How We Met
Chris and I met at some point in the Fall of 2014. I was still somewhat new to Southwest Florida, and Chris had just moved back home after ministry school. While I can’t remember the exact moment we met, I do remember my older sister asked me “Hey, what do you think about Chris Stirzel? I think he’s such a cutie and totally perfect for you!” Without a single thought or consideration, I replied, “No way! He’s a baby. Isn’t he only like 15?” In all reality, he was actually 20 and I was 22; but it was enough of a difference for me to not take her suggestion seriously.
That is…until the 4th of July 2016.
Meanwhile, in those two years, he and I joined the very same circle of friends. Individually, Chris and I were not super close; but our ‘Fort Myers Fam’ is a tight-knit group. All birthdays, holidays, and church events are almost always spent together. So it was totally normal for us to have a beach day scheduled for the 4th of July. It ended up just being Chris, myself, his sister and her husband, and our two besties. When I say it was the best time ever…seriously it was THE BEST. Let me set the scene: the group of us hanging onto floats in the Gulf just laughing and chatting it up for hours. Escaping to the tent to play cards when a storm rolled in. Making up a game of classic country song karaoke.
Doubles paddleboard races…which Chris and I won..but only after I snatched the paddle from him and made him sit on the front! Then we all walked to the top of the bridge for fireworks. Later I found out, Chris’ sister had leaned over to her husband and said, “Why can’t Christopher find someone just like Kelsey?”. The next week was spent on Daytona Beach serving together at our church’s youth summer camp…coincidentally paired together in the same group! August 15th was our first date. We’ve been inseparable ever since. I love you’s were exchanged in November, at a wedding I might add. The ‘I choose you!’ conversation happened in December. Loving Chris has been easy, freeing, exciting, and so much fun!
how they asked
Prologue: I hope we are not the only one to have a prologue to our engagement story! See, I am a Wedding Specialist at an SWFL resort. Weddings are what I do and what love! Whenever I meet a new bride one of my most favorite ‘get to know you’ questions is, “Was the proposal a surprise or did you know it was coming?” After hearing hundreds of stories, reading a million how they asked posts, and watching a bazillion proposal videos, I made it no secret to Christopher that I didn’t particularly have a preference to when, where, or how he proposed…as long as I was surprised! Ha! No pressure! Bless his heart, a couple weeks before the big day. I accidentally was included in a mass group text with his family…he was sending a photo of the ring. (He’d much rather me NOT include that part in the prologue! lol) After about 10 solid minutes of happy hyperventilating, I gained my composure and called him in total recovery mode. I wanted to assure him that absolutely nothing was spoiled, I only glimpsed at the band, didn’t even see the stone, then immediately deleted the text. I did my best to comfort his devastation by telling him “Even though I now know a ring exists I still didn’t know when, where, or how! The surprise is still fully intact!” But you better believe I kept up my manicure and spray tan for the next couple of weeks!
how they asked: November 4th began as a perfectly normal Saturday. I was still doing my hair when Christopher arrived to pick me up for our day trip to Sarasota. We drove up in his truck belting Taylor Swift and classic country jams the entire way there. We bottomless brunched. Spent the day window shopping. While we were driving to dinner Chris mentioned that the friends we were meeting were running late, but we could go grab a beverage to watch the sunset at one of his ‘go to’ fishing spots. You would think that him knowing the precise sunset time would have tipped me off. Nope, I was still clueless. At one point I even texted my best gal pals to confirm, “Yeah, totally not happening today. He’s way too relaxed.”
We arrived the beach to find a perfect spot to park his big red truck. Not wanting to miss the sunset, I jumped out of the truck but quickly realized it was a tad bit chilly. So I quickly bounced around to his driver side door to ask for a sweater to wear and a blanket to sit on. He handed me a hoodie then asked me to go around to the bed to look for a blanket. While I opened the bed of the truck he quickly swung the cab door open, grabbed something, closed it behind him, then sharply said no blanket. Still, I was clueless. (Now if he were telling this story, he’d mention how much he was freaking out trying to figure out a way to grab the ring which was hidden in a baseball glove under the back seat.)
The “fishing spot” he had in mind was at the end of what seemed like a never-ending trail through a mangrove forest. I kindly kept asking him to lead the way since I had never been there, but he kept saying “We’re almost there, just keep going.” (Again, his version includes him not wanting me to see the box in his back pocket and the fact that he had never in his life been to this island.) So I’m pretty sure I stepped on a minimum of eight burrs, stubbed my toe fourteen times, and totally tripped at least ten times. After we passed a few gatherings of people we finally reached the tip of the island. I’ve grown up in Florida my whole life but had never seen a beach like this one. It was a STUNNING. Fallen trees and driftwood branches were everywhere. No one else was in sight. Christopher hoisted me up to sit on a fallen tree trunk and eventually climbed up as well.
Until he suddenly jumped down then whipped around to face me. Completely startled, I launched myself off of the tree! I thought he was jumping down because something was wrong. We totally collided into each other and splashed the ankle deep water everywhere! We giggled for only half a second, then he pulled me in me real tight. That’s when I knew!
His eyes teared up.
He was on one knee.
The box came out from behind his back.
When the sky finally stopped spinning and the scene finally came back into focus, I squealed so loud the entire island probably heard me!
The chill in the air had disappeared, so I breathlessly asked him to help me take off the hoodie. Still needing air I asked if I could sit back down, so he lifted me back onto the driftwood. Once I caught my breath, I was able to process what had just happened. There was a ring on my hand and Christopher was looking up at me still a bit teary but beaming. Then I confessed…”Babe I’m pretty sure I just blacked out. I have no idea what just happened.” He sighed a big relief, “Oh good, because I had so many sweet things planned but I forgot them all once you nearly knocked me into the water.” Even though there wasn’t anyone in sight, I looked around and whispered: “Do you think we can do that again?” He took a half a second to think then excitedly replied, “Well sure, I don’t see why not!”.
So Chris slid the ring off my finger, pulled me back off of the driftwood, held me in his arms while I looked up at him. This time I listened intently to every single word. I watched his eyes while he shared how much he loved me and said he doesn’t want to choose a single day without me. I remembered to take deep breaths while he reminisced through memories of our first date and so many other special moments in our relationship. He made promised to protect me, care for me, trust me, hope with me, dream with me and love me…forever. For a brief moment I glanced around to take in the scenery, I just didn’t want to miss a single detail from this happiest moment ever.
I made mental notes of the ‘do you like it’ excitement on his face when he pulled out the ring. It felt like we were in slow motion as he got back down on a knee, his jeans already soaked and sandy from our first run through. I memorized his face as he looked up beaming at me and asked, “Kelsey will you marry me?” This time with intention and without hesitation I said, “Yes yes yes, a million times yes.” When he popped open the box again for the second time, I squealed even louder than the first. Jumped into his arms and didn’t let go. Chris led us in a prayer committing that moment and the rest of our forever.
We sat back on the tree to watch the sunset. Shortly before the sun sank, out popped a photographer! She must have thought we were totally loony…proposing twice! But I’m so so very thankful that we went all in for a re-do. Because now do we not only do we have photos to remember (both) the proposal(s); but because we did it twice, we had the opportunity commit to memory the intricate details of the most special moment of our lives.
But wait, we have an Epilogue too! Due to the fuzzy first proposal plus the experience I have working in the wedding world; Chris and I have decided to have a private pre-wedding vow ceremony, just the two of us, in Banff this upcoming August. Because what is the opposite of a Florida beach ceremony with sand and palm trees…snow and mountains of course! It is so incredibly important to us for me to not feel like I’m working on our special date…for it to feel like our moment, our place, our time! Also, I so want to be so fully engaged during our wedding ceremony. I want to have intention behind each vow I make, and I want to hear each word he says. Not thinking about timeline or seating charts!
Ever since November 4th, Chris has proceeded to propose at least 10 more times. It has become ‘our thing’! Sometimes it is in the kitchen after we’ve washed all the dishes while singing our favorite 2004 throwback jams. One time I was waking up from a nap to find him on his knee by the couch. Another time was after we had had a little spat about wedding planning, I opened the door, he came in, slid off my ring, and proposed forever all over even when I get cranky at him. The most recent time was just after we had spent an entire dinner date dreaming about forever and goal setting to make the most out of the next 6 months left in our engagement. Each and every time I see him on his knee my heart flutters, tears well up, and I have to giggle just a bit. Each time my answer is and will forever be, “Yes yes yes, a million times yes”.
xo I love you Christopher!