Ashley and Justin's Adorable Surprise Proposal at Big Talbot Island

How We Met

I had just moved to Tampa after accepting a new job with my company, helping to open and manage a new location for our bridal boutique (The White Magnolia).

A big part of my job is networking with other wedding vendors, and it just so happened I was stopping by a vendor holiday party (on my way to a date, funny enough!) to say hello to a few people and make an appearance before heading out for the evening. Of course I found myself in the WORST party situation ever- I did not know anyone there besides the host, who was of course very busy! Justin says he saw me across the room and just knew he had to come over and talk, and he strutted right over with so much confidence. Justin is an amazing wedding photographer (maybe I’m biased because I’m his fiancee, but really- I think he’s so talented!) and I actually already knew of his work before he introduced himself. After we chatted for a few minutes I knew there was no way that a person who was so cute, genuine, and talented could possibly be single.

I went out for the night and never thought too much more about it, until we bumped into each other at yet another networking event just a couple of weeks later (right after Justin went on a date… we had bad date luck just before meeting one another, ha!). We talked for a few more minutes and Justin bravely asked for my… email address. ;)

The very next morning he sent me an email and also casually invited me to hang out since, you know, I was “new in town”. He stopped by The White Magnolia for the following week and I’m lucky it was a slow day for me, because we talked for three hours, and he even showed me what kind of wedding gown he would picture his future wife in (cue me wracking my brain for the exact gown he chose…!). The rest is history and I’m so lucky to be planning a wedding with the most amazing guy on the planet. Say a few prayers for us…. We both know that being in the wedding industry can be both a blessing and a curse for planning our own wedding! Can we have one of everything please?

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How He Asked

Justin is the king of planning really amazing vacations, parties, events, you name it. So of course, I was a little afraid when it came time for him to propose that he would plan some elaborate-out of the box-flash-dance-helicopter-singing in the rain event, and I am a very private person when it comes to those types of things. Of course I should have known better, because Justin knows me better than anyone in the world.

He decided one day out of the blue that we should go to Asheville for a long weekend because neither of us had been, and I was sure this was it! All my friends and family were holding their breath the entire trip. On the last day of our trip, we decided to go for a hike in the Smokies. The weather was beautiful, cool, and foggy. As I was tying my shoes at the top of the mountain getting ready to go down, Justin dropped his backpack and out rolled…. a ring box. I’m pretty sure my heart fell out of my chest and my eyes were taking up half of my face. Justin scrambled to scoop the box up before I saw, realized what I’d seen, and got down on one knee. He grabbed my hand and opened the box to reveal….. his class ring. He’s lucky to be alive, am I right? But Justin and I really do love pulling practical jokes on one another and I have to give him credit that this one was pretty hilarious. After that I knew there was no way he could propose on this trip and gave up hope.

A few weeks prior to our vacation one of my best friends from my hometown called and asked if I would come visit for her birthday weekend, and unfortunately I already had plans. She swiftly replied that the weekend before would work better for her anyway to celebrate, and casually mentioned I could bring Justin too, even though we both thought he was probably photographing a wedding since it was a Saturday and well, thats what you can expect if you ever start dating a photographer… no more Saturday dates ;) Luckily Justin was free to my surprise, so we headed up to celebrate my bestie!

We arrive Saturday afternoon with gifts in hand and got to spend some quality time with friends, with plans to have a big “birthday brunch” the next morning. To my unfortunate surprise, Justin woke me up around 5:00 the next morning because he said he was just “so awake” and begged to see the sunrise while we were on the other coast of FL. Anyone who knows me could tell you if I am ever awake at 5:00 am you need to call a doctor… but for some reason this felt different. I said my prayers as I do every morning when I wake up and I just felt this overwhelming sense that something was about to happen. I remember thinking, if Justin is up to something, I hope he just comes right over and prays out loud with me to calm my nerves. 30 seconds later he walked into my room, grabbed my hand, and prayed out loud. It was the most exciting moment of my life, because I knew exactly what was about to happen.

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At this point I happily agreed to sunrise, and we were on our way. When we arrived to Big Talbot Island, I was overwhelmed with how beautiful it was. We followed a long, winding trail through the woods as Justin told me all the ways he hoped to serve me in our future together.

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He handed me a journal, and on the front was our favorite bible verse. Inside the first page read “For my love on the day of our engagement”, and when I looked up we were walking along a path of candles leading to a picnic on the most stunning driftwood beach I had ever seen, with the sun just peeking over the clouds.

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He wrote in his journal every day for 2 months about preparing to marry me, prayers he had for us, and hopes for the future. When we got to the picnic he got down on one knee and I hugged him and cried before he ever pulled the ring out of his pocket. When I finally let go he got down once again and asked me the best question I have ever heard :) Of course I said yes!

After sitting and talking, reading the journal, and praying, we decided to get brunch. I am a southern girl and I had always wanted to try the “Maple Street Biscuit Company” in Jacksonville. Unfortunately they are closed on Sundays…. unless Justin DeMutiis is your fiancee! We arrived to all of my closest friends from all over Florida surprising me along with my family who drove down all the way from Charlotte, NC just for the DAY to surprise me. It was the second best moment of my life, right after I said yes of course :)

He is just the greatest fiancee and I can’t believe I get to call him mine forever! I will brag on him all of my days :)

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Special Thanks

Carissa Fasnacht
Photography
Bonnie Melin
Candle and lantern rental
Maple Street Biscuit Co
Engagement party rental