Taylor and Lauren

Image 1 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

How We Met

It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving of my freshman year of college. I was sitting at a small table inside our university Starbucks, trying to finish everything I had to do before break. Most people had gone home early for the holiday, so Starbucks was unusually quiet and empty. As I was studying, I glanced up and realized someone was standing in front of me. As he started to speak, I was trying to figure out if I knew him, but was pretty sure I didn’t. He said “Hey…you were looking pretty cool over here…..so I brought you something hot to drink” and proceeded to hold out a coffee cup to me that said “the beautiful girl at the table” where they usually write your name.

Image 2 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

I couldn’t believe he had just said that to me. Seriously, a pick up line? He had to be kidding. But it did make me smile, and I did want that coffee. So I took the coffee and said thanks, looking back down at my notes. He asked if he could sit down and I thought to myself “It was a trap. Why did I take that coffee?” Now I couldn’t possibly say no without seeming like the biggest jerk. So he sat and asked me my name and after that, we never stopped talking. Conversation came easily with him, and we discovered we had so much in common. After Starbucks kicked us out at closing, we grabbed dinner at Cane’s, a short walk away, and then he escorted me to my dorm where he asked for my phone number. We texted throughout the break and I invited him to go to a date party with me when we got back to campus.

Image 3 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

It was Tacky Christmas themed, and I dressed as a reindeer, him as an elf. That night ended up being the most perfect night of my life. We rode his bike across campus, with me on the handlebars and then sat in a hammock overlooking the river talking and listening to music. At the date party, he danced with me like I was a princess, while everyone around us was grinding. I hadn’t been interested in a boyfriend, I was trying to focus on myself and my relationship with the Lord, but everything in me was drawn to this man.

Image 4 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

Halfway through the party, I looked across the room to my friend and told her “I’m a goner”. At the end of the night, he walked me to my door, thanked me for the invitation, and kissed me good night on the forehead. It took him 21 days to tell his mom he was in love with me. 3 weeks was all he needed to know I was the one. When you have a love story that God is writing, a love that was divinely created, it’s so perfect it seems unreal. I cannot explain the way I feel, words cannot express our love. It is magical, caring, honest, genuine, and life-giving. I have never met anyone who makes my soul feel so complete, who fills me up everyday, who makes me want to be better, to pursue my dreams, and to follow Christ, more than Ray. I can honestly say I started to fall in love with him that very first night. Two and a half years later, here we are, beginning to plan a wedding, and I’m still falling.

Image 5 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

how they asked

We’re both mountain people. If we had the choice, we’d spend all our time in the mountains. We’d choose them over the beach any day…there is just something that we both love about them, and we’ve spent considerable time in them together. We are outdoor people, rock climbers, hikers, adventurers. We had made plans to stop at Mt. Cheaha State Park our way home from spring break, which we spent in Charleston and Savannah. This is the closest you can get to the mountains in our state. We got there and hiked around, looking at waterfalls, taking pictures, and just enjoying the view. Little did I know, Ray was trying to stall so our friends could finish setting up. Eventually, we drove up to the biggest overlook and the highest point in Alabama.

We started walking down the boardwalk, and he started acting even weirder than he had been. I was trying to make awkward conversation, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on and I was getting suspicious. We were halfway down the boardwalk when I saw them: pictures of us, lining the posts and walkway. There were some from recent trips and some from when we first began dating. There were handwritten letters we had given each other, held down by little lanterns.

Image 6 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

Image 7 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

I started to cry immediately, as I realized he was about to propose. With tears streaming down my face, he began telling me how much he loved me. I distinctly remember him saying, “The days when you’re gone are the worst, and I never want to go another day without you, so I’m making sure I get you every day, forever.” After that, it’s all a blur. I just blacked out and I have no memory of what he said. I even had to ask later if I actually said yes or not. We got to the end of the boardwalk, descended the steps, and turned the corner to the most beautiful view. One of our friends, Emily, was there, with her camera, doing what she does best. Out on the ledge, a blanket was waiting for us, with lanterns along the edges.

Image 8 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

Ray said some other things (again, I really have no idea what he said) and then he got down one knee.

Image 9 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

Image 10 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

I was panicking at this point, my brain was whirring a million miles an hour, and all I could coherently think was, “I love this man.” I was looking at the most genuine, humble, handsome, caring man I knew. There was no doubt what I would say in response to that one big question. Trying not to break down in sobs, I nodded yes after he asked, realizing I would get to spend the rest of my life with him. I jumped up and gave him a huge hug, a considerably dangerous move since we were standing on the edge of a cliff.

Image 11 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

He slipped the most beautiful, perfect ring onto my finger and nothing had ever felt as right as that moment. It was probably the happiest moment of my life. Even now, it feels unreal. I wake up every day and have to see the ring to realize it wasn’t a dream.

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Ray did an amazing job planning the perfect proposal for me, for us. It definitely wasn’t a spur of the moment decision; he saved for over a year to buy me my lovely ring.

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He bought the ring in December, asked my father for his permission and my sister, mother, and pastor for their blessing in January, and has been waiting for the perfect moment since then.

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I cannot thank my friends and family enough for all their help in this, especially: Emily, for the wonderful photos, something I will cherish forever; Zach and Laura, for helping to plan and set up the proposal, down to the finest details; and Haley and AC, for planning a beautiful surprise engagement party. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I feel so blessed and I cannot wait to marry the man of my dreams!

Image 15 of Taylor Ray and Lauren

Special Thanks

Emily Bertolino
 | Photographer
Laura Jamison
 | Planning
Haley Moog
 | Planning