One year ago today, Neil Bruinsma asked the question with the easiest answer. 6 months later, we were married. In honor of the awesome beginning of our story, and to prove how incredibly romantic and thoughtful he can be, I wanted to re-post the blog I wrote about our engagement story. It’s a bit long, but well worth the read, let me assure you. Here it is, originally published on Nov 3, 2014:
This is a story of how a boy proposed to a girl. And you guessed it. It’s my story.
I wanted to publish a blog about this because there are moments when I think back to our proposal and I can’t believe it really happened. So much of my relationship with The Professor has been a fairy tale, and it was no different with how he went about asking me to marry him. I also wanted the opportunity to share our photos with you. The Prof’s roommate JF drove up from Georgia just to record our little piece of forever, and he captured some pretty magical shots. Combine that with all the random iphone snaps my bestie took on the hike up, and we basically have a pop-up “Once Upon A Time” fairy tale book.
Now, there is A LOT to this story, so just buckle in and hang on to your butts.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I’m enjoying re-living it.
To give you a little backstory, The Professor has been planning this proposal for months. My dearest friends have been in on the surprise for quite awhile, as well. He asked me long ago if I was the type of girl who wanted her boyfriend to ask someone’s permission or blessing in order to propose to her.
I’ve been independent for 12 years now, living on my own, taking care of myself, handling my own business. The only permission a man needs is MINE.
…I think I made myself pretty clear.
Except that I didn’t.
And beyond my stamping my foot about my own independence he needed, as a pretty traditional guy, to ask someone’s blessing to pursue me in such a way. So a little less than two months ago, he dove up to Kentucky extra early to take my pastor (and surrogate father) out to lunch. As any good father would do, he put The Prof through his paces, grilling him about finances and marriage and what he would bring to the table. I didn’t hear about any of this until after he proposed. And when I heard, emotion rose up in me that I didn’t know I had or could feel. To know there was a father figure out there who was looking out for my best, who loved me enough to ask hard and demanding questions… and to know there was a man out there who loved me enough not only to endure this but to seek it…. there are few words that can sum up how that feels. And for a girl who grew up without great male role models (and certainly without a dad), this means almost more than the actual proposal does.
Around this time, my Bestie Boo called me to ask when we could catch up, if we could make some time to go hiking at our favorite place- The Pinnacles. The only real weekend I knew I’d have available was the last weekend of October. She also had that weekend available, and we were both excited to have the chance to relive some of our ridiculous photo shoots and hiking stories one more time before winter set in. And- again- I was thinking this was all happenstance when in reality she was already in cahoots about the proposal and needed us to go hiking that weekend. The Professor had already decided that was when it would happen, and that he would do it at The Pinnacles.
He loves nature. And hiking. And mountains. And sky. And the beautiful thing is that I do, too! He had decided early on that when he proposed he knew he needed to do it one of two ways: as a flash mob (which he thought was right up my alley), or on a hiking trip (which reflected both of us really well). I’m so glad he chose the latter. The second thing that is so beautiful about this story is that I’m a Super People Person. I LOVE to celebrate all things with all people all the time. The Professor is much more private than I am and prefers to celebrate one-on-one face-to-face. Not this girl. The more friends I have around me, the bigger the party. Literally and figuratively. So as he decided that his proposal needed to be more focused on me and what I loved than on his own desires, he began to invite people to be a part of it. And this is how it went:
Saturday, October 25th. 6:30 am. I woke up SO. EARLY. in order to drive the 2 hours south to get to The Pinnacles by 9 am- the time Sarah (The Bestie) and I decided we’d head out on our hike. She had a birthday party or something to go to with her husband’s family at 12:30, so we needed to get an early-ish start. I texted her around 8 am, halfway to the destination, to make sure she’d be there. I knew how hard it was for me to drag myself out of bed so early on a weekend, so I wanted to make sure she was up and at ’em. She texted me back that 9 am was too early, and could we do it a bit later? OHIWASMAD. I thought, great. Now we won’t get any time together because it’s getting later and she has the family thing and pout pout POUT. I’m not dramatic, as you can tell.
I decided to stop in at The Pastor’s House, where my Sweet Janice was preparing food for the college meal. Maybe I could hang there til Sarah was ready. And so began my morning. Coffee and chatting with Janice until Sarah arrived. She had asked me to bring a pretty dress and boots for her to borrow for that night (she was going on a date with her husband), and right away she had me run outside to throw the clothes in her car (so her husband could take them home). We left shortly after and headed out for our hike.
When we arrived there were so many cars! The weather forecast was bright sunny skies and a high of 70*, so I figured everyone wanted to get one last hike in. I thought we’d have the mountain to ourselves, but oh well.
We got out of the car hacking and coughing and sneezing (we were both sick), and we decided to pray before heading up. Pretty normal. But as we finished, she took her phone from her pocket and said she had just gotten a text from The Professor and he had left a note in my car secretly.
I checked the glove box and- lo and behold!- there was a secret note hidden!
He had apparently snuck it in there the week before when I was visiting in Georgia. It said a few sweet things and at the bottom was signed “Enjoy your hike!” I couldn’t believe it! How did he know?! Had I told him I was hiking with Sarah?? Maybe! This was so thoughtful, I thought, and something he does pretty often. Sarah seemed like she thought it was pretty funny, but really didn’t pay that much attention. We took off for the hills, and immediately began noticing rose petals were strewn about all over the place.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I spied a couple heading up wearing matching pale yellow shirts, so I figured maybe they were doing engagement photos and the petals were from them. I really didn’t pay any mind to them.
About a quarter of the way up, we hit a clearing with a bench that was occupied by my dear friend Emilee.
What is she doing here? Just sitting on a bench?? So weird!
She greeted us with this beautiful basket and blanket, and a little love note for me, written by The Prof. Aww! How precious is this?! The note was just a little something reminding me that I had pointed this basket out to him way back in the spring, on a date to a little mountain town in North Georgia. He had gone back the next day and bought it for me. He never knew when a good time was to give it to me, but he thought today might be it.
This is where I should have figured that something was up. But I absolutely. did. not. You see, he had told me a couple weeks before that he would be going on a spiritual retreat the weekend that I was out hiking with Sarah. It’s something he does pretty regularly, and something I really admire in him. He’s also an incredibly truthful man, sometimes to the point of being overly blunt, and he would never lie to me. Especially not about his time with THE LORD. He also had sent me a sweet package in the mail awhile ago with a little love note that said the surprises inside were so I wouldn’t forget about him while we were apart. I honestly just figured he was stepping up that game. It didn’t occur to me once that this day was different. I thanked Emilee for being a part of this cool basket surprise, hugged her, and continued on my way up the mountain with Sarah.
Halfway up we met my sweet J Hart who was waiting with a wrapped book and another note.
Again, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN TIPPED OFF. But no.
And then we couldn’t open the package.
Finally, I opened the book, which was a hardbound copy of some of our early writings, and all of his journal entries concerning me from the very first day we met. He also had photos printed and had copied down prayers about me (and what he heard the Lord saying about me).
Talk about mind-blowing! Another love note, another trail of red rose petals to follow, and we were off.
Many of you might be thinking I should have known by now, but truly- I believed with my whole heart that he was off on a spiritual retreat and this was just one of his grand romantic gestures.
Sarah was not helping ONE BIT. Everything she said was full of her classic dry wit and sarcasm, and I really didn’t think there was anything to it.
We kept driving upwards and about 3/4 of the way to the top we encountered yet another of my girlfriends waiting on a bench with a note and a computer.
Liv sat me down and opened the laptop to reveal a video made of 45 second clips of some of the parental figures and mentors in our lives. They talked of their love and support of us, they shared stories of how they’d seen us grow and develop both individually and as a couple. Joe and Janice, my pastors and surrogate parents, were the last video.
Janice ended with “We can’t wait to see that big, pretty ring!” And Joe said “Happy Engagement!!”
IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING!??!!?
IS HE HERE?? IS HE STANDING UP THERE WAITING ON ME?? Is he for real proposing? Is this happening? Is this real life?!?
Some of a million questions that instantly ran through my head. How did I not know?? How had I not gotten all the clues??
Olivia hugged me before Sarah led me up the final stretch of trail, at the top of which was standing yet another sweet friend- Jess K- waiting for us.
She led us off the trail and behind some trees where heavy curtains had been hung to provide a changing area. There was a full-length mirror and chair, makeup, nail polish, hair supplies, the works. Sarah had carried in her backpack the dress she had asked to “borrow,” which apparently The Professor had chosen for me.
They sat me down and loved on me, hugged me, handed me makeup, painted my nails, praised my hair (even though it was super dirty from the hike). They prayed with me and then sent me on my way. This last part I needed to do on my own.
Walking alone-for the first time- was quite nerve-wracking for me. I never thought I’d be the girl that needed to lean on someone, but in that moment I really thought I needed to hold Sarah’s hand. I was so nervous! Elated, excited, ecstatic, joyful- but definitely nervous.
I walked out to the edge of the cliff where he was standing and waiting for me. He turned around to see me and- gasp!- was finally wearing a bow tie and suspenders! I’d been nagging him for months to invest in those things and here they were! And he looked goooooooooood.
The rest was a blur.
He hugged me, said some stuff, got down on one knee, and invited me into forever.
Of course I said yes.
We were laughing about this moment a few nights ago- neither of us really remember what he said in those precious few minutes. But we agreed on all the important stuff.
When he stood, he placed the ring on my finger, popped out his phone to play a song, and we danced on the edge of this mountain. Later he brought me champagne in a picnic basket, and showed me where he had taken nearly 3 hours over the course of 2 days to carve our initials into a huge rock. Unbelievable.
My girlfriends rushed out to celebrate with us, and we headed back down the mountain to go to my pastor’s house for an already-arranged engagement party! He really pulled out all the stops. He really sacrificed his own preference of celebrating one-on-one in order for me to feel celebrated by all my loved ones at one time in one place. And so many people were there! They had all brought food and desserts, decorations and cards and flowers. It was breathtaking. His mom had driven up to surprise even him, and having both our mothers there was so meaningful and lovely.
It was the perfect moment. I’m looking forward to all the rest.