Chelsea and Derek

How We Met

Derek and I grew up in the same hometown, went to the same high school and had many mutual friends but we never actually met until we were both in our 20s. In the story of how we met there are two different occasions, months apart, that actually matter. The first happened the night before Thanksgiving in our hometown where after one too many drinks, I introduced myself to him in a crowded bar and proceeded to tell him about all my future plans get out of our small town and move to Boston (where he was living at the time). I didn’t think anything of this first (and slightly incoherent) meeting and it took another 6 months for our paths to cross again. This time, it happened in Boston. I was at a Red Sox game with one of my best friends and after the game she suggested we go meet up with one of her family friends who also lived in the city. Who happened to also be there that night? Derek. As the night went on, we found ourselves wrapped up in conversation while the rest of the party went on around us and I remember being truly disappointed to say goodbye when my friend and I had to catch the train back home. Shortly after this, Derek tracked me down on Facebook and after hours upon hours of texting and phone calls and FaceTime chats, the rest was history.

How He Asked

In order to fully explain the whole story of our engagement I have to first admit that I played a long game of “hard to get” when we first met. From the moment I met Derek I was pretty confident he was “the one” but after having just come out of a relationship, I was hesitant to jump into anything serious right away. On the other hand, Derek was pretty persistent and even though I tried hard not to admit it, I quickly fell head over heels for him. We’re both pretty big “planners” and it didn’t take long for us to start talking about our future together- always in a lighthearted, half-serious kind of way. We constantly joked about how if life were perfect, we would get married some day, start a family, retire at 30, travel the world together and live happily ever after. In the spirit of these conversations, Derek asked me one day: “how would you want to get engaged?” and my (completely random, out-of-nowhere) response was: “surrounded by a family of African giraffes while eating buffalo chicken pizza.” Obviously joking, we both laughed this off and I personally never thought anything of it.

Chelsea and Derek's Engagement in Burlington, Vermont

The weekend of our engagement was the first weekend of November and we had plans to go back and visit my college town of Burlington, Vermont. We had done this once before and had had the best time visiting my college roommate, going on brewery tours and hiking to the top of Mount Philo surrounded by beautiful fall foliage. This trip also happened to be the first time we said “I love you”. The weekend of November 4th promised to be one in the same, with slightly colder weather forecasts but nearly identical plans to hike, drink and visit with one of my best friends.

The morning of our engagement, we woke up on an air mattress on the floor of my friend’s downtown Burlington apartment. At this point, I was under the impression both my friend and her boyfriend had already left for work for the day so we got dressed, organized our things and headed off to hike Mount Philo with plans to meet up with them later in the day. It ended up being a gorgeous fall day and we took our time hiking to the top of the mountain, stopping every so often to talk or let another couple pass us on the steep path up to the top. Once we reached the peak, I immediately wanted to stop and take pictures in front of the view but Derek convinced me to continue walking to another lookout point up ahead. I agreed and we headed further down the path. As we turned the corner, I could see a picnic table in front of me, covered in a yellow-patterned table cloth with what looked like tall wooden statues on it. As we walked closer, I realized what I was actually seeing and turned to Derek and asked “why are there giraffes here?”. He ignored my question and just stared at me so I looked back down the path and walked closer to the giraffes only to turn around again in time to see him reach deep into his vest pocket and get down on one knee. In shock and overcome with emotion, I stared down at him but didn’t hear a word he said because my mind was racing a mile a minute.

At the same time, I started to notice people emerging from the woods behind him, snapping away on their cameras. All I could manage to do in this moment was put my head in my hands and when I eventually took my hands away from my face I just stared at him in disbelief and asked “what????” since I hadn’t been listening to a single word he had just said. Derek repeated his question of “Will you marry me?” and I’ve never been happier to say “yes” to anything in my entire life.

Wedding Proposal Ideas in Burlington, Vermont

Moments later, I realized that those people who had been jumping out the woods were actually our parents! As they continued to take pictures, Derek put the most gorgeous ring I’ve ever seen on my finger and I turned back towards the table of giraffes to see a handmade box with the word “Africa” written on the front of it. Opening the box, I found a note inside explaining that ever since that day two years ago, when he asked me how I wanted to get engaged, Derek had been trying to figure out a way to make my wish of being “surrounded by giraffes” come true. Over the past two years he had been in contact with someone at the “Giraffe Manor” in Kenya, trying to organize the perfect proposal. As I continued reading, I learned that although the proposal didn’t actually take place surrounded by a family of real giraffes, he had booked us on a flight to Africa 4 months from now to stay at a giraffe sanctuary and to officially live out my wish. At this point, I was definitely thinking THIS HAS GOT TO BE A DREAM. But as crazy as it sounds, it wasn’t, and I actually get to spend the rest of my life with this amazingly thoughtful man. I am still in shock that I have met someone who cares enough to put so much effort into making this day so special and I feel so lucky to now call him my fiancé.

Giraffe Manor…HERE WE COME!

P.S. – Yes, I even ended up getting my buffalo chicken pizza :)

Special Thanks

Tammy Anderson
Photographer