Gabriella and James

Image 1 of Gabriella and James

How We Met

It was our senior year of high school and both of us were committed to attend West Chester University. We “met” in a private Facebook group for the future Class of 2016 in January of that year. At the time, he and I didn’t even message one another. It was really just a “hey that kid has a really cute smile in his profile picture” and “wow, he has really nice eyes!” comment shared between myself and a group of five other girls who I was planning to room with for my freshman year. As it were, one of the girls in the group began talking to James and “called dibs” (because that’s what every college girl does, right?), so as far as I knew, he was taken. Fast forward to July—the group of girls I was supposed to live with lessened to two: myself and the girl who would be my freshman year roommate. The friendship with the other girls didn’t really go anywhere, and apparently it didn’t for James either. So, one day, he decided to message me. We chatted casually about our excitement for college, classes we were taking and anxieties about starting out somewhere new with people we didn’t know. After a few days of talking, my roommate and I decided to meet up with James in person at The King of Prussia Mall (a middle ground between where he lived and where we lived). From that day until the first day of college, we texted all day, and Skyped for hours every night.I’m not inclined to say it was “love at first sight,” but there was a connection that formed immediately and something in my gut told me he was “The One.” Incidentally, I was just coming out of a two-year relationship and I didn’t think I wanted to jump right into another; instead, James and I spent the first few months of college getting to know one another and while it was clear we were seeing each other, we weren’t exclusive. In November, James and I acknowledged that neither of us had actually seen anyone else since September and he officially asked me to be his girlfriend. When I first entered college, I honestly thought that I wouldn’t want to be “settled down,” at least not for a while. But then James happened and like the saying goes, “when you know, you know.” We’ve definitely had some hiccups along the way during our four year relationship, but each one has helped us grow—both as individuals and as a couple.

how they asked

About three, maybe three and a half, years into our relationship, we started seriously talking about getting engaged. James graduated a semester earlier than I did and thankfully landed a job right after graduation. Being the ambitious guy that he is, he was ready to start making moves in his life, but he knew I wanted to be done school and hopefully settled into a job before we got engaged. We didn’t talk much about it after that, but I soon found myself preoccupied with looking at rings and an excitement about our future bubbling in my head. Always willing to humor me, James would follow me into jewelry stores like Tiffany’s and let me try on rings that I knew weren’t truly my style, but wanted to do anyway. Over the summer I seriously started considering when he would pop the question and realized that the poor kid probably didn’t know where to start! He and I didn’t really know the true cost of engagement rings so about a month before our four year anniversary, we decided to visit a shop in Downtown West Chester to look at some rings that had caught my eye, and speak with a consultant. After trying on a couple of “dream” rings, we left the shop and James told the owner he would be in touch. Hearing that triggered something in my head and from then on, I used every chance I got to playfully mention that I was “waiting.” With the holidays swiftly approaching (my dream season for getting engaged), I had a gut feeling that he would pop the question—and, being the nosy and persistent person that I am, I kept hinting at it. But every time I mentioned it, James played it off and then one day he said “I’m sorry Gab, but it really isn’t going to happen now. I’m too overloaded with work and I can’t focus on that—maybe around your birthday.” Knowing that he is pretty good at hiding surprises from me, but also not 100% sure if he was being serious, I let it go…for a week or two. On the day we got engaged, the weekend before Christmas, James and I were doing some Christmas shopping at the mall. I had already accepted that I wasn’t going to get my holiday engagement, because I knew he really was busy with work, but figured I might as well keep testing him to see if he was lying and really was planning to propose—so much to the point that I even felt his pockets to check for a box! He didn’t give any indication of his plans, not that I would’ve expected him to.We had plans to go to Peddler’s Village that night with my family, my best friend and her boyfriend. Shortly after getting home from shopping, we ate dinner and then got ready to go. As I was getting dressed, I even thought to myself “I should probably look cute…just in case!” But by the time we got in the car to leave, I didn’t actually think it would happen. We spent the night walking around the town, stopped for a Nutella Hot Chocolate and some sweets and towards the end of the night we all stopped to take photos. When my sister went to take a photo of James and I, my nephew Antonio (her son) ran over because he wanted to be in it too. After, I suggested we take another one, just the two of us, in a nook of trees where I saw another couple take a photo. My roommate took the photo for us and just as I was going to leave the spot, James grabbed my hand and said he had something to ask me. And then I knew. He got down on one knee, I started crying, and he asked me to spend forever with him. It was hands down the best surprise I have ever had and it was everything I could have wanted: done with my dad’s blessing, during the holidays, with my whole family there, and the moment captured with a photo.

Image 2 of Gabriella and James