How We Met: Erin and I don’t have the “normal” relationship story, not like we have some cool story that is better than the rest, but rather it is a story of hardship, miscommunication, and trial-but in the end overcoming adversity.
Our families had been friends for a long time since we grew up going to the same summer family camp, Maranatha, in Muskegon MI every summer. She is four years younger than me, so we were never really “hanging out” while we worked there, and she worked in the Children’s Classroom while I worked in the Kitchen. I knew her as the quiet golfer while she knew me as the wild, loud, and obnoxious Grotenhuis boy.
The Summer of 2012 I had just graduated from college and had a leadership role at the Family Camp we worked at and she worked under me. I had always known her as the younger girl who was really good at golf, but that summer I saw her in a different light. She was this matured woman-beautiful, glowing, and full of passion and energy for life. That summer I began my pursuit of this woman who I had known of my whole life, but never truly known. I would show up at the places she was while trying to make it seem like coincidence whether it was the beach or the ice cream shop. She may have seen me as just a friend, but I knew that I wanted more. Unfortunately, that summer ended and she went back to college while I went off to find a “real job”. I had never gotten the courage to ask her out, and in my mind (as well as hers) I had missed my chance. She was off being pursued by other boys at college and I moved on as well.
During the winter of 2012, I had gotten some tickets to Beauty and the Beast for the Broadway performances that travel around the country. Erin was back from college for Christmas Break, and even though I felt like I missed my chance-I thought I may as well ask her and give this thing a shot. I didn’t even have her number, so I called her brother (huge advantage of being family friends) to see if she was home. Sure enough she was. She was home watching Pitch Perfect with one of her best friends in what she claims to be “the most hideous pajamas ever”. Without knowing this, I showed up at her house and rang the door-bell.
Her father answered the door, which to any other guy may be the scariest thing in the world. Luckily for me, the summer I fell for Erin her dad and I became Burger and Beer buddies. Every Monday the local pub had a buy-one-get-one free burger deal that we unfailingly attended. So, talking with him was the easy part-and I was as cool as a cucumber. I explained that I “happened” upon these tickets and that I was thinking of who I could take and who it may be fun to go with, and Erin came to mind. He thought it was a great idea. But unfortunately, he also thought it was a great idea to send me right into the living room to ask her-in front of her best friend, mother, and father. All of a sudden I wasn’t as cool as a cucumber. In my panic-stricken state I must have made it sound less like a date and more like I was asking her to do me a favor and fill a seat for me. Through all my mixed-up words and poor explanation, she ended up saying yes.
I picked her up the next night and we had a phenomenal time. The musical was great and we even got coffee afterwards. I was ecstatic that the date was going so well until the moment I went to drop her off at her house. I put the car and park and said that I would walk her to the door, where in my mind I was going to ask her to do this again and try to get her number. In her mind she had no idea I viewed this as a date and replied by saying “don’t do that.” I was crushed. My plans had failed, and I again, was left hopeless. I thought she wasn’t interested-but she was-and she thought I wasn’t interested-but I was.
Fast-forward to summer of 2013 when I was working another job and traveling a lot during the summer and Erin was back at Maranatha. It had been months without any word, and without any hope. I would come out to Maranatha every weekend to visit family and spend time on the beach, and every weekend I would see Erin there. She was gorgeous as ever and just absolutely stunning. She was the one that got away, and my mind knew that, but my heart didn’t believe it. Every time I saw her, my heart beat like a kick-drum and that same “first-crush” feeling came over me. You know the feeling, don’t you? Pure love, so sweet and innocent, yet filled with passionate desire to know someone, to share with someone, and to just be with someone. Yeah, I was still head over heels.
Every time we saw each other we shared about life, dreams, hopes, and aspirations. But every week I left again. Then one weekend, my heart couldn’t take it anymore. I was going to die if I didn’t tell this girl how I felt. So, one day on the beach-I turned to her and tried to spill my heart. It was probably the most un-eloquent speech I’ve ever given. What I said can be summarized like this: “Erin, I had a crush on you for awhile but I don’t know what to do because I know our families are friends, so I’m not sure-how do you feel.”
Needless to say, she had no clue how to respond. So, she informed me that she was confused and that she thought I was great. I left, again, feeling dejected. Every time I got the opportunity to make progress, I blew it. Luckily, Erin was still thinking of me because later that day I got a text saying we needed to talk. She asked what was going on and we both shared our mutual feelings for each other. Finally, we were on the same page and we finally began our future together.
how they asked: Erin and I had talked about marriage for a while and I knew since the first time I said, “I Love You” that she was the one I was going to marry. I work and travel a lot during the summer so we had been apart all summer, but I was finally going to be done on August 23. I was going to meet her in her home town, but I had other plans in mind.
At the beginning of the summer I had secretly met with her Father for breakfast. It was then that I shared with him my intentions to marry his daughter and that I wanted his permission. Both of us were near tears (seeing as we are both very emotional) when he gave me his blessing. I had picked out the perfect ring and put the plan into place calling her best friends and letting mine know what was about to happen.
The Friday before we were going to see each other she was scheduled to go golfing with her best friend and her dad. Little did she know I had set all this up. She played college golf at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN, and she played well, so anything other than 18 holes would have caused her to become suspicious. So, she played 17 holes of golf without knowing I was waiting for her on the 18th green. When she got to the tee box (place you tee off from, for the non-golfers like myself) there were flowers there waiting for her with an iPad. She sat there, confused as to what was going on, but she put on the headphones for the iPad and opened it up to find a video with an explanation and instructions.
The video guided her through the 18th hole where I had set up 18 flags, each with a card reminding her of a memory, then she would play the video of me talking about that memory for a couple minutes. She walked through a highlight of our relationship for about 17 flags, and then she was instructed to set the iPad down and walk to the last flag-the actual 18th hole.
As she walked on to the green and down the candlelit path set up for her, I snuck up behind her. She turned around in disbelief and I took a moment to admire how beautiful she looked before I asked her, “So, are your going to finish the hole?”. She leaned down and reached into the cup only to find a ball with my handwriting on it reading “Will You Marry Me”. At that moment she turned around to find me on one knee. I looked her in the eyes and told her I love her more than she knows and asked her to be my wife. Thankfully, she said yes.
After some hugs and kisses and tears we made our way back to clubhouse where all of our closest family and friends were waiting. We dined and drank and fellowshipped as the sun set on the beginning to the rest of our lives, which made it the most glorious evening I can remember.
Photography by Giving Tree Photography