How We Met: TJ and I met for the first time right before I began my senior year of high school. He was currently a part of the University of Tennessee cheer program, and I had always dreamt of being a Tennessee Cheerleader. We met at one of Tennessee’s college cheer prep clinics, and from then on, a strong friendship began to form. We were just friends for quite some time, and we would go to the gym – A LOT – to practice stunting together. I was determined to accomplish a dream, and he was so willing to help me in any way that he could (he’s a major reason why I was capable of making the team). Around the end of Fall during my freshman year at UT, the feelings inside both of us changed dramatically … and suddenly, there was something there that was SO much stronger than friendship – it was love.
On November 23, 2012, TJ took me to my favorite restaurant in Knoxville, and that evening, told me he was “falling in love with me” and “wanted me to be his girlfriend”. I will never forget hearing those words from him … I was so giddy! Later, we found out that neither of us had actually ever said “I love you” to a significant other before. We knew that something about our relationship was so special and unlike any others. Ever since that November night, our friendship AND our relationship has grown into something that I thought only happened in dreams and fairytales.
how they asked: Fast forward two and a half years later, and we are on a trip to California. First stop – San Diego. Little did I know at the time, that this would be no ordinary vacation. On Sunday, May 24, 2015, we began our day at the San Diego Zoo … It was so fun! TJ was making sure that we were going through all the exhibits fairly quickly because we had “dinner reservations” that night at La Jolla Cove. I didn’t know at the time that TJ actually had a HUGE surprise planned for that night as well. After we left the zoo, we went to freshen up and change outfits for our nice dinner date in La Jolla. As we were on our way to the La Jolla area, the cloudy skies (that we witnessed all day at the zoo) began to clear up. We could see a little sunshine popping through – finally! Once we arrived at the cove, TJ somehow convinced me to leave my big purse and jacket in the car so we could enjoy the walk, and then we would come back and get it before dinner. Surprisingly, I didn’t ask many questions about it … I just remember thinking, “Hmm, yeah that actually sounds like a pretty good plan.” Luckily, we found a prime parking spot right in front of a path – full of the most beautiful trees and flowers – that led us to the boardwalk on the coast. We took some pictures on TJ’s phone and began walking down the entire boardwalk.
As we were walking, we were checking out all of La Jolla’s gorgeous views, watching the seals on the beach, and taking some cool pictures. Every now and then, TJ would stop for a second to look over the edge of the boardwalk to check out the beach and the many rocky cliffs. (I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but found out later that he was just searching for his perfect surprise spot.) After we made it down to the end of the boardwalk, TJ said he had to go to the bathroom (little did I know at the time, he was going to try and get in touch with the photographer, Jenna, that he hired for the surprise.) Once he returned, we walked down on to the part of the beach where all the seals were laying. At this very moment, I remember seeing the sun completely shining, and there wasn’t a cloud left in the sky. It turned out to be the most gorgeous day of our entire vacation. TJ and I got someone to take our picture with the seals and the whole coast of La Jolla Cove in the background. TJ said to me, “Oh that’s a good one; I’m going to put it on Instagram really quick.” He did that, but what I didn’t know, is that he also sent it to Jenna, our photographer (that I didn’t know about at the time), to show her exactly where his big surprise was going to take place. Once we made it back up to the boardwalk, we began walking back the way we came, and saw this huge rocky cliff about 20 feet up, overlooking the ocean. So, the little kids in us wanted to explore the cliff and look out over the edge. Keep in mind, we had to actually climb through a fence to get to the cliff, and I had on 4-inch heels. But, my sweet gentleman helped me the whole way. Once out on the cliff with many other people, we were overlooking the ocean on the left side. Then, we saw a couple (who was sitting out on the center tip of the cliff that offered the best view I had ever seen) get up to leave. So, TJ said, “Oh let’s go over there and check it out!” Once we got over there, we noticed that the cliff pretty much cleared off and we were a couple of the only people still there.
TJ complimented my new outfit that my mom had gotten me for our “Beach White Night” that we enjoy having for some of our vacations. Then, he mentioned, “Guess what … I brought you something else out here for you to wear.”
Even at this time, I was still oblivious to what was about to happen. I casually said, “Oh really? What is it?” After a slight pause, Teej turned me toward him and had the BIGGEST grin on his face, and instantly, I knew. I screamed, “WAIT, what?!”
At that moment, the absolute love of my life got down on one knee and said the most precious words every girl dreams of hearing. I absolutely lost it – hands covering my face, tears instantly shedding, entire body shaking, and the biggest smile I’ve ever had (on my face & on my heart). Then I hear the man of my dreams say, “Peyton Allison Rohde, will you marry me?” I reached down to kiss him, gave him the biggest hug, and I couldn’t say “YES!!!” fast enough.
I was so excited that I forgot to even look at the ring before saying yes. After TJ stood up, he put the absolute most GORGEOUS ring on my finger. I’d never seen a diamond sparkle so much in my life. First thing I said about it: “Oh my gosh, it is PERFECT, and it looks like a princess crown!” (Typical.)
As we were celebrating with each other and wiping our tears away, we could hear the entire crowd on the boardwalk cheering for us – so cool! Then, Teej pulls me in to hug me and says, “Look up there (pointing at the boardwalk) … That’s our photographer who just captured our entire proposal, and now, I’ve scheduled our first engagement session with her, here at La Jolla as the sun is setting.” (My heart began to burst even more.) That’s when I saw Jenna and her second shooter for the first time, and they were AMAZING!
At this point, TJ also told me that he had his phone in his pocket recording the whole thing so that we could go back and relive it over and over again! Thank goodness he did that because I was so in shock during the proposal that I only actually remembered a few of the things he said at the moment (until we went back and listened to the recording). After meeting Jenna, TJ asked me if I wanted to start calling our family and friends to let them know about the news, but instead, we decided to wait to call everyone until after our photo shoot, so we could just be in the moment with each other as a newly engaged couple … Looking back now, that time spent together was so incredibly special.
Jenna began shooting the most beautiful engagement photos I’ve ever seen. She was so fun and easy to work with and made both of us feel so special. She kept the focus on our love for each other and the romance that was so alive that evening. As our shoot was ending, the sun was setting and I got to watch the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my entire life with my FIANCÉ. (We still haven’t gotten tired of saying that word!) Sweet Jenna even stayed a whole extra hour to capture photos of us with the sun going down into the sea – amazing! That day was truly the best day of my life, the most magical day I could have ever dreamed of, and a day that I will cherish forever.
I couldn’t have asked for God to bless me with better relationship, that led us to this point. I couldn’t ask for a better man to spend the rest of my life with. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect proposal.
Now … as excited as we are for our WEDDING, I pray that our marriage will be even more beautiful than that special day.
November 23, 2012 was a significant day in both of our lives, for that’s when it all began. However, May 24, 2015 was a day that officially set us on our very own journey as Mr. & (soon-to-be) Mrs. Baxter – this journey is known as “forever”.
Photography by Jenna Joseph