Russell and Caroline

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how we met

It was my best friend’s cousin’s 21st birthday party in August of 2010. I wasn’t planning on going because I had just got back from a road trip, but it was summer break from college so I certainly didn’t want to sit around in my home town, so I decided to go. She wasn’t planning on going either, but her friends were able to convince her because my best friend was able to convince her friends to go.

The boys got to the party early and were waiting for the girls to show up.. When they first showed up to the party, I was instantly drawn to Caroline, she was just my type. She had a beautiful smile and beautiful eyes, she was short, sporty, and looked happy. Once we met them, I quickly “called dibs.” With the help of her match-maker friend, she was able to get some alone time for Caroline and I to talk outside on that beautiful summer night and form a connection. Summer was almost over, but we still managed to hang out a couple more times before I headed back to Chico from our neighboring hometowns, and we said “goodbye.” “Goodbye” is something that we ended up saying multiple times, but it was never as accurate as we thought. While in chico, about a week before school was set to start back up, Caroline made the effort to come up with her friend to visit me (she may have claimed she was visiting her friend or grandma, but we know the truth).

It was amazing to have her there, and that is when I realized that maybe this was more than a 2 week summer fling. However, we still were not certain if this would become anything, because I was starting my junior year of college in California, and she was starting her sophomore year in Colorado. I had promised myself that I was never going to do long distance again. We stayed in touch off and on over that semester; as the winter break approached, the contact increased. We decided that I would pick her up from the airport when she arrived at Sacramento for winter break. I’m not sure if she knows this, but I was extremely nervous; I felt nauseous every time I picked her up from the airport in the following years. Yes, we decided to make it official on New Year’s Day 2011. I broke my rule of not dating long distance because one of my best friends said “just give it a try, what’s the worst that can happen”… That turned out to be the best advice of my life. We took turns flying between California and colorado every month for the next 2 years, until I graduated and decided to move to colorado so we could truly be together. We lived there for a year, before returning to California for 2 years, and then to our current home in Jacksonville FL about 9 months ago.

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how they asked

Some may say that I dragged my feet (and I wouldn’t blame them, we dated for about 5 and a half years). Everything fell into place perfectly. Well, somewhat. Over the recent months I have jokingly told Caroline that we are not ready yet to be engaged, maybe in a few years. Maybe in 20, 25, 30 years (obviously that wasn’t going to be the case). When I made the decision that I was finally ready to buy the ring and propose, I was starting a new job and completing training where id be gone every fay other than 2 weekends over the next 2 months. Ring hunting was not easy, but it was extremely fun. No store carried what I was looking for, so there was a lot of phone calls and store visits and rush orders to get the ring in by the exact weekend that I needed to propose before I would be in DC for a month. I got the ring on Friday. That night, we walked on the beach, and I emphasized that we are not ready quite yet, but maybe in 40 years or so. The next day, we went to the beautiful Arboretum which features flowers, a pond, and magnificent oak trees. Needless to say, I was nervous once again. I hopped out of the truck (before turning off the truck) which Caroline pointed out, popped the big ring box in my pocket that I grabbed from the inside of the driver door (forgot to lock my truck) which Caroline pointed out. Then as I was walking sideways passed the front of the truck, trying not to allow Caroline to see the box bulging in my pocket, the hard-shelled box clipped the front bumper making a loud “ding” noise (somehow she didn’t hear that, not sure what excuse I would have made up).

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Finally, we were on the move to the spot under the oak tree that I planned the day before. This was planned with my photographer friend Courtney, whom I contacted for the first time In over 5 years and happened to work with me for our first jobs at the movie theaters in California. Anyways, Courtney and her husband, Zach, were sitting on a park bench near by, waiting for us to pass them so that she could get in position to take photos. Caroline had never met them, and luckily she didn’t see me wink at Zach as we walked by, only a few steps from the proposal location. We stopped in position, looking at the beautiful oak tree, when I said “In 51 years” (Caroline giggled and gave me a little shove because she figured I was just continuing my game of a distant proposal date, but that was not the case) “in 51 years, I want to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary under a tree just like this.”

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I got down on one knee, pulled the ring box from my pocket, opened the box (after a first failed attempt because the box was facing the wrong way), and put the ring on her finger. She may tell you that she saw the signs that it was coming, but I’m not buying that…

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She was completely shocked for the first couple seconds, and minutes, before she cried with happiness for the following 20 minutes… It was the happiest moment of my life; I will never forget her perfect reaction.

Russell and Caroline_8

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Special Thanks

Fonda Foto + Film
photographer videographer