Dana and Jay

11130278_10103835186437439_2855335561103469030_nHow We Met: I would tell you that we met coincidentally at a friend’s apartment party in New York City – where I lived and worked – in April of 2013.  Jay would tell you it was no coincidence at all; he had seen my picture on Facebook in some of our friend’s pictures and he asked that I be invited to the party.  At the time, Jay was a consultant on a client project in Manhattan for over a year, but his permanent home was Philadelphia, PA. In the beginning, we’d meet during the week for dinner and dates after work before Jay would return home for the weekend.  In early 2014 he took a permanent position in Philadelphia and our blossoming relationship transitioned to long distance, but nevertheless grew stronger. We cherish every moment we spend together – on the weekends – and look forward to seeing each other again the minute we return to our cities.

How He Asked: Ever since we started dating two years ago, Jay and I dreamed of visiting Napa Valley.  This past December, we decided to make our dream a reality and together we started to plan a week-long vacation to Northern California, where we would fly in to San Francisco, spend our first few days exploring Monterey and Big Sur, and then drive up to Wine Country.

Besides looking forward to a once in a lifetime vacation, Jay and I were really just looking forward to spending uninterrupted quality time together.  After all, for our entire two year relationship, we’ve lived in two separate cities. Little did I know, in the months leading up to our vacation, he had been planning an elaborate proposal all with the help of my best friend, his mom and sister, and my parents!

The plan for our first weekend in California was a day trip to Big Sur, followed by a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium the next day.  On the morning of our Aquarium visit, Jay suggested we get brunch on the dock near the famous Fisherman’s Wharf.  As we left the hotel, he asked if I wouldn’t mind checking out the beach next to the Wharf, as he had read that the views of the bay were beautiful.  We parked the car, and walked out onto the beach.  It was a cloudy morning, no one was around except for a couple walking their dog, a girl sitting by the dunes, and a few tourists farther down the beach.  Of course I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary.  As we walked in the sand, Jay recounted how much fun we had exploring Big Sur the day before.  We stopped to look out at the water, and Jay commented on a pair of tourists right in front of us, taking pictures of rocks in the water.  Jay said to me, “I really hope these people move out of the way soon.”   By this time, no one else was in sight in either direction, so I looked at him and shrugged, “We have the entire rest of the beach…let’s just keep walking!”  Jay just looked at me, put his arm around my shoulder, and said, “No we can’t, I have something planned that has to happen right here.”  That’s when I started to get butterflies. I wondered what surprise was in store.

Jay is always doing amazingly romantic things for me, and paying me the most beautiful compliments, so it didn’t exactly dawn on me when he was telling me how much he loved me (which he says every day), that this was “THE” moment.  It wasn’t until he got to the part of his speech when he said, “Three weeks ago I had the honor of taking your parents to dinner to ask them for your hand in marriage,” that I lost all composure.  In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I was curious if Jay was thinking about proposing.  But since my parents were acting normal, I had assumed he hadn’t asked them yet.  Here I was, proven wrong – taken totally by surprise.

I wept like a baby. Jay got down on one knee and proposed.   Overcome by emotion myself, I nearly knelt right along with him; I was crying so hard with joy and love that I thought my legs were going to give out.  “You have to say yes!” he reminded me.  “Of course!” I cried and laughed.  It was then that he stood up, swept me off my feet in a big bear hug, and after a kiss, he reminded me that I could actually WEAR the ring.  We laughed as he gently slipped it on to my finger.

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And then Jay waved over to the girl on the dune that we had passed when we first walked onto the beach.  As she approached, I saw her wielding a camera.  Jay introduced her as Monika, the photographer he hired weeks prior to our vacation to capture the entire proposal.  I was stunned.  “I would have worn a better outfit and done my hair!” was all I could think to say! We laughed and the morning turned into an impromptu engagement shoot. Monika suggested we continue to walk down the beach.  As we walked, a blanket with beautiful flowers, an ice bucket with a bottle of Vivue Cliquot, and rose stemmed champagne glasses appeared.  When I saw this, I cried again.  Jay had worked closely with his sister to order the flower arrangement, purchase the beach blanket, order the flowers and the champagne.  The had photographer arrived to the beach early and set up the blanket with an assistant who waved over to us as she was keeping a safe watch on it until we arrived. It was all so perfect.

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All of the work that went into the morning still makes me beam. And the photos that captured every moment are priceless – the fact that Jay got it all on camera for us (and our future children!) to cherish for years to come means the world to me.

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By the time we called my parents, his parents, our siblings, and my best friend, I realized that everyone had known the plan, and played a part in making the morning happen.  I felt – and still feel – so incredibly blessed to have had so many people apart of the day and making the memory so special.  The rest of the day is a blur, though we did go to brunch and to the Monterey Aquarium in the afternoon.  That night we drove up to Napa and embarked on the rest of our journey – one that will now last a lifetime.

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Photos by Monika Greenaway | Flowers by Fleurs Du Soleil