Rachel and Clinton

Image 1 of Rachel and Clinton

How We Met

Dear Rachel,

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was waiting for you to arrive at Your Pie. I’m glad I got there before you did because we probably wouldn’t be here today if I had been late. ;) I wish I could go back and watch that day from afar and see how naïve we were to what was about to happen. Boy, if we only knew that our long talk, mostly about food and scallops that were about “this big” at Captain Anderson’s, would have brought us to where we are today, we probably wouldn’t have believed it. I had always loved Athens and knew it would always hold a special place in my heart, but I never knew it was about to give me something that would mean so much to me.

I don’t open up to many people, but I felt so at peace and comfortable with you right from the very beginning and that has continued until today. Each time I was with you, I was able to be me and I felt as if that was ok with you.

I know by now you’re probably crying and starting to figure out that we aren’t here for a photo shoot to be in a magazine feature, but just take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. I want this to be all about you. I want you to know that you are a princess, an angel, a Godsend sent straight from heaven above.

When I know something, I know. And I knew right off the bat that you were something I didn’t want to waste any time with. Just like we’re able to read each other’s minds (“Get out of my head!”), I have another voice inside my head that lets me know when something’s right and I immediately had the “it” feeling with you. It felt like I had known you forever.

I’ve been thinking about this day for quite some time, but I’m an organizer, a planner, and a perfectionist. And in this instance, it got the best of me. I eventually came to realize I’ll never be able to have every little detail just right – no matter how hard I try. We don’t have it all figured out and we never will, so I realized that if I was going to use this as the criteria to decide when I was “ready,” I never would be. It all boiled down to the fact I know I can’t live without you.

I know we will continue to face challenges and encounter struggles, and the devil’s real work will start soon. He will try his very best to tear us apart, but I promise I will be by your side until death do us part. You’re the one I want to face these challenges with, and I feel so confident in who we are as a team, especially with the Lord leading the way.

As we’re already able to do with our first three and a half years together, I can’t wait to one day look back on each chapter in our story. We don’t have a plan set in stone, so the pages are blank and I don’t know what will be next, but I can’t wait to write it – with you. Although, I’m sad to know they will fly by and no time with you will ever be enough; that’s why I will try my best to enjoy the present – each and every moment as they come to us. However, I can’t wait to one day start a family together. There’s no one else I would rather have as the mother of my future children. It will be tough, just like marriage, but I will trust you with them with all that I have. I know you will lead, teach and care for them in such an amazing way.

I’ll never be able to get everything I want to say down on this piece of paper, but if you get anything out of this, let it be knowing that I love you, I support you, and I would do anything in the world for you. Time is something we only have a limited amount of and we can’t get any of it back, but I’ll never regret any second spent with you. I take pride in investing in people – the right people, so there aren’t many I truly invest in, but you are remarkable – someone I want to invest everything I have in. You are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. You have it all. You are on fire to follow the Lord and make an impact on this world for His glory; you work extremely hard and allow nothing to be given to you; you have a heart of gold; and your personality can light up an entire room. I am almost to the end of this and I haven’t even mentioned how beautiful you are on the outside, but you absolutely are. There’s just so much more to who you are – like the way you think and the way you care. Your beauty comes from the depths of your soul, and I can’t wait to continue to get to know you more each and every day.

I’m not going to lie – I’m nervous; this is the biggest decision I’ve ever made in my life. It is a monumental moment in both of our lives. I’m so thankful to have you in my life. The Lord truly blessed me. Truth be told, I didn’t “pick” you though; the Lord created us for each other. You are the best part of me. You are the star of the show. And I love you.

July 22, 2018

P.S. We have so much more to learn about each other, but it’s safe to say we’ve already learned a few things about our strengths and weaknesses considering I wrote this and I’m having you read it. ;)

how they asked

My number one goal – the proposal be a complete surprise and catch Rachel completely off guard. But I wanted to come up with a way for this to happen and have a photographer/videographer there and it seem completely normal. I started to brainstorm ideas and try and figure out how I could set up the entire thing and make it seems as if I had nothing to do with it.

Everything really started to fall in place once I figured out a friend of mine had access to a school email address that had the words “Photography Services” in it. I knew she would never think I had access to something like that but may question things if the email address was Google or Yahoo based since they can easily be created. I came up with the idea that the entire event would be based on us needing to attend a photoshoot for a school magazine that would feature couples who met at the University of Georgia.

Originally, I tried to think of someone Rachel and I knew who still attended the university, but I then decided it would be best if I had someone reach out to her who I didn’t know – someone I had never met and that I didn’t follow on social media. It needed to be someone so obscure that Rachel would never think I set this up. Thankfully, I knew of just the person to make this happen – Rachel’s friend Emily who had attended UGA. I messaged Emily via social media and had her reach out to Rachel to “catch up,” then I had her mention that a friend of her’s (Amber) who still attends the university and is an on-campus photographer was looking for couples who met at the school. Amber was the real name of the photographer I had hired, but later on, I made up her last name just in case Rachel started searching around the web. Emily told Rachel she thought of her and her “boyfriend”; I told her to not even use my name to further push the idea that she had never spoken to me and didn’t know much about me. Rachel told Emily that she thought this was a great idea!

Rachel immediately told me about it and waited for “Amber” to reach out. I wanted everything to seem completely normal where much didn’t have to be faked. Not long after, Amber reached out; her email just happened to one that I typed that I forwarded to my friend and then was sent to Rachel from the school email address. She stated she was referred to her by a mutual friend – Emily, and that she was looking for alumni who met their partner at the university to highlight in an upcoming magazine feature; it would be free of charge. The idea for the feature would be to go back to places on campus and within the city that means a lot to the couples they were reaching out to. I didn’t want her to think we were the only ones participating in this magazine feature. I was also sure to continue the story by listing dates for Rachel to choose from, even though I knew I would be able to convince her to choose the date I had hired Amber for, and let her know that she would need our names, where we’re from, what year we graduated and what our majors were. Not only did Rachel reply, she cc’ed me on the email! After a few emails back and forth, things were going according to plan. Rachel was asking questions about if we should print out our old photos and what we should wear. She had completely bought in and told Amber the places we’d like to go back to on the photoshoot and Sanford Stadium was one of them, the place I wanted to propose. However, to continue the narrative of it seeming as if I had nothing to do with this, “Amber” told Rachel she wasn’t sure if we would be able to get into the stadium; even though I already knew we’d be able to have access, I wanted it to be a last minute thing where it would seem as if I definitely wouldn’t have been able to plan anything out. I also went ahead and mentioned there would be another photographer, so nothing would seem out of the ordinary day of.

Just a few days before the photoshoot, Amber confirmed with Rachel where we needed to meet and at what time. The stage was set.

Image 2 of Rachel and Clinton

I wasn’t sure how I would react day of, but I was surprisingly calm. I had written Rachel a note (see above in “tell us how you met” section) that I wanted to give her before I proposed, but I was afraid she would have trouble reading my handwriting during the heat of the moment, so I printed a copy too. I just had to get the ring (see below) and note in my pockets without her having any idea; thankfully, I was able to do this and we were on our way. Upon arrival, we met Amber and Tyler (Amber’s husband, which Rachel’s didn’t know – she thought they were random students, who was the videographer) outside of our meeting place. I started to get a little nervous once Rachel started asking questions about what exactly the magazine was and how Amber knew Emily, but Amber handled it like a champ!

We took a few photos around the stadium, and Amber said they looked great for the magazine. After a few stops, we made our way down to the field; after being down there for just a little while, Amber gave me the cue – hold Rachel’s hands and look into her eyes. I took out the note and Rachel started asking, “What is this? What’s going on?” It still took her a minute to realize what exactly was about to happen. The following is a note Clinton gave Rachel moments before he proposed to her.

Image 4 of Rachel and Clinton

She finished reading the note and I told her, “You know I like to do things differently and not always follow the norm, so I wanted to come up with something that was unique – something that would be a good luck charm, help me keep this a secret and let us pick out a ring together, so I’m using a ring from a couple who means a lot to us and that we look up to. This is the ring that Papa gave Grandma almost 60 years ago and has a diamond on it that was my great, great grandmother’s and is over 100 years old. Rachel, you are my best friend. Will you marry me?” From there, the rest is history. I think the look on Rachel’s face says it all.

Image 5 of Rachel and Clinton

A huge shoutout to Amber Phinisee for capturing these moments so perfectly.

Image 6 of Rachel and Clinton

Image 7 of Rachel and Clinton

Image 8 of Rachel and Clinton

Going into it, I felt as if I had a pretty strong story – a friend of Rachel’s reached out to her that I didn’t know, the photographer was emailing her with a school email address, we had never looked at rings before, and she knows I am big on photos and would never hire the school photographer for such a big occasion. I think it’s safe to say my plan went as great as I ever could have hoped. Mission accomplished.

Image 3 of Rachel and Clinton

Our Video

Special Thanks

Amber Phinisee
 | Photographer
Tyler Malone
 | Videographer