Stephanie and Joe

Image 1 of Stephanie and Joe

How We Met

I have always been close to my cousin, Greg. We were raised more like brother and sister rather then cousins, and he treated me as such. He always asked me to let him be the one to set me up with my next boyfriend, but I thought I knew myself better than anyone else, and I always denied his request. Plus, I knew a good amount of his friends, and at the time, I had already built my own friendships with them. In November 2012, I had gone out for one of my friend’s birthday at a local bar. Greg had also been invited to this particular birthday celebration and had brought along a few of his friends, all of who I knew, except for one. After pushing my way through the crowd to meet up with my cousin and his friends, I said “hello” to all of the familiar faces I knew and introduced myself to the one I didn’t. His name was Joe and I was surprised that I had never heard of him or met him before that moment.

I shot Greg a look confused about the mystery friend, and he returned one that indicated that it didn’t really matter, smirking as if he knew exactly what he had done in that moment. I did not push it any further and I did not talk much to Joe that night for two main reasons: 1. he seemed shy and not as comfortable as the rest of the group he had arrived with and 2. I was in a new relationship and had no interest in jeopardizing what I already had. I later found out that Joe had also asked about me that night, the “girl in the blue crop top,” and that Greg had told him he was a little too late to the game. However, this would not be the last time I was in Joe’s company.

As Greg’s friendship with Joe grew, so did mine, naturally. That one night at the bar turned into a few group hang outs, meeting Greg’s new girlfriend (now wife) together for the first time, and more and more time in each other’s presence. Two years after my initial meeting with Joe, I invited Joe, Greg and a few of their other friends to my birthday celebration. It was at that point that I had turned to my best friend and asked her whether or not it was “normal” to have a crush on someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. She laughed at me and told me that I had a lot to think about. Never experincing something like that before, I immediately pushed the feeling away, feeling embarrassed and confused, and went on with business as usual.

A few months later, the relationship I had been in from the day I met Joe ended. Some might say from that point on, things between Joe and I moved rather quickly given the circumstances, but when the right time finally came for our relationship to become something more than a friendship, neither one of us had a doubt in our mind that we ended up exactly where we were supposed to be.

Image 2 of Stephanie and Joe

(Joe, Greg, Stephanie – on the night we met)

how they asked

Joe and I celebrated our two year anniversary on May 10, 2016, and although we had agreed not to exchange gifts, Joe told me that he had put together a day of activities for us to celebrate. On Sunday, May 15, 2016, he picked me up early to start that itinerary of activities and told me that he was taking me on a road trip to all of the places that meant something to us and our relationship. A trip down memory lane, which is a typical “Joe thing” to do. Our first stop was to The Bluffs in Kings Park, which has always been one of my favorite places to go. This was the spot where Joe and I first spent time together, just me and him. While we were there, Joe handed me a letter he had written me; it would be the first of five that I received that day. The letter explained how he felt the day that he met me there that first time and why he believed it set the tone for the relationship that neither of us knew was coming.

The following destinations along our memory lane roadmap included breakfast at Toast in Patchogue (where we had spent time celebrating with friends the night he asked me to be his girlfriend, which was encouraged by Greg.. talk about a full circle moment), Port Jefferson by the water (the place we had a series of serious conversations about what we wanted out of our lives both individually and as a couple; essentially the place we fell in love), and Avalon Park in Stony Brook (the place that became “ours” when we needed a break, or a breath of fresh air, or to reconnect with each other). Each destination came with a new letter expressing Joe’s personal memory of that place and how it has been significant in our relationship.

As we were leaving Avalon Park and on our way to the fifth and final destination, Joe explained to me that the last spot was a place neither one of us have been. As we pulled up to the Old Field Lighthouse, I was slightly confused with how this place would become part of our story, but Joe’s father had talked about this Lighthouse multiple times and always expressed the beauty he saw in it. Joe walked me in front of the Lighthouse and handed me another letter. It read:

“So now that we’ve reached the end of our stroll down memory lane and have put the cap on two incredible years together, I wanted to kick off our third year with something new, somewhere we’ve never gone with one another before.

This is the Old Field Lighthouse. It doesn’t get nearly the acclaim of the Montauk Lighthouse but it too is a Long Island landmark, and it’s actually got just as rich of a history. It was built all the way back in 1823. It belonged to the village until the early 1930’s when the U.S. government seized control of it so the Coast Guard could use it during World War II. In 1935 the government signed it back over to the village, on one condition, that they’d have the right to take it back in the case of another war.

We’ve talked about our future together before and I’ve given you some details on the plans for this year. Our third year together is going to be a big one. It’s going to be the start of so much amazing stuff. But before we head toward all that I wanted to bring you here today because, sure it’s beautiful, but it also symbolizes something to me. Lighthouses are literal beacons of light, they’re meant to warn ships of the rough waters ahead and then guide them through when they get there. This one has literally stood through wars, rains and hurricanes, but it’s also bathed in thousands of days of sunshine. It guides, it survives, and it thrives.

It’s exactly what I want for our relationship as we look towards our next steps. Perfection doesn’t exist in our world, but true, amazing love does and we have it. With it, my hope is that we will guide each other through every storm, stand tall and united through any battle we might face, be beacons of light to each other and those around us, and enjoy a hell of a lot of days just bathing in the sunshine.

I love you Stephanie. To the moon and back. Forever and always. Happy Anniversary.”

As I finished the letter, Joe handed me a present, and my first response to him was, “I thought we said no gifts,” in which he responded, “well I thought you might need this.” I unwrapped the present and revealed a wedding planning book. As I looked back to Joe, he dropped down to one knee and asked me to marry him. In shock and immediately shaking, I said yes and fell into his arms. It was only when he laughed and asked me if I wanted to see the ring that I actually realized what had just happened. As my best friend and his best friend jumped out from where they were hiding to celebrate our engagement, I realized how lucky I was to be with someone who made it possible to fall in love with him a little more every day.

Image 3 of Stephanie and Joe