Tara and Matt

Image 1 of Tara and Matt

How We Met

Matt and I met at the end of our sophomore year of high school, when we both got accepted into an ambassador program for the following year. At the time, we couldn’t have been more different, and he was definitely not on my radar as someone I thought I would ever date. Over the next couple of years, we became better friends through ambassadors. Matt was pretty shy and very straight-laced, so we always joked about what kind of girl he would like, and I even tried to set him up with a couple of girls at our school

It wasn’t until we both went to college at The University of Alabama that the plot began to thicken. We started hanging out a ton (like every day), and I noticed that he had started flirting with me, but I figured it was just a friendly thing.

Near the end of our freshman year, Matt (in a very calculated, logical manner that is exactly him) told me that he liked me. At the time, I was unsure about my feelings and really didn’t want to ruin our friendship, but nonetheless, I agreed to go on a date. The date turned out to be pretty awful. We went to dinner but Matt said maybe four words to me. The whole thing was really uncomfortable, which I thought was unusual considering we ate lunch and dinner together nearly every day and conversation was always easy for us. After such a disastrous date, neither of us addressed what happened and things went cold for awhile on the dating–and friendship–front. Eventually, things got back to normal, but we still never discussed our attempt at being more than friends.

Fast forward another 8 months or so (full of ups and downs as I continued to be confused about my feelings for Matt and he tried to get over me), and things finally fell into place. I was on a date with another of our friends who I really liked, when I realized that I would rather be hanging out with Matt. Now, it was my turn to tell him how I felt, so I told him we should play tennis together since I knew that would involve just the two of us. Even though I was pretty sure his response would be positive, I was still super nervous to tell him. But I did, and the feelings were mutual, so 4 years later, here we are. Since then, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to see as much of the world together as possible. We went to Europe in 2016, then Asia in 2017, and are heading to the Caribbean and back to Europe in 2018!

Image 3 of Tara and Matt

Image 4 of Tara and Matt

Image 5 of Tara and Matt

Image 6 of Tara and Matt

Image 7 of Tara and Matt

Image 8 of Tara and Matt

how they asked

This is a story about how I tried (a few times) to ruin Matt’s proposal.

About a year after we graduated from college, we had planned to take a big trip to Malaysia, where my mom’s side of the family lives. I wanted to introduce Matt to my grandmother and aunt, and we had talked about getting engaged before then so we could tell them during our visit. By the beginning of May, I started to get a little anxious (and maybe a little annoyed) that Matt hadn’t proposed yet. What I didn’t know is that he had bought the ring more than a month before and had been trying to propose ever since. He was planning for mid-April, but I informed him that I would be going to a frisbee tournament at the beach then, and he could come or not. So that was strike one.

Matt finally found a weekend when I was relatively free and told me to clear my calendar to go on a canoe trip on the Cahaba River. I was excited because my co-workers at Birmingham magazine had gone on the trip a few weeks ago for a story we did on the Cahaba Riverkeeper, but I didn’t suspect that Matt was going to propose…yet.

The next problem that came up wasn’t quite my fault. We were in the middle of a draught, so the water levels in the river were really low and the riverkeeper told Matt we might not be able to make the trip because the river would be too shallow. Eventually he agreed to let us do part of the trip–just far enough for Matt to propose amid the Cahaba Lilies that only bloom from mid-May to mid-June.

Image 9 of Tara and Matt

A couple days before the day of the proposal, I tried again to ruin Matt’s plan. The ultimate frisbee team I captain was scheduled to have tryouts during the afternoon on the same day as the proposal. The forecast was looking stormy, so we talked about moving the tryout to the morning since we would have girls coming from out of town. I ran the idea by Matt and he got really upset. Rather than try to convince me to keep the time, he called the other captains and our coach to tell them not to change the time so I would still go on the canoe trip. Strike two for me.

On the Friday before the proposal I was at work talking to my co-worker Kelsey, who also happens to be a photographer, when I noticed a zoom lens on her desk. I asked her what she had it for, and caught off guard she told me that she borrowed it to take pictures of a couple that weekend. Matt knew that I wanted pictures of the proposal so he had talked to Kelsey about helping. It wasn’t until later that night that I got to thinking that we might just be that couple. Of course, I pressed my mom for details, but she insisted that she didn’t know anything. Strike three.

Image 10 of Tara and Matt

The morning of the proposal, Matt came to pick me up and he was especially chatty. He said he planned for us to have a picnic “brunch” during the canoe trip, so he packed a backpack with PB&Js–a tradition we started on our first Valentine’s Day together when we decided to eat sandwiches instead of go to nice dinners on Valentine’s Day. The plan was for us to canoe up to the lily patch, where we would get out, eat our sandwiches, and then Matt would propose among the lilies. Kelsey was set up across the river, hiding in the woods to capture the moment.

Matt had been advised that the lily patch would be about a 20 minute ride from our starting point. After about 8 minutes on the river, we reached the lilies, but Matt figured there must be another patch further down the river that we were supposed to be at. Meanwhile, Kelsey watched us paddle away and started freaking out that she wasn’t going to get any pictures. Luckily, Matt realized his mistake and had us double back. Of course, I complained, since this meant we had to get out of the canoe and walk it back upstream, getting pretty wet in the process. Strike four, but this one was Matt’s fault.

Image 11 of Tara and Matt

Once we made it back to the lilies, Matt suggested that we sit down to eat. If you’ve ever seen a Cahaba Lily, you know that they don’t exactly grow on dry land, but rather muddy, swampy patches not exactly ideal for sitting. So rather than get muddy, I pointed out a rock across the river that would be a much better spot for a picnic. Matt tried to argue, but of course, I ended up winning out and we headed for the rock that was literally 5 feet in front of where Kelsey and her fiance Craig were hiding in the woods. Strike five for me. Miraculously, I didn’t see them.

So anyway, we sat down and ate our sandwiches while Kelsey tried not to breathe. After, Matt started rifling through his backpack saying something about how we would have a new tradition with PB&Js, and then he pulled out the ring and proposed. Even though I kind of new it was coming, I was still somewhat surprised when it did. Not going to lie, it was pretty exciting.

Image 2 of Tara and Matt

After, we met a bunch of our friends and family at a local brewery–Cahaba Brewery nonetheless, and we ate hot chicken because all good celebrations should end that way. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day, and I’m happy to say that all my (unknowing) attempts to ruin the plan were unsuccessful.

Image 12 of Tara and Matt

Special Thanks

Kelsey Justice
 | Photographer