When Cody e-mailed me asking to take photos for his proposal to Kristina I instantly knew I had to do it. This sweet couple has been together for SIX years now! They started dating in High School and as Cody told me, they were both so shy that they started by writing letters to one another. Seriously, how cute is that?!
Kristina and I started dating in 2010. I was beginning my junior year in high school; she was beginning her sophomore year. In so many ways, we were just kids. She was my first girlfriend, and I was her first serious boyfriend. What started off as admittedly awkward, nervous interactions between two shy, quiet teenagers quickly turned into a very meaningful friendship and admiration for each other. I remember one of the first things I noticed about Kristina was her compassion for other people and her humility. The more time we spent talking, the more I realized how truly special she was: graceful, talented, and smart, with eyes that glinted with authenticity when she smiled, and so beautiful—how could I not fall in love with her? Friends warned me that eventually the smitten feeling that made everything rosy would wear off and things would become normal. (It never did.)
I graduated high school and moved three and a half hours away to Wilmington for college. She had stay in our hometown—the small Piedmont city of Thomasville—to finish up her senior year. After a year of long distance and traveling home far too many times, she graduated and joined me at UNCW. While our time in Wilmington together was no cakewalk, between classes, the Honors college, jobs, clubs, and adjusting to college life, having her with me made me more dedicated, more determined, healthier, and happier. We had plenty of frustrations, mainly from not being able to see each other much due to conflicting schedules, but our communication and the little moments we shared made our relationship grow stronger, grow deeper, and grow more meaningful.
After six years of dating, through high school and college, laughter and tears, frustrations and victories, the time finally came to ask if I could spend the rest of my life trying to make her as truly happy as she makes me. After spending over a quarter of my life with her, she had become a vital part of my life, of who I was; she had become more than my girlfriend, but a deep and abiding companion, supporter, spiritual partner, guardian, and encourager. I wanted to make the day as special as I possibly could for her.
I decided to propose at Mason’s inlet on Wrightsville Beach. Easily one of the most beautiful locations I know, the inlet was also a meaningful and special place for both of us. In addition to the famous mailbox, which we both love to visit, we had many memories of days spent at the inlet taking photos and walking the beach, as well as anniversary trips to watch the sunset over the waterway. I picked out the ring most suited to her taste and her personality (actually, this was the second engagement ring I bought for her—there are enough stories about my ring adventures to fill another blog), as well as ordering a handmade custom ring box (Kristina loves handmade things as well as little boxes). Aside from having the special ring in a special box and proposing during an inlet sunset, there was one other thing I considered essential for the proposal: a professional photographer. Kristina and I love photography and have always enjoyed being able to reflect on memories together through photos of events and places we’ve been. Especially too, since this was to be a very private and personal proposal, I wanted to have high-quality snapshots to share with our parents and friends afterward. I told Kristina that we should go to the beach to take some photos before our nice dinner we had planned (which was not untrue), and she agreed. I had the date, the time, the location, and the ruse. The only thing left was the proposal itself.
The day of did not quite go as planned. In double checking the location, I noticed that the mailbox had been moved to a different location on the beach. This didn’t affect much, as I had already decided to speak from the heart in the moment versus reading from a leather journal, as I had originally planned (for logistics reasons). Then, we almost didn’t make it to the beach in time. Kristina’s car needed to be picked up from the shop, which of course took much longer than we anticipated (doesn’t it always?). By the time we got the keys, we were already over twenty minutes behind schedule. This wouldn’t have mattered much, except that the sun was beginning to set and I was worried about making it to the inlet before darkness robbed us of the proposal I had envisioned. I convinced her that we should take both cars to the beach rather than braving the Wilmington evening traffic to double back, thus surely missing our opportunity to take photos before dinner. When we finally arrived at the public access closest to the inlet, there was no parking available. I doubled back to the previous access to park; Kristina grabbed a spot that opened up while I was leaving. I tucked the ring into my jacket pocket, tucked my jacket over my arm, and hurried down the beach. Kristina agreed to meet me halfway, and when she did, we had a good ways to go to get to the inlet. The sun was beginning its descent and the soft light transformed the sky and ocean into a breathtaking scene. Kristina wanted to pause and take a photo or two of the scene, which I reluctantly submitted to, all the while hinting that we should probably hurry so as to not miss the good light in the spot where we were going to take pictures.
As we hiked along (hiked is a nice term, it was more of a speedy shuffle of me hustling along, trying not to drag poor Kristina behind me as we picked sharp shells out of our feet) I began to worry we would miss the light altogether—we still had about a mile to traverse in the sand before arriving at the inlet. When we finally got there, I noticed a local woman talking to a young photographer taking photos of the landscape—or should I say, waiting for Kristina and I to arrive so she could follow us incognito to the proposal. As we reached the inlet, the water was lapping up to the shore gently, the sun setting over the grassy waterway in soft and muted colors which gave everything a feeling of being surreal. Nervous, trying to buy myself some time, I told Kristina to walk out toward the water and I would take her picture first. She turned her back to me to head toward the water and I realized this would give me enough time to get into position. “Keep going,” I told her before she almost turned around. I fished the box out of my pocket, threw my phone in the sand and jogged over behind her. As she turned around, I was dropping to my knee. She looked me in the eyes, wide-eyed in surprise, bringing her hands up to cover her mouth. She started to cry as I started to speak. I focused on the words, losing myself in trying to convey what she meant to me and how much I needed her in my life. I had barely finished and she was closing the gap between us, pulling me into her familiar embrace. Feeling a very powerful sort of
joy, a specific variety I had never experienced until that moment, I kissed my new fiancé and thanked the Lord for his goodness. Our next moments were spent in jubilant reverie of our engagement. Beyond the normal joy of such an event, the amount of time that spent building up to such an occasion made it even more rewarding to both of us. Our photographer, Sarah, both directed us to set up some beautiful shots and captured us in our candid celebration. Some strange swarm of tiny black insects swarmed around our heads and crawled all over our ears and hair and faces, but this somehow just added even more laughter.
That time we spent afterwards on the beach taking pictures, celebrating, smiling and joking with each other, just staying in that moment together—that’s a memory that I will always cherish as among the most unconditionally happy and triumphant in my life. As the sunset yielded to twilight, Kristina and I talked and laughed as we strolled beside the moonlit waves together, hand-in-newly-adorned-hand, headed back toward the rest of our lives.
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Gosh, what a sweet treat it was for me to capture such special and intimate moments between the two love birds.
I am forever grateful to Cody and Kristina for allowing me to be a part of it! I cannot wait to see what our great God has in store for you throughout your many, many years together.
the blushing gal