Carleigh and Christian

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How We Met

It always happens when you least expect it. I was focused on changing my career path and Christian had just moved back to California, neither of us could’ve imagined how much grad school would change our lives! Despite thinking Christian was pretty cute the first day of class, I was more stressed about figuring out how to survive grad school than thinking about dating.

One month later a group of us decided to take a study break and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Somewhere between Christian’s moonwalk dance battles, Backstreet Boys karaoke and the long conversations I knew I’d met someone very unique!

After that night we couldn’t stop talking and despite some confusing text messages, I finally figured out Christian was flirting with me. As we were ending the first class I offered to join Christian at the Carlsbad 5000 to visit my hometown and escape for a day! Neither of us knew this would be the most unconventional yet perfect first date. Christian was a complete gentleman throughout the day and we couldn’t stop laughing together as he raced, we went to lunch and even drove Dylan, my little brother, back from Spring Break.

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The first few months of our relationship consisted of homework, internships and late night dinners. Those quiet moments we shared taught us to lean on each other and solve any obstacle we were facing together and despite very little date nights I wouldn’t change any of it!

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We’re so fortunate to have found each other and 5 years after that first date can’t wait to start the next chapter with our loved ones by our side!

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How He Asked

Growing up I was the hopeless romantic who always tried to do these outlandish, sweet gestures. So, of course, my proposal was going to be epic-ally grand. How grand? Grand enough that one of my now groomsman, after being told the plan, put his beer down, looked at me with a chuckle and said, “good luck with that.”

Fast forward 4 months to a windy day on the sand in Seal Beach and the plan was on. Set up a “girls day” with Carleigh’s friends that, unbeknownst to her, would end with a walk on the beach, check. Create 11 picture storyboards with sweet messages about our relationship that would be laid out on the beach in the form of a path, check. Create a cheesy message in a bottle placed at the end of the path with special instructions to read while facing the ocean, check. Lyrics to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” changed to “Marry Me,” check. Everything was planned and ready to go. Except, it never happened.

As the set up on the beach began, I received a very short, detail lacking text message from one of Carleigh’s friends that simply read, “We just got hit.” Knowing that they were on their way to the beach I instantly knew that this meant they had been in a car accident. However, I knew no other details. So, frantically, I started texting almost all of the girls, except Carleigh, asking, “Is everyone OK? How bad is it? Do I need to give up the rouse and come help?” About 20 minutes went by with no answer. Finally, one of the girls texted back and said, “everyone is fine and we’re on our way so keep setting
up.” 5 minutes later, another text: “The car is inoperable so we can’t make it there and Carleigh is going back to her car to go home.”

Just like that, the plan had been broken. Or was it? Motivated by the time spent waiting to do this and the sarcastic words of “good luck with that” by my groomsman, I raced home thinking of the best contingency plan.

15 minutes after I arrived back to the house, Carleigh was unlocking the door with a confused laugh that I could hear from inside. On the outside of the door was a plain white sign reading “Welcome to Seal Beach” in simple blue sharpie. Once she opened the door, the first thing that caught her attention was that I was dressed in a nice shirt and pants; not something I usually wear. However, her attention then turned to the rest of the living room that I was standing in. I had placed our surfboards around the room, draped a pair of board shorts over the TV, and made an otherwise normal living room appear more “beachy.” Super confused, Carleigh asked, “What are you doing?” My answer, trying to keep my focus and composure, was “you were supposed to go for a walk on Seal Beach with your friends but, what you don’t know, is that I was going to be there as well.” Carleigh, confused: “Um, Ok?”

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Then, the original plan, now modified, was put into place. “Think of yourself walking along the beach with waves crashing in the background and seagulls chirping,” I said while playing a video from YouTube of waves crashing overlaid on another video of seagull noises. “You’re walking along and suddenly come across a sign and picture of us,” handing her the first storyboard. “Then you walk some more and find 10 more,” handing her the rest of the storyboards in sequence of how they would have been laid out on the beach. Finally, Carleigh is presented with the message in a bottle.

On the lip of the rolled-up message it reads, “Best read when facing the ocean.” Carleigh, laughing that there is no ocean to face, is terribly wrong. I turned her around to reveal, the back of the front door, another sign in blue sharpie that reads “Ocean” and is surrounded by wavy lines. Laughing/happy crying as she has started to figure it out, she reads the message. At the end of the message, “Now turn around so I can see that beautiful smile.” Once she turned around, I started singing the newly changed lyrics of Sam Hunt’s “Stay With Me:” “Will you marry me?/Cause you’re all I see/This is love its clear to see/So Carleigh, marry me.”

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As the song reached the crescendo I got down on one knee and held the ring in my hands. Carleigh immediately jumped on me crying with the words I’ve wanted her to say for so long, “Yes, I will marry you!”

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Special Thanks

Mark Bernal
Photographer