The story begins on Friday, May 16, 2014. A day I could truly never forget because that’s the day I met my best friend and life partner on the outskirts of Chicago. Nathan and I have never met before, but both were standing up in our best friend’s wedding. We conveniently sat across from each other during the rehearsal dinner, and I can still recall the first time our eyes met. He was trying to tell a story to the table, and I confidently interrupted him to talk to my best friend Maggie, who was sitting right next to me. I remember at that moment catching his blue eyes with a hint of curiosity in them, probably wondering, “who is this girl who just interrupted me?” However, he claims that was the moment he knew he wanted to ask me out on a date. We were able to get to know each other more during the wedding. From dancing, to taking picture, to telling stories of the bride and groom, and to talking all night, I knew there was something more than meeting this wonderful man for a single weekend. Nathan was determined to get my number, at first I resisted because I was leaving to attend NC State for graduate school the following week. I finally caved and decided to give him my number and a quick kiss goodbye. Little did I know, that was my last first kiss.
Before I left for North Carolina, he drove 2.5 hours to say goodbye to me and to tell me that he could not stop thinking about me. Since that day, we have been inseparable and have yet missed a day of talking to each other. During the year, Nathan continued to work from Chicago and visit me monthly in North Carolina. We saw each other as much as possible, knowing that behind the struggles of a long distance relationship, there was something much bigger at work. We wrote letters, texted, chatted on the phone, and drove miles to spend time together, and every day was worth it. Our prayers were answered, during the year Nathan accepted his dream job, where his training would be located in Georgia. We discovered that he would only be a couple hours away from me and we could finally enjoy the South together. After his training, we would be relocated near my hometown in Michigan, back towards our family and friends! Finally, our long distance relationship has come to an end and we are able to continue our life journey right by each other’s sides.
On Saturday, August 22, 2015, Nathan flew down to Raleigh, to celebrate my last year of graduate school and his new job…or so I thought. We always are up for visiting new places in the area, so he suggested exploring the gorgeous Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Duke’s campus. After walking around for a bit, I located a stone bench overlooking a pond, I decided that would be a perfect spot to enjoy my iced coffee and the beautiful landscape. As I sat down, I noticed Nathan acting a bit jittery and scanning the area. As I was about to ask him what was going on, he looked at me and knelt on one knee. I felt shock and excitement wash over me as I realized this was the moment my life was about to change.
He pulled out a stunning ring and asked me to spend the rest of our days together. In the midst of crying and smiling, I noticed two professional photographers taking pictures of this incredible moment, as well as both of our parents running over, clapping and screaming out of excitement! Nathan was able to fly both our parents from the Midwest to experience this moment together. Nathan successfully planned a weekend full of surprises with our families, filled with fancy meals and sightseeing. Looking back, I still can not believe what a picture perfect engagement weekend I had. I was blessed to have shared an incredible milestone in our relationship with my family, but more importantly, fortunate to have found a man who continues to sweep me off my feet.
Photos by Ariel Perry Photography