Shelby and Josh

Image 1 of Shelby and Josh

How We Met

Josh and I first met my junior year of college, although he swears we met a few years earlier (I have no recollection of that though). Josh’s twin brother was the president of Sigma Nu at the time, and although Josh wasn’t a member of the fraternity, he was always around. I had several friends in the fraternity as well, and spent much of my time in college up at the house. The night we met was pretty ordinary, if you consider getting lost in conversation on the back of a tailgate ordinary. Our connection was immediate, but it would take some time for us to figure that out for ourselves. Our friends could see what we couldn’t, and insisted we’d eventually end up together. Over the next couple of years, we attended concerts, date nights, and formal events together. We continued to deny our true feelings for each other until Josh decided to move home to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a United States Marine.

For whatever reason, we’ll leave it up to fate and maybe a little help from God, Josh decided to take me on our first date in October of 2012, six months before he left for boot camp. We maintained our title of friends because of the uncertainty of the future, but everyone around us could see what was happening. We spent three months away from each other with no communication except through letters. Because of that, letters became an essential part of our relationship. In June of 2013, Josh graduated from boot camp, and it was in that moment as he walked towards me in his uniform that I knew I had found the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. As the realization hit me, I pushed the thoughts out of my mind. I thought I was crazy.

I think everyone around us thought we were crazy too. Over the following three years, we lived 2,139 miles apart. Josh is stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California and I live at home in Atlanta, Georgia. He went on his first six month deployment a year in, which was harder than either one of us could have ever imagined. Letters, poems, and a whole lot of Skype dates helped get us through. By his second deployment, we were prose and before we knew it, he was on his way back to California for good.

how they asked

In mid May Josh returned home from his second deployment overseas. He had two weeks of post deployment leave. The first would be spent at home with his family and friends. The second would be spent with me in Santa Barbara, California. It gave us the alone time we needed after spending nearly seven months apart.

A year earlier, I had seen a picture of an old mansion nestled up in the mountains of Santa Barbara. Years before, it had burned down, and the city eventually opened up the area to the public because of its beautiful views and rustic scenery. I mentioned to Josh that I wanted to go there before he left California, so he planned to take me up there for a sunset picnic. I was beyond excited to spend a relaxing night in such a gorgeous area, especially with Josh by my side. We planned on going to a fancy dinner afterwards so I slipped on a dress while he packed up his backpack with a blanket and our favorite bottle of wine, a wine we had shared on our first unofficial date a year or two before we started dating.

Image 2 of Shelby and Josh

Josh grabbed my hand as we got in the car, and after a few miles of silence, told me how happy he was that I was there with him, and how happy he was that we had made it there together. Josh is a romantic, and tends to say those things to me on a regular basis. I thought nothing of it, and took it in stride. I turned on my favorite playlist full of songs by Ed Sheeran, Ben Rector, and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, and we headed up the windy road to Knapp’s Castle. We had driven up earlier in the day to see where it was located, and it was hard to miss with all the cars parked outside the entrance.

As we pulled up the second time around, there was just one car parked outside, apparently something unusual and rare, especially for that time of the day. We got out of the car, and walked down the gravel trail up to ruins where the view swallowed me up whole, and my breath was taken away immediately at the immensity of it all. There were just two other people around, a photographer and model who were snapping some pictures. I wandered down in front of the arch and took in all of my surroundings. A few seconds later, Josh called me over and told me he had a surprise for me. He pulled out a poem he had written for me on his first deployment overseas. He told me to read it, because it would explain to me why Knapp’s Castle was now my castle. As I reached the last page, my eyes immediately shot to the last line that read “Will you marry me?” and I broke down, crying the happiest of tears as Josh got down on one knee and pulled out my grandmother’s ring he had fixed for me.

Image 3 of Shelby and Josh

It was the symbol of the kind of love I had always wanted to find, the love I now had with the most amazing man I have ever met. I somehow managed to mutter the words yes, as he got up and hugged me with the biggest smile on his face that I had ever seen.

Image 4 of Shelby and Josh

Image 5 of Shelby and Josh

Image 6 of Shelby and Josh

After a few minutes had pasted, the photographers came and introduced themselves to me. Josh had hired them to not only shoot the proposal, but to do an engagement session too. We spent the next hour walking around the grounds taking photographs, smiling, and crying a few more sentimental tears along the way. Once things settled down, Josh and I opened our bottle of Horsecreek Wine, sat on the stone wall, and read letters from our parents who he had write letters for me in the weeks prior to our engagement. We took in the stunning mountain views, and held each other, celebrating the moment we had been waiting for, for so long.

No one will ever quite understand all we endured to make it to this point. We spent close to four years apart, fighting constantly for each other and for our relationship. This ring, and this day not only symbolize our love and future together, it means that we finally get to share our lives with each other. We finally get to be together. And neither one of us could be any happier.

Image 7 of Shelby and Josh

Image 8 of Shelby and Josh

Special Thanks

Ce Jae Photography
 | Photographer