Samantha and Michael

Image 1 of Samantha and Michael

How We Met

Embarrassingly enough, Mike and I have been trying to pinpoint an exact moment to adequately answer this question, but the best response we’ve been able to come up with is “at James W. Lilley Elementary School—probably at some point during the 5th Grade.” At any rate, the two of us have known one another since we were just kids. We started dating when we were sixteen. Mike sat behind me in Mr. Einstein’s history class, where we would pass each other notes and try to pretend like we were paying attention to what was going on at the front of the classroom. Our high school relationship was often dramatic—breakups and reunion became the norm—but even when we were young, we knew that we had something extremely special.

Image 2 of Samantha and Michael

Image 3 of Samantha and Michael

Image 4 of Samantha and Michael

We spent our college years apart, assuming that life had sent us in separate directions for good. Luckily, we were both wrong. Years later, we reconnected. Mike had just begun naval flight training in Pensacola, Florida and I was working in New Jersey. When we finally saw each other in person after so many years – we both knew how special our connection was. Through long-distance, moving, graduate school, new jobs, and navy life – we built a relationship on enduring love and adventure. And like they say, the rest is history!

Image 5 of Samantha and Michael

Image 6 of Samantha and Michael

Image 7 of Samantha and Michael

how they asked

For the entirety of our relationship, we’ve written letters to one another. We’ve always loved this method of communication—there’s something beautiful about being able to put words on paper and physically give them to someone you love. When Mike left on his first deployment to Naples, Italy, he gave me a box that contained six letters: one for every month that he’d be gone. The first of every month became a day that we’d both look forward to because that’s when I’d read my letter. Being apart was obviously difficult, but the letters made the distance just a little bit easier.

Image 10 of Samantha and Michael

Image 11 of Samantha and Michael

Image 12 of Samantha and Michael

Image 13 of Samantha and Michael

What also made the deployment easier for me was the extremely rare opportunity that I got to actually visit him! Not many people get to visit their deployed loved ones, so I consider myself extremely lucky. My trip to Italy was scheduled for the end of December. As the end of November neared, I was beginning to look forward to reading another one of Mike’s letters. On the first of the month, however, Mike asked me if I would bring the December letter with me to Naples so he could watch me read it in person. That meant I would have to wait three more weeks until I could open it!

Image 14 of Samantha and Michael

Image 15 of Samantha and Michael

Image 16 of Samantha and Michael

Image 17 of Samantha and Michael

I endured the wait and soon was on my way to see him. On my second night in Naples, Mike took me down to the waterfront to take a walk prior to dinner. The sun had just set over the Gulf of Naples, and while the scenery around me was indeed breathtaking, it was also freezing cold outside in late December. As we walked along the edge of the water, Mike seemed abnormally quiet. Trying to start some conversation, I asked him what kind of wine he wanted to order with dinner.

Image 18 of Samantha and Michael

Image 19 of Samantha and Michael

“I don’t know,” he answered. Good talk.

The pathway along which we’d been walking suddenly veered off to the right and turned into a stone bridge that led up to the Castel dell’Ovo.

“Let’s go this way,” Mike said, as he led me onto the bridge. “Oh, and I think this is yours.”

I looked over at him and he was holding an envelope that said the word “December” on the front. He’d taken it from my bag without me noticing.

Image 8 of Samantha and Michael

Tears had already begun forming in my eyes as I opened the letter. Mike laughed. When I finished reading, Mike was down on one knee, and that’s when he asked me to marry him.

Just seconds after Mike slipped the ring onto my finger, a horde of neon-clad Italian runners (at least fifty of them) sprinted by us. One member of the group stopped and asked Mike to take their photo in front of the Castle. Once Mike was finished, he asked the runners to take our photo, and told them that we’d just become engaged. The gigantic crowd of Italian men and women showered us with congratulations and surrounded us in what’s become one of our favorite photos.

Image 9 of Samantha and Michael

Special Thanks

Sarah Canning
 | Photographer
James Allen
 | Ring