how we met
I met my bride-to-be shortly after my return from serving in Afghanistan. I was mad at the world, lost, and had countless sorrows to drown. One night, on my search for relief from my internal battles, I walked into a dance hall and saloon in San Diego, CA. I quickly made my way out back to join my normal crowd, when I laid my eyes on the prettiest smile I had ever seen. Little did I know, that the proceeding head nod would change my life in unimaginable ways. There she stood, blonde and beautiful, with the most mesmerizing blue eyes I had ever seen. She noticed my belt buckle with a horse on it, and asked if I rode. The conversation that followed is still ongoing, with the same loving smiles and more laughs than a circus.
You see, the night I met Sydney, I wasn’t looking for anything other than temporary relief found in another night out with the boys to distract my mind. I wasn’t looking for love, nor a friend, nor anything close to compassion. However, as soon as Sydney and I started to talk, I felt a calm come over me, something I had never felt before. Sydney and I spent the evening talking, I showed her my awful dance moves, and we laughed. When I left that night, she gave me her number, and I gave her my heart… She just didn’t know it yet.
The proceeding months and years were far from a fairytale. I completed my time in the service shortly after we began, and Sydney had to coddle me through the transition from military to civilian life, which she did without thinking twice. My plan was to move back to my family farm in Alabama, and work in the shop with my Dad. Sydney had other plans for me, as she saw potential in me that I did not. She encouraged me to attend college, and to cut my hair. She showed me that love was not just for the movies, but that it was real and that I deserved it.
Sydney and I traveled, snowboarded, rode dirt bikes, and most importantly, we laughed. Through this entire story of ours, we have never stopped laughing. After we had been together for 2 years, some of that being long distance, Sydney and I moved to Knoxville, TN so she could pursue her clinical masters in Speech Language Pathology at the University of Tennessee. We found a nice little apartment near the lake, and we set up shop. The two and half years that were to come presented big tests for us with the long hours of her schooling, and the challenges that starting over in a new place present. The only constant throughout this new chapter together was our love for one another. Our love replaced the money that was missing and the friend filled lives we left behind. We were in this together.
how they asked
Sydney and I went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory for our 3rd anniversary, and were greeted by an hour wait. We decided to browse around the mall next door to kill some time. We walked into a jewelry store, and went right to the rings. We had not had much mention of an engagement, but we were on the same page with it. Sydney found the most beautiful ring, so she said, with a price tag just shy of $17,500. I quickly told her that it was not time. What she did not know, is that it was more than time, that I had been ready since the day I met her. I began to browse Pinterest, question friends, and use any other method I could think of to find the proper way to ask for her hand. The ring shopping continued, and when she found “the ring” I quickly told her it was too expensive. Little did she know, I went back the next week and bought it, and began to put my plan into motion.
I found the most beautiful bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, and I made a reservation. Butterfly Gap Retreat was the place where our lives would begin to become one. With a boat load of help from the staff, a friendly tip on the most amazing photographer in Knoxville, and a picture perfect setting… It was time.
I had been in contact with Katie Sams from Red Boat Photography via email, and had coordinated a spot for her to hide in the woods. The staff at the retreat helped her to the top of the mountain, where I would meet her at 7:06 p.m., in order to capture the perfect golden light. I had watched the sun set at this spot earlier in the week, so I knew the perfect time. Sydney was under the impression that we were celebrating our 4 year anniversary, and that we were going to a nice restaurant for dinner. I had told her that we should watch the sunset at the top of the mountain before we ate. So at 7:00 I put my truck in drive, and started on the longest ¾ mile drive I had ever driven. My heart was beating like drum, but I was playing it cool, or so I thought. We parked, and walked down a short trail to a photographer who began to rattle off the script as if she had done this a thousand times.
Katie, the photographer, took a handful of pictures making sure that she had her settings dialed in. She gave me the code word, and it was my time to shine. I had written out everything I wanted to say, and had practiced it 100 times. In that moment, the words were gone. I mumbled a few words, trying to tell Sydney how great she was, while fighting back tears and trying to swallow what seemed like an elephant in my throat.
Sydney’s beautiful blue eyes never left mine as I kneeled and fished the ring out of my pocket. I asked her to marry me, and she cried, and nodded yes, and jumped in my arms. We laughed, smiled, cried, and were fortunate enough to have this special moment captured on camera so that we could re-live it forever.
That girl that I met in a bar that night, the one who never gave up on me, was officially mine! I had spent countless hours ensuring that she got the proposal she deserved. I have called her my angel since I met her, because I truly believe she was made for me. She took a young man, who was angry and lost, and made me into the man I want to be, a man that she wants to be with. This moment was magical, it was perfect, and it is all on camera.