Haley and Josh

How We Met

“How Did You Guys Meet?”

We still don’t know how to respond to this question. We think our initial meeting was at church youth choir, but we’re not sure if we will ever truly know. Josh had just moved to Kings Mountain, N.C., where I grew up, and he became friends with my older sister and her friends through church youth group. Naturally, I was the pesky 8th grader who tagged along with her cool older sister all the time, so I met Josh probably around the same time as Hannah did.

We became friends, and once I got to high school, most of my sister’s friends had graduated, but Josh was still there for his senior year while I was a freshman. I remember talking to Josh in the commons area by his locker, and we became better friends (Josh would like to add that he was not creeping on a middle-schooler when we met — the “more than friends” talks came later).

Wedding Proposal Ideas in Central Park — NYC

Engagement Proposal Ideas in Central Park — NYC

Haley's Proposal in Central Park — NYC

Josh graduated and went to college at UNC-Charlotte, so he was still nearby and would occasionally come back to visit. That was when the ever-confusing millennial “talking stage” began. After several attempts of trying to go out over the next few years — that’s right, I said years — it never really happened, and we’d just occasionally chat and catch up.

Once I went to college, we texted occasionally, and then the infamous bowling alley event of 2K14 happened. My friends and I had gone over our Christmas break, and Josh and his friends happened to be at the same alley in the lane directly beside us. I went over to talk to him (hello, he’d been wanting to hang out for years), and he gave me the “just one minute” finger AND PROCEEDED TO BOWL. I kind of blew it off and assumed he didn’t want to talk, so we awkwardly bowled beside each other with no communication the rest of the night. Bowling was life for Josh that day, but he messaged me when I got home and hit me with the “we should hang out sometime” text.

Where to Propose in Central Park — NYC

Flash forward another year-and-a-half, and we finally got together at a Starbucks (I was a sophomore in college at this point, and Josh was already a real adult). We had a really good time and caught up on life events over the years, and in the end, I gave him a side hug (a respectable one, I thought). Unfortunately, it’s been revealed to me since then that a side-hug can sometimes be a friend-zoning tactic, so I didn’t hear back from him for a while because he thought I wasn’t interested. A few months passed, and we went out again over the summer a few times. That time was my fault because I felt like I wasn’t ready to start a relationship at that point, especially since I was going back to school soon. Josh understood and was nice about it (as always), but a month or two later, I realized I missed talking to him a lot, so I sent him a text one September evening about the New Girl season premiere that day, and that was that. A couple of months of sending each other political memes and articles later, we started dating.

After years of bad timing and miscommunication, we finally got it right. We technically started dating November 26, 2016, and here we are. Though our story is funny and at times full of awkward moments, we wouldn’t change it! The Lord put us together when He thought it was right, and trusting that process was something that has certainly worked out for us.

Proposal Ideas Central Park — NYC

how they asked

Let’s flashback to November 26th, 2016 — the night we started dating. After Haley playfully said, “hmmm, I guess,” to my request to start a relationship, I jokingly exclaimed, “she said yes!” Keep in mind, we were seated on a bench at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Right after my bold proclamation, an elderly bystander said, “Oh, congrats,” in a very monotone voice. Good thing the viewers of my actual proposal showed some enthusiasm, but I will have more on that later.

As our relationship developed, I knew that marriage was on the horizon. I remember one night we met up at a coffee shop in Gastonia (we had a lot of coffee dates early on). Once we finished talking, Haley started to pull out of the parking lot, and she decided to fire finger guns at me. We weren’t really sure why she did it, but we both laughed. I knew in that instance I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. So take it from Haley, if you are looking to start a relationship, fire the finger guns and see what happens (don’t actually do this).

Around fall of 2017, I started thinking when I would like to propose to Haley. I started mentioning ideas to one of her best friends, and she promptly rejected my outlandish suggestions (like doing a skydiving proposal lol). I decided around Christmas that I wanted to do a surprise proposal in New York City. Unfortunately, I needed help, but I knew just the people to reach out to Hannah and Gail McDougal (also Greg, but you’ll hear more about him in a bit). Hannah informed Haley that she wanted to take her to NYC for a birthday/graduation trip. Haley has always wanted to see Wicked on Broadway, so to say she was excited would be an understatement. So Hannah, Gail, and Haley all planned a girls trip to NYC; little did she know it would be crashed by guys.

So the plan was all set: The ladies would fly up to NYC on Thursday, March 22nd, and Greg and I would fly up the following morning, surprise Haley at Central Park and I’d drop to one knee. This is the part where I give advice to any guy ever planning a proposal: be flexible, because things will not go according to plan.

On Wednesday, March 21st, a Nor’easter struck NYC and affected thousands of flights — including Haley’s flight the following day. They were able to get a new flight on Friday afternoon, but this meant Greg and I would arrive first. So that Friday, Greg and I landed in NYC and checked in at our hotel — The hotel that will live in infamy in our family. As we are checking in, the desk attendant said there are two reservations under the name “McDougal.” We know that and tell them the other McDougal is with us, but not to say anything because we are surprising them. After checking in, we head up to our room, grab a bite to eat and hang out until we hear word from Hannah that they have landed. Greg and I head to the subway to make our way to Central Park.

I spent a good hour or two at the park trying to find the perfect place to propose. PSA: It is impossible to have any privacy in NYC. During this time, the ladies made it to the hotel and checked in. Here is where things start to unravel: the hotel accidentally mixed up the reservations and GAVE THEM THE KEYS TO OUR ROOM. Haley walked in and was jarred to see that she had walked into someone else’s room; however, as she was exiting the room, she saw her dad’s bright orange book bag and my shoes and luggage out of the corner of her eyes.

Haley is now questioning everything. “Was that really their stuff? How is this possible? Josh is at work back home, and so is Dad. This doesn’t make sense.” Hannah informed me that Haley walked into our room and was very suspicious. I felt dejected (and was equally upset at the hotel for messing things up). I had been planning a surprise proposal for four months, and I made it this long without her finding out.

Now, if you ask Haley, she will claim that she was still unsure and didn’t believe it was happening; however, she made sure to re-apply her makeup before leaving the hotel, so I’ll let you decide for yourself. Once the girls arrived at Central Park, they started making their way over to our location at the lake (Hannah had a tracker on my phone for the trip, so she knew where to go). While they were nearing our spot, I was busy warding off people who were wanting to take pictures of the lake. There are like a million scenic places to take a picture in the park, but people would still walk up right beside me even while I was standing with flowers and a ring box in hand.

After rounding up people (these same people ended up witnessing the proposal), I saw Haley through the trees. She turned the corner and tried her best to act surprised, but we both knew what was happening. Then, she walked up to me. I gave her a big hug and dropped to one knee. “She said yes!” This time it was for real. Our cheering section of strangers in Central Park that day erupted.

It was truly an incredible and memorable trip to NYC! There are so many things I love about Haley, but one of my favorite things is her adventurous spirit. I’m so thrilled I get to spend the rest of my life with her. I can’t wait for all the trips and memories we will make during the rest of our lives. Hopefully, one day we will head back to Central Park and remember what a crazy, amazing day March 23rd was.

Special Thanks

Katie Fernandez | 
Danielle Smith
Hannah McDougal |