Sara and Aaron | Frederik Meijer Gardens

How We Met (Her Side):

When I was younger, I always wondered how you would know that you found the person you were meant to marry.  Aaron and I met at Ferris State University the first day of my sophomore year of college.  We were both in the peer mentor program for the honors college and were going to a ropes course for team building.  Aaron was not thrilled when our mutual friend told him she volunteered him to drive, but he says he didn’t mind at all after seeing me (even though we got mud in his brand new G6.)  At the ropes course, there was an ice breaker where we had to use the name of an animal that started with the same letter as our name.  I’m not sure how it got started anymore, but Aaron went around the circle acting out each animal.  Aaron made me laugh (I’ve never seen a better impression of a fish) and I knew right away that I wanted to be his friend.  I wanted to choose something that would catch him off guard, so I said, “Sara the sloth.” I’m not sure what he was thinking in his head, but I remember he looked at me like, “What kind of person chooses a sloth?”  It turned out Aaron lived across the hall in the Helen Ferris dorms from one of my best friends so we crossed paths almost on a daily basis.  He was a first year pharmacy student and I was in my second year of pre-pharmacy.

On Halloween in 2006, my roommate told me she had a “really good secret” and proceeded to tell me that she found out that Aaron had a crush on me.  I said, “That is a good secret!”  I was flattered that this cute, funny upperclassman had even noticed me and shocked that he had a crush on me.  Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t right because I was still in a long-term relationship.  However, I frequently found myself thinking, “If I’m ever single again, I would definitely date Aaron.”  There was friendly teasing and flirting back and forth (pushes into the snow on the way to class, Aaron pretending to faint when I left the room, and hiding anything he left in the hall), but overall Aaron was very respectful that I was in a relationship.

I started praying each night that God would help me find the person I was going to marry, and the strength to handle it if it wasn’t who I was with at that time.  On St. Patrick’s Day in 2007, I was newly single and brokenhearted.  Fortunately, Aaron had not given up on me.  Considering he lived across the hall from one of my best friends, he was well aware that I was now single.  That night, I got a text message from him that said one word, “Smile.”  A cascade of text messages, AIM conversations, phone calls, and dates followed very soon after and it didn’t take me long to know that he was the one I was going to marry. Turns out, you just know.

How HeAsked (His Side):

Sara and I had been dating for close to five years when it came time that I finally made up my mind to propose.  I knew for a long time that Sara was the girl I wanted to marry, but I for whatever reason took my time when it came to proposing. Leading up to the months before I proposed I started to be mindful of my habits so nothing would give my intentions away. I wanted it to be a true surprise not something she saw coming. I thought I was being clever by throwing her off and keeping her guessing, Sara did not. As Sara put it more recently with friends, who had been dating a long time as well, she told the girl, “When he starts acting like an ASS, it means he’s going to propose.” I laughed loudly, but she was right! She would drop sheepish hints like, “Hey when you get your bonus, you could get me something nice, like a diamond ring?” and I would respond, “Yea, or a jet ski for me! You know how long I’ve wanted a jet ski!” She would be in Chicago with friends and text me a picture of Tiffany’s I would respond with a text asking her to pick out a nice lamp. It was a ridiculous back and forth, but I was determined to keep it a surprise.

Choosing the ring decided to be the easiest step, buying the ring however proved to be more difficult.  I found the setting almost instantly, I picked out the diamond fairly quickly as well, and then they asked “And what ring size is she?” FRICK, I had no idea! Now the secret would have to be let out as in a flurry I texted her Mom , and a couple of her friends , anybody who might know her ring size, but no help came. I took a good guess and ended up being too large by a half size, not bad. When I went to pay for the ring they said, if I paid in cash, check or debit, I would save the 6% sales tax. PERFECT, I thought as I handed over my debit card. My credit union, serving me well since my dad opened an account for me at the age of 10, would not allow that large of purchase going through.  Even after calling the guest service line and explaining to the nice representative that I was purchasing an engagement ring, he asked how much was I trying to put through as a debit, then laughed when I gave him the answer and responded, “I am sorry sir, I realize your money is there, but you would have to withdraw that in person.” FRICK, it’s 5:45, the bank will be closed by the time I get there, my check book is back at home, the ring would have to wait a couple days until I could come back with my checkbook.

As I drove back from the jeweler, I started planning the proposal. I knew I wanted to do it at Frederik Meijer Gardens, and then it hit me, I have friends who are wedding photographers! I quickly called them and asked to see if they wouldn’t mind if I enlisted their services to photograph the event so that I could share it with everybody! They happily agreed and were just as excited as I was as we thought up how to casually get together at the Gardens without raising suspicion. We decided that they would invite us to go with their little son Asher to go see the butterfly hatchings. This way there would be a completely reasonable excuse for the giant camera lens because they would just be taking casual photos of our trip! Once I finally picked up the ring, I headed over to my friends to give them the ring so they could bring it to the Gardens. My brother-in-law gave me the advice of don’t blow your cover of wearing cargo shorts, like he did. If you have never worn them in your life, your girlfriend will get suspicious. So the ring was stowed away in their diaper bag and I made sure to put on some tighter jeans as to not give away my intentions.

I waited till we made it back to the Koi Pond and that’s where the blog picks up as I ran to get the ring out of the diaper bag and walk back to Sara with the ring box in hand. I told her, “You might want to stand up for this part.”

Photography by K. Holly Photography based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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