musical responsibilities all while wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. Because there is no greater first impression than sweaters with a panda wearing a Santa hat, or a reindeer screaming “Oh deer!”We went about our rehearsal and team huddle before we really broke the ice. The hammer that broke the ice? CJ’s dislike for Christmas. How could anyone not like Christmas, right? It sounds crazy, we know [Don’t worry, Christmas is moving up on his list ◡̈], but it led to a very short conversation on a much deeper topic and commonality in our lives — our stories of adoption.

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The evening went on and we soon went our separate ways. Later that night we received each other’s numbers in a group text and we had talked about possibly grabbing coffee one day to hear of each other’s life stories. That never happened. In fact, after a few weeks of brief texting, there were about three months where communication stopped. I completely ghosted the dude. But low and behold, we reconnected in March viaInstagram, all over the topic of our once mutual struggle with migraines and how to overcome them. Yep, we started talking again, but this time, we didn’t stop. In fact, we started hanging out and finally got to hear more about each other’s upbringing.

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We were easily captivated by each other’s history and experiences, and we dove into the passion that brought us together — our love for music. In the beginning stages of our friendship, we often spent evenings at the recording studio, experimenting with writing our own songs together. When the studio closed, we usually went for late-night drives and put down some miles over the great conversation of our childhood, hobbies, interests, goals, silly quirks, and our faith. With every vulnerable story, natural harmony in every car jam-session, and moment spent together, it was evident our friendship was growing stronger and deeper. It was one of those connections that felt like we’d known each other our whole lives — one where we couldn’t wait to see each other or tell each other about our days. We knew we wanted to experience all of life’s adventures with each other.

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How They Asked

As we were celebrating our first Christmas, CJ asked me for a Christmas list. I gave him a small list and just wildly put “A trip to Magnolia” on it. You know, like Chip and Joanna Gaines Magnolia? I love me some good home decor. Beside it, I put “(This would be a cool place to get engaged, huh? ;)” I never in my wildest dreams thought anything would happen with that loose suggestion, I’ve never expected to receive everything from a Christmas list so it was all just a joke.

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Well that Christmas, CJ gifted me everything on that list and the last gift was a trip to Magnolia for the following March. As March approached, so did COVID. We were to leave for Magnolia on a Wednesday and the day before I received an email from Magnolia announcing they were closing to keep their staff safe. I was super calm and told CJ. He immediately started worrying. And he’s not a worrier. He stayed calm, but the entire night I could tell his mind was racing over this.

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All of our friends who knew we had this trip planned also had bigger-than-normal reactions to it being canceled. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why everyone was going crazy – we got refunds, we received travel vouchers, we could just reschedule later, right? Little did I know he had planned to propose at Magnolia; he had a videographer and photographer all lined up to capture the moment. That same week, I had been in touch with a photographer I found on Instagram. She asked to take some photos of us for her portfolio.

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We hadn’t decided on a date for photos and tentatively planned to do it after our trip, but when I realized our trip would be canceled, I suggested that Saturday. CJ was right on board and secretly contacted the photographer. That week, to my surprise, he had been attending “work meetings” and driving 30-60 minutes each night after work to sneak around and plan a whole new proposal with the help of the photographer and our best friends. Saturday came and as I was getting ready for the photos, I randomly asked, “If we ever get engaged, would you wanna have a photographer there to capture it or propose privately and then schedule an engagement session?” CJ said that question made his heart race, but I truly had no idea I was about to be proposed to an hour later.

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He played it cool and I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Yeah, let’s just save a step and have a photographer at the proposal.” He was silently relieved and then asked, “What do people do once they get engaged? Just like going back to normal life?” I said, “Hm, I don’t know. I guess. Maybe get food?” We then proceeded to get ready and drive to our photoshoot. At the end of the shoot, the photographer led us up a path. That was CJ’s cue that the proposal was next.

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As we were both preparing to walk up the path, the photographer had to “check her batteries” and CJ randomly pulled out his phone for a text. I didn’t think anything of it, I was too focused on staying warm and trying to climb a barbwire fence in a dress and heels, and honestly, all I could think about was getting out of the cold and eating Mediterranean food. Turns out they were both checking in with our best friend hiding in the trees to tell him we were coming so he could film the proposal on his phone. We walked and there was a random wood crate, some lights, flowers, and cute decor on the side of the path, beautifully located above the water. I thought someone was having a picnic, I mean it was a decent day to be outside and I figured everyone took advantage of the nice weather since people were likely tired of being in isolation at home. Then I realized there were no people. Or food. So I figured they went for a walk and left their cute picnic-looking items on the path.

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Then I thought, ‘No, that’s not it. Maybe this is the photographer’s decor? Why on earth would she set up –‘ And then I looked to CJ and he said, “Since I couldn’t take you to Magnolia, I tried to bring Magnolia to you” and he dropped down to one knee. He had a beautiful speech prepared and memorized and I started crying. He started to get emotional and cut the speech short. I was so confused and with tears, I looked to the photographer, “Is this real?” and she just kept snapping photos.

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CJ asked if I would marry him and I responded with “ARE YOU CRAPPING ME?” And with a lot of flexibility and the help of our new photographer friend and our best friends (they had all the cute decor since all the non-essential stores were closed so CJ couldn’t go buy decor), our simple photoshoot became an engagement shoot. After the proposal, we “did the normal life thing” and went through the Chick-Fil-A Drive-Thru. ◡̈

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Special Thanks

Rachel Sarah Photography
 | Photographer
Honeycomb Soul Photography
 | Photographer