Mercie and Chris

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How We Met

March 25, 2016. I’m putting in long hours as a CPA during tax season, unable to maintain any sort of social life. I get a text message from my best friend asking to come out for drinks to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday (his wife now). There had been months prior to this night where he’s tried to get me to hang out with our circle, but I always made up an excuse. I either had work, or work … or work. I had also been out of a long-term relationship for some time and was perfectly okay being a bachelor. I was in the process of renovating a condo and figured that would be enough. But that night he wasn’t taking no for an answer. I throw on some presentable clothes and head over to this lounge off the Vegas Strip. I arrive a bit late, so everyone’s already dancing, drinking and having a good time. People are genuinely surprised to see me since I hadn’t been making it to many group functions as of late. I try to find a seat in the reserved area, but having no luck. Everyone was sitting next to their significant others – except for one girl. She also had the only empty seat next to her.

I figured she had a boyfriend (she did) and didn’t want to come off as a creep (I hope I didn’t), so I walk towards her and she gets up and gives a hug as if we’ve known each other for years. I ask if could sit down next to her and she’s happy to offer the seat. Now I knew who she was, I just didn’t really know her. I knew her name was Mercie, that she has known all of my friends much longer than I. She went to middle school and high school and college with them. I knew that she had a great ear for music and I knew she could plan a party with her eyes closed with two days notice and I knew she had a heart of gold. She was always doing thoughtful things for others, whether it was celebrating friend’s anniversaries or coworker’s birthdays. I knew these things because I could log in to Facebook just like anyone else. But I didn’t really KNOW her. She swore we met before, and I believed her. I just couldn’t remember when. We ran in the same circles but just didn’t meet as often as you would think. But I thought, since I’m sitting here next to her and everyone else is busy with their significant others, I figure now was a better time than ever to finally get to know her.

What I found out questioned everything I thought I knew what direction I wanted my life to head in. I figured love was a farce, something created by the Hallmark Channel to get me to spend more money on romantic comedies. I thought I had been in love before, only to be left wondering what I was ever thinking. To spend years building something up only to see it fall. Why should I believe in The Knot articles where a guy meets girl and instantly falls in love? Why should I believe that people together for 40 years still make it a point to celebrate Valentine’s Day every single day? It can’t be true, they must be covering something up. That is what I used to think.

She changed all of that.

I didn’t decide in that moment that she was going to be my wife one day. I decided that night, sitting at the end of a couch next to her, that there is such a thing as having a good heart that is specially made for one other person. That there are people who genuinely care for one another and can build things together in ways that I never imagined before. I decided that you could actually love someone by being there for them, all of the time. That it isn’t about the nice material things or grandiose gestures of love and compassion – only the thought that it could be possible to have it in something as simple as a warm hug. I decided that love could exist in this world, and I also decided that the whoever her was her boyfriend was without a doubt the luckiest guy in the world.

It wasn’t because of how she looked (she was stunning), but what she said and did. When I would talk about work or past relationships or family, she genuinely listened. She didn’t look down on her phone or drift off. She’d say things like, “Don’t worry, there is someone out there for everyone, I believe that,” or, “Everyone has their ups and downs, but you sound like you got it all figured out!” I figured I’d reciprocate by telling her she should start her own party planning business (“I like having consistent paychecks though!”) or that she had an incredible ear for music (“All of the music I know, I know from my siblings”). She would tell me how she kept in touch with her brothers and sisters almost daily, or how sometimes a perfect Friday is at home watching The Office on Netflix and eating ice cream. We talked about Jim and Pam for almost an hour. We shared a lot in common and I was so shocked and bummed we hadn’t met sooner.

At one point, my phone was at 8% and I needed to head home to charge it. I figured there would be client emails I’d need to check on the way home. She had an external charger, and I asked if I could use it. I told her I might have work emails to respond to, but really it was a way to keep the conversation going. I thought she was so cool. Just … so cool, like meeting someone famous and trying to keep it together … kind of cool.

We end the night together as a group. Her boyfriend shows up, they leave together. I head home thinking I met someone really cool who’s given me hope that there are women out there who genuinely get it when it comes to love and relationships.

March 26, 2016. The next day she messages me to tell us how we met, and it all came back to me. In December 2014 I had met her for the first time at a Cheesecake Factory after this same best friend (a teacher) finished a winter concert for his elementary school kids. She couldn’t eat much because she had burned her tongue. I can’t believe I didn’t remember that before. In April 2015, we met again at my best friend’s 30th birthday. I was on a balcony at the hotel the party was taking place at and she noticed me looking pretty glum. I remember seeing her smile that day and it’s literally the only thing I remember about that evening. It’s incredible how I didn’t remember any of those things until she brought them up in a message. I decided that day that we are definitely friends and I’ll make the time to show up for more functions. I wasn’t being a good friend anyway to my group and through her, I realized just how important friends are in our life.

I still have the message – I saved them all:

She changed my life in more ways than one, and it was a few months later that we both were out of relationships and found that we had a lot more in common than we thought. I owe it all to a night I never thought I’d make it out to, a seat I never thought would be available and a woman I never thought would one day be my wife.

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how they asked

Our first date was at The Smith Center in July 2016. She emailed me at a few days before surprising me with tickets to watch Brian McKnight play all of the hits. The Smith Center is a beautiful performing arts center that was built in 2012 to bring world-class concerts and theater to Las Vegas. We fell in love with that venue that night as much as we did with one another.

Brian McKnight was amazing. We’ve been to every concert he’s had in Vegas since:

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After the show that night we walked to a bench nearby and I told her everything that I felt. How happy she made me, how much I respected and appreciate her, how much I admired her. We had our first kiss outside of that venue, on a bench. That bench became our place – we would go there after shows and just sit down enjoy each others company.

We even took our Christmas photos there one year:

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So naturally, I had to propose there. It wasn’t easy.

I started planning the proposal in April, months before I actually proposed. She loves photography and I noticed she followed a particular wedding photographer online named Susie and figured she would be the perfect person to capture our moment. So we met for coffee and I told her my plan. Over the next few weeks, we ran through several different scenarios to capture the moment.

Next, I had to get the venue on board. I wanted to propose on our anniversary in July and I knew the venue hosted tons of shows and events every year. They couldn’t guarantee that we’d have the place to ourselves until about a month out. I had to take the chance and luckily it paid off. We would have the whole venue to ourselves!

I had the photographer and the venue, now I needed to figure out how to surprise her without causing suspicion. My fiance in another life was a private investigator – she can figure things out pretty quick. So I had to think very hard about how I would ensure she wouldn’t think a proposal was going down.

I eventually figured it out during one of the test runs I had with the Smith Center event planners, Harrison and Sean. I knew she always wanted to get a private tour of The Smith Center and the venue offers tours throughout the year. I also knew that if I surprised her with the tour that she’d consider that as an anniversary present.

In order to make sure she didn’t figure out where we were going before, I had her close her eyes when she got into my car and had her listen to a playlist I made for her with 12 songs (one for each month of the year). I played 11 of them in the car on our way to the venue. The last one I would play at the venue.

Once we arrived, I told her to keep her eyes closed as I got her out of the car. When she opened her eyes, she saw where we were and I told her that I was able to get us the last group tour of the day! Claudia, our tour guide (who already knew the top-secret plan and had done a test run with me prior) opened the door and mentioned that it looked like we would be the only two on the tour this evening (well done, Claudia). We timed the tour so that the sun would be setting just as I asked, but we had to play along and give the grand tour of the place. We did a few test runs before and timed it at about a half-hour for the tour. Claudia was incredible, she had been a guide with The Smith Center from the start and knew everything about the place. She genuinely believed we were getting our own private tour!

About halfway through the tour, Claudia mentioned that she had to call security to open a door. That was a ruse, as this was the signal to get the Susie into position. We decided on the top floor of the venue to pop the big question, overlooking the bench where we had our first kiss. I had a speaker hidden behind a pillar that would play the final song on her playlist – “Not a Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake. It was the first song we had listened to in her car the night before our first date. I told her it was my favorite song on that album and she said the same thing!

Once we got to the top floor, Claudia mentioned that she had gift bags downstairs to get us as a thank you and she left. That was my cue to have Mercie close her eyes and I’d lead her by hand to the spot where the proposal would take place. I motioned for Susie to come out of hiding to get into position and for Harrison and Sean to play our favorite song while her eyes were closed. Once it played, she finally figured it out.

I told her how happy she made me, how much I respect and appreciate her and how much I admire her. That forever and a minute wouldn’t be enough time by her side, but that I’d always make the most of every second I would have with her. That love really is made for two people who can find one another in this crazy world, even if it took a few times to finally notice one another. That it doesn’t matter how long it takes to find your person, but that once you do you hold on tight and never let go.

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I asked her to marry me. She said yes. That is how I asked. Afterwards, I treated her to her very own engagement shoot:

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Special Thanks

Susie Qiu
 | Photographer