Stephanie and Hayden

How We Met

I’m a firm believer in “God’s perfect timing,” and this is why.

Hayden and I met in Europe the summer of 2014 during a choir reunion trip for our beloved choir director (Bruce Koliha) who was retiring. Bruce invited current and alumni students to sing for two weeks in London, Paris, and Rome. I almost didn’t go because I only knew two people who were going to be on the trip, but decided to go anyway since it would be a trip of a lifetime.

Everyone on the trip was assigned buses, and I was placed on the “overflow bus” as we called it, and when I hopped on in London, I walked to the back and saw a very familiar face- Spencer Padgett! Next to Spencer was an incredibly handsome man, turns out, it was his brother, Hayden.

For two weeks I spent all my time with Hayden, Spencer, my mom, and his parents. At the time, I was “dating” someone else, so I didn’t pursue Hayden. I also didn’t think someone as accomplished and as handsome as Hayden would be into someone like me.

During that entire summer, I was broken. After the Europe trip, I had just left a terribly traumatic and abusive relationship with someone who treated me like an easily disposable object. I felt empty, worthless, and didn’t leave my apartment room for almost an entire month. I lost 10 lbs, had hair falling out, and lost my spark. My parents were worried about me (rightfully so) and asked me to travel home for a fun weekend. I was hesitant but knew I needed to recover, so I reluctantly went home for a few days.

Little did I know that those few days at home would bring me, my future husband.

Both sets of parents wanted Hayden and I to date, so they planned a Napa Valley trip for both families during my trip home. The morning of, I remember crying my makeup off about three times because I was still in agonizing pain from the previous relationship. I felt closed off, pessimistic, and doubtful of relationships.

On October 4th, God proved me wrong.

During our bus ride to Napa, Hayden and I sat together and talked about everything under the sun. We visited various wineries and always sat together, and at the end of the Napa trip, we were getting off the bus in front of his house and as I stepped off, he turned around and asked me for my number. I had never felt such a genuine or pure connection to someone before, and I knew that Hayden was different from anyone else I had ever met, and something in my heart pulled me towards him like a magnet.

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How They Asked

Fast forward four years later, Hayden and both of our families were planning an engagement surprise of a lifetime at the same winery that we went to on our first date back in October 2014. (Cue tears).

On the morning of December 22nd, I was getting ready for another Napa trip with his family to “celebrate his brother Spencer and Noa’s one year anniversary” (that was the cover story!). It was one of those mornings where your makeup doesn’t look good, your hair is flat, and you can’t decide what to wear. I texted Hayden around 6:30 in the morning and told him my hair was flat and I was going to wear a hat.

I walked downstairs and my dad looks at my hat and goes, “Wow, a hat? Bold choice.” I was upset as to why everyone was making such a big deal out of my hat! Little did I know that it was because I was getting proposed to hahahaha.

After lunch at a beautiful spot in Downtown Napa, we made our way over to Rombauer Winery (which is where we went on our first date!), and Hayden suggested that we go down to the bottom of the hill for a better look.

We passed by this man with a HUGE camera who was taking pictures of dead flowers, which I thought was odd, but just shrugged it off (turns out, it was our photographer!).

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Down at the bottom of the hill, Hayden pulled me closer to him and starts talking about the last four years together and how much he loves me. It all hit me in slow motion when he turned me towards him and said, “I want to make us partners for life,” before pulling out a ring box and getting down on one knee.

This is where I blacked out and didn’t even say yes because I was too busy sobbing!

The surprise didn’t end there, Hayden turned my shaking self around and pointed towards the balcony where BOTH of our families stood cheering and crying!

Once I stopped hyperventilating and sobbing long enough to look at my ring, Hayden told me that he went with my dad to Padis Jewelers to pick it out together, and took the screenshot of a ring I sent him four years ago with him.

Stephanie's Proposal in Napa Valley, CA

It was the sweetest, most wonderful, most thoughtful day of my life and he truly couldn’t have done a better job.

God truly outdid Himself when he gave me Hayden as my husband-to-be. I will never have to wake up wondering if I am worthy or if I am loved- Hayden, you are a dream come true.

Special Thanks

TJ Salsman
 | Photographer