James and Hannah

How We Met

James and I spent almost the first year of our relationship long distance, taking advantage of every once a week FaceTime and letter that we could as he worked at camp over the summer. Before we started dating, our story was a little crazy with us living on the same hall in our dorm and me having a massive crush on him which became the hall joke. I had met him at the end of my freshman year when one of my best friends, Maggie, had posted a picture with a group of people on her Instagram. I had thought he was cute and she eventually introduced us to a class event for her. During the next school year, we ended up living in the same hall. Everyone knew that the sophomore girl had a massive crush on the senior brother dorm RA, and it was a huge ordeal every time one of us would speak to one another.. which lead to us spending most of the time avoiding that whatever the cost. Let’s put it this way, each of us separately got superlatives about each other: “Most Likely to be the Future Mrs. Shank” and “Most Likely to Take Hannah’s Last Name.”

Marriage Proposal Ideas in James River, VA

After a year of avoiding each other and awkward situations, we started talking to one another a little bit more with about two weeks of school left. Right after he graduated, James moved to Texas where we decided to inconveniently become real friends and eventually start dating. We went on our first date exactly a month after we started dating long distance. James would fly up about once a month to visit for weddings and holidays before he eventually moved back to Northern Virginia in the spring.

At one of our hall tailgates when I convinced him to take a picture because we were “both wearing Chacos”

A hall hike up Sharptop Mt. in VA when our friends forced us into a picture together.

Engagement Proposal Ideas in James River, VA

How They Asked

We knew pretty early on that the Lord had given us similar passions and that we could see a future together. James moved back to Liberty in August of 2018 and started seminary while I have been working on my undergrad. I knew that we would be getting engaged this fall with us both back in Lynchburg, but I expected late October. Little did I know, James had other plans. He had talked to my parents in May before we spent the summer apart while he worked at a camp and had asked for their blessing. His mother had given him his late grandmother’s engagement ring around February when he had told her his desires. He had gotten it sized for me in the spring. While James had worked at a camp in the Adirondacks over the summer, he had made a custom ring box out of some wood that he had found and carved my initials into it. James also had talked to our friend Maggie Smith who is both an incredible photographer as well as the person who introduced us. He had been planning for months on how he was going to propose, but the weather had other ideas.

On the weekend of September 14, Hurricane Florence was approaching the east coast. Lynchburg was expected to get hit really hard with storms and high winds, so classes had been canceled on Friday. James and I had not had time to go on a “dress update” since being back at school so I had coincidentally asked him if we could on that Friday. We woke up and went to brunch with a couple of friends after I had asked some other friends to do my hair and makeup that morning. After brunch, we went back to the dorm where James had convinced me to go ahead and change into my dress. He took me to one of our favorite spots, a local used bookstore, where we spent an hour looking around.

While there, James got two phone calls from his “mom.” I found out later that James had originally planned on asking me on the Blue Ridge Parkway (one of our favorite spots), but as Maggie and a couple other friends had gone to set up, they found out it had been closed because of the hurricane and had called him last minute to change the plans. They told James that they knew of a pretty spot on the side of the road over the James River that would work and sent him the coordinates. As we left the bookstore, James told me that we were going to go to the Parkway, but because it was closed, he knew of another pretty place we could go on a drive (one of my favorite things to do). James talked more than he ever had before because of his nerves, but I had no clue what was going on and was just excited to be along for the ride.

After we drove for about 45 minutes, James started pulling off the road at an overlook. I noticed some people hiding their faces up next to a car and started to get really confused. James put the car in park, grabbed my hand, and said, “Are you ready for this?” I was confused and shocked but started to catch on, so I nodded my head and smiled. As soon as we opened the door, Maggie ran up to the car and demanded my phone. I handed it to her and she ran around the car to James. Maggie told James that they had locked their cameras and keys into the car and couldn’t take pictures. That was the last of his concerns. James grabbed my hand and led me over to a beautiful setup of flowers and a blanket that oversaw the river and mountains. He read me a letter that he had written to me and got down on one knee to ask me to be his wife. I was so excited and shocked that I couldn’t talk so I just nodded and hugged him so tightly! After a couple of minutes of soaking in everything that had just happened, we used a metal rod from James’ car to break into the car with the cameras. They had us reenact the proposal for a couple of pictures and then the rain started to come down. The Lord had held it off just long enough. We spent the entire weekend celebrating with our families and friends who had traveled to Lynchburg to be with us!

Special Thanks

Maggie Smith
 | Photographer
Kayza Vega-Espanol
 | Planning