Erin and Daniel | Laguna Beach Proposal

Laguna Beach Proposal (6)How we met: Daniel and I met on Instagram, of all places! I am a blogger and so is his mama. But we’d never “crossed paths” online. A few days before New Years Eve 2013, Daniel’s mom posted a photo of three of lher handsome sons, jokingly shouting-out that they were all single and available. Our mutual blog friend (a gal I’ve never met “in person” but have talked to online for a few years and I trust her opinion) took the opportunity to tag me in a comment on Daniel’s mama’s photo of her boys, and suggested that I would be a perfect match for her eldest single son, Daniel. I never saw the tag because I wasn’t on Instagram until later, but Daniel saw it and noticed me. He followed me. I saw a random guy had followed me, looked at his profile and thought, “He’s handsome! And has some nice abs.” (haha shirtless photos!) but I saw that we shared no mutual friends. I didn’t follow him back. The next morning, his sweet mama commented to me. She told me — in such a kind way, all about her precious son — an accomplished musician (he is a viola/violin/piano player), a dedicated construction worker, a wonderful son, a free spirited world traveler, who loved God and was faithfully waiting for the right girl. I read her comment and my heart melted. But, being careful, I thoroughly “stalked” Daniel Morris online. I found his Facebook, his family’s blogs, and his YouTube music videos (which made me cry!) He then commented to me, and he and I began talking on the day before New Year’s Eve. We talked easily, especially of our shared love of music. Instagram comments turned to emails, emails turned into phone calls and daily texts, and then, in February, he came — from snowy Maryland to sunny Los Angeles, to meet me. We met at LAX airport. Immediate sparks and butterflies! We spent a magical week exploring the beaches of California, getting to know each other. We hit it off. And the rest, as they say, is history.

(I wrote the whole detailed story on my blog, here)

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How he asked: Getting engaged to the love of my life was the happiest day I’ve lived yet. Daniel and I celebrated six months of “official” dating on September 14, 2014. The summer was spent falling more in love, frolicking on California beaches and Oklahoma pastures.  Talk of marriage and future plans was often a topic of conversation. It happened over time through our relationship.

On May 2, after a day spent at Disneyland, my Cowboy told me “I love you” at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. “The” song came on, right over the magical, hidden speakers. The one that I sang over and over and over as a dreaming little girl. “Someday my prince will come, someday I’ll find my love…” Magic.

From that time on, we both knew… the desire for “the future” shared – on our hearts, bloomed softly… over time. We processed and felt – I want you, only you – forever. This is meant to be. We talked about it, often. Throughout the warm days of summer, I would jokingly point at my left ring finger in moments of discussing the future; widening my eyes and tilting my head teasingly, without saying a word. He’d laugh. “I’m workin’ on it!” I jokingly (or not so jokingly) sent him photos of dream rings. We talked of plans – like how we want to start out living in a vintage Airstream at first, renovating it and then traveling to all the places we dream of seeing. Wild and freely pursuing adventures, dreams, and goals. We talked of children and family, home and lifestyle, expectations and convictions. We talked of wedding dress styles! Venues! Timelines! Sister often asked me: “Now what is your ideal ring? This one? That one? This cut, this size?” His sister-in-law often texted me: “Okay so I know it won’t be for a while, but….don’t you just love this dress?!?!”

It was coming, I knew. I just didn’t know when. Until, he began hinting around in mid-August. He told me, “So….I want to recreate our first week.” (The week he bravely came to LA and met me. We spent a whirlwind seven days together, exploring the beaches of California. A magical week, and the rest – as they say, is history!)  My wheels began turning, right off. Especially when he chose the second week of September to go and asked me to set it aside. He said we would go to all our special places: Santa Barbara, Catalina Island, Laguna Beach (an especially sacred place for us and for me in my history. Also, my favorite beach in California.)

When a friend invited us over for dinner that week, he quickly jumped in: “Oh no! We have a plan that week.” I knew something was up. Mom and Sister heard my suspicions. “So.. Daniel keeps saying that we are going to ‘recreate our first week.’ What if he proposes? I feel like he might…!”

Realizing my always-noticing mind was racing with guesses, he “threw me off the scent” with some carefully-crafted, good-hearted little white lies. Plans were in the works. Being a professional viola player, Daniel is often hired to perform at weddings and so, during the summertime, he went to a bridal show in Southern California as a vendor. While there (unbeknownst to me) a jeweler approached him, handing him a card and asking him to play some music at an event they were hosting for brides the next day. He played for their event. They fell in love with his music. And, that day – the search for the ring began. The jeweler graciously offered him a special deal – such a blessing to us. Of course, I was blind to it all! Yet, he feared I would catch on. Sweetly covering all his tracks, wanting me to be totally surprised! He and the family – and especially my wonderful bestie Sister –  crafted an elaborate plan for the proposal. I now know that she snuck down to the ring shop with him a few times (something that was super important to me. I wanted Mandy – my Sister and lifelong best friend to be involved in the proposal, and the fact that he included her in the planning and choosing, and that she so excitedly jumped in to help, makes my heart all warm and thankful.)

Plans were in the works. And Daniel came up with a good one. One I could not have ever guessed! On September 9, I got an email. From a sweet blog friend of mine, Jackie Rose. We have (still) never met in person! But (as you blog and internet friends understand) in this community of blogs and Instagram, finding kindred spirits through the Internet (of all places!) is a joy. Jackie is an absolute gem with a heart of gold and some fabulous style. (In fact, she’s a stylist in California!) She and I have tried several times to meet up in person, but it’s never worked out. So when I checked my e-mail one morning and saw an unexpected message from Jackie pop up, I was thrilled! And surprised!

She wrote that she wanted to style a photoshoot on Laguna Beach of me and my sister. She had everything planned. The shoot would be on September 20th.

I didn’t know that Daniel had asked my Dad, and that he had said yes. That a ring was being chosen. And plans laid. To create a magical, special, significant night of a lifetime. A life-altering question would be asked and an answer would be given, and they would change the course of our lives.

Daniel knew he wanted to propose at Laguna Beach. It’s not only a spot that’s been close to my heart for many years — a place holding lots of promises for me, brokenness, and significant, hard and sweet times with the Lord, but he and I spent an afternoon and evening there at the end of our “first week ever.” Six days after meeting “in person,” we stood out on a jagged rock in what felt like the middle of the ocean, waves crashing all around us, a pink sunset painted across the sky, and Daniel playing two special songs for me: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “The Rose” (he then showed me the lyrics to the classic song – he said he felt that way about me. And took me to a small shop by the sea, bought me a perfect pink necklace: “A symbol, to show you I am coming back…” and took me out to a very fancy dinner. Our first “real” date kinda dinner.) Laguna would be the place, he knew.

As he planned and thought of ways to make the proposal happen there, he remembered that I told once him about my friend, Jackie Rose! I’d shared with him all about my Internet kindred spirit and how she loved Laguna Beach, too – her family even has a home there!  And so, he searched my Facebook, looking through every friend on my friends list, for a whole week! Until he found that stylist with blonde hair who matched my description. He then found her website, looked for her phone number and called her up and told her the plan, asking for her help! (Props to him for his researching skills!) And Jackie so graciously and sweetly jumped on board!

In an effort to truly keep me in the dark and totally surprise me with the extravagant proposal, Daniel went to all ends and expended all effort to keep his secret. And I was none the wiser! While on a short trip to the East Coast for a few music gigs (he traveled often for music this summer) – he devised a little plan to make sure I would not guess anything and spoil the surprise. One night while he was gone, Sister and I decided to have a girl’s night in a local hotel – not only was Daniel out of town for the weekend, but so were Sister’s people and our parents! Using the Hotels Tonight app, we found a good deal on a four-star hotel in our area and packed up our things for a girl’s night in. Daniel called to say goodnight. He sounded kinda down – rare for him, and I wondered what was up. He then told me, “Babe, I have some bad news…” and explained that while at his twin brother’s home on the East Coast (where he lived for a few years) he got an unexpected letter in the mail from the IRS – – he was unknowingly in some debt and so, he said, “I’m soooo sad. It means that ‘certain things’ will have to be postponed until sometime later….” Knife to my heart. I tried oh so hard to be encouraging and strong, letting him know it was okay. We hung up, sad and dejected, I told Sister over delivered pizza. She seemed shocked and sad. The next morning, I got a sweet text from Kristen, Daniel’s sister-in-law. She told me how sad she and her hubby Caleb (Daniel’s twin brother) were for us.  How they were here for us and praying. How it would just make us stronger, and how they went through something similar while engaged, and they got through it! I broke down and wept when I read her text, eating pink donuts on the white hotel bedding (so funny now!) I would never have doubted the situation, because everyone seemed so legitimately normal about it all. Especially Mandy and Kristen. Sweet and sad for us. Daniel came back to Los Angeles a few days later, and when I met him at Starbucks that evening, he seemed – and even looked – really bummed. My heart sank, disappointed that (clearly) our engagement would be delayed for who-knows-how-long. That week, we moved forward with life as usual and I did not expect a thing. And didn’t ask too many questions about timelines, because – the poor guy was just trying to pay off debt and I did not want to pressure him or make him feel worse. He said he still wanted to take a few days and recreate “our week,” but I discouraged the plan, saying: “Oh no, we don’t need to do all that and spend all that money! I would be perfectly happy with just a dinner at Zaytoon!” (our favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, one discovered by his sis-in-law on their stay in SB in April, when I stayed with them often ..a dreamy Greek place with the best hummus and deliciously whimsical twinkly lights covering it ’s patio.)

As the days went on, Jackie tagged me and Sister in several of her instagram photos, preparing outfits and J.Crew accessories for our photoshoot! I explained to Daniel that I was so excited to use the photos we got for the cover of my upcoming first print issue of Graceful Magazine.

The night before the shoot, Daniel called me to say goodnight (as usual.) I invited him to come to the shoot with me, wanting him to see the process! Disappointed, he told me that he had a gig come up — playing viola in Malibu and would not be able to make it.

The morning of September 20th came along. A normal Saturday morning at home.  Mom and Dad left the house early for a class (my dad is a college professor at a Christian seminary and Mom often helps him, especially with long all day Saturday courses.) They left early, and Sister and I spent the morning at home – getting ready for our photoshoot that evening. I remember, when Dad and Mom shut the front door behind them, I turned to Sister and said: “Hmmm, that’s odd. Why is Dad wearing JEANS to class? He never, ever wears jeans to class…” She ignored me, texting someone on her phone – as usual. In fact, Mandy should win an Oscar award for her performance the day of the engagement. She literally acted just as normal and “herself” as she always does. She had a major attitude about the photoshoot and I wondered if she would really come with me that evening. She did not seem anything but calm, normal, and as if she could care less about the photoshoot plan. She told me we needed to stop at her store at the mall (she manages a women’s clothing boutique) and (without me ever guessing or thinking it seemed “fishy”) she somehow got me to go into the shop and try on a white mini dress that she and her co-workers told me was PERFECT for a photoshoot at the beach that evening. Wanting to show up in something cute, I bought it. Little did I know that she had already bought it in my size days before, held onto it in the back room, notified all her co-workers about the situation, and had it “staged” on the rack, ready for me to pick out on my own and “purchase” – she even coached her salesgirls to “fake sell it” to me! Little did I know that Daniel had come into the store earlier that week and picked it out for me to wear at the engagement!!

While at the mall, I changed into the little white dress, because I really didn’t have anything I wanted to wear for the shoot – but realized that it was showing my bra in the back! Panic mode. We had just a few hours to get to Laguna Beach to meet Jackie’s photographer at the Montage Hotel (the plan Jackie emailed me) and we knew we’d most-likely encounter traffic. Mandy did not seem stressed about time, at all. Seemingly leisurely, she sat at the nail salon, chatting with the stylists, deciding whether she would choose white and cream nail polish. I, always late but with an anxious eye on the clock, decided I didn’t have time for a (much-needed) manicure. Mandy insisted we  had time (“you’re doing a photoshoot, Sis! And Jackie is really stylish. We neeeeeed to have our nails done.”) So, I sat down, chose a cream color and asked the nail technician to “please hurry, I’m so sorry but we have to be to Orange County in a few hours! And, traffic….” Looking back, it just felt like a normal day. But, something about it felt different. Alive. Special. Even at that point. The sweet workers at the nail salon complimented me profusely, almost – looking back – as if they knew! “You just look so gorgeous! Your dress, your hair!” Before leaving the mall, I (with wet nails) ran down to Victoria’s Secret and bought stylist’s tape, hoping to secure my dress where it opened too far in the back.

We jumped in the car and braved LA traffic on the 5 Freeway, South. Mandy – calm as a cucumber all morning – suddenly seemed rattled. As we passed Disneyland, traffic became congested and almost-stopped. An hour out from our destination, the iPhone told us. Just enough time. She blasted the rap music playing in her car (as usual) but started breathing more and more heavily as time went on. I noticed she was texting someone, furiously. I had no idea, of course – but, Daniel wondered where we were exactly – as he, Mom and Dad were all working hard to craft and set-up the extravagant proposal, out on a rock in Laguna Beach. He had it timed and planned perfectly. We would arrive just before sunset. And the plan would unfold. Mandy kept calm until a truck cut us off, causing us to nearly miss our (very important) exit – one that, had we missed it, would have taken more than half an hour to recover – and would, incidentally, have caused us to miss the proposal… all together. Of course, I knew none of this at the time. All I knew? Mandy flipped out. Now, we laugh hysterically at the scene – as her reaction is totally understandable. She had the most important scheduled date of my life so far, on her head. But at the time, I was a little shocked at the passion behind her road rage. She screamed and yelled at the semi-truck driver, rolling down the window and cussing a string of profanities – her eyes, wild. Her fist, beating the steering wheel – her hands honking the horn insessantly. I sat in the passengers seat, semi-shocked. I quietly said, “Sis, wow…umm, calm down, okay? It’s just a photoshoot, we can be a little late. Don’t kill yourself over it.” She rolled the window back up, panting. (This makes me smile now. She was responsible to get me to my once-in-a-lifetime engagement. And she would not let a single soul in the world stop her. Just a picture of our fierce sister-love, almost a “mama bear” kind of protective relationship we have with each other.)

Both of us have the smallest bladders in the history of the world, and so we HAD to stop at a gas station bathroom right when we got off the freeway, near our destination. We ran in. My open-back dress still a major wardrobe malfunction. The gas station mart did not sell sewing kits. Time was ticking. I hoped Jackie might have a safety pin or something, as the stylist tape I’d purchased at the mall was not working. In desperation, I asked the gas station cashier if she had a safety pin or something on hand? Behind the counter? SHE DID. Looking back, by a miracle! We pinned my dress. All was ready and well.

All the while, Daniel and my parents were getting the engagement spot all ready.

Arrive, we did, barely on time and very out of breath. We almost missed the hotel, our GPS directed us to the wrong parking lot. But Jackie had instructed us to drive up to the valet and meet her photographer – she texted me that afternoon and explained that her photographer would be at the valet area of the hotel, waiting for us. And that she would be down on the beach, setting up props and preparing the shoot. We planned to follow her photographer down there and meet her, right as the sun was setting, for capturing “golden hour” pictures.

Pulling up to the valet, we jumped out of the car (conscious of the rapidly setting sun) and began scanning the busy hotel front area for “the photographer.” I spotted someone waving and walking quickly toward us. A smiling and bubbly young woman came bounding up – large camera strapped around her neck and held in one of her hands. Her other hand, reached out and shaking mine.

“Hey! I’m Regina.” She said, warmly.

Funnily enough, my first thought: “She does NOT look like a Regina!”

We hopped on the elevator, rushing down to the beach. Following her through the lush hotel, past dark wood and the sound of clinking glass from the nearby hotel restaurant, down steps to the light-golden sand. Small-talk proceeded as we fast-walked.

“So how do you know Jackie?” I asked.

She answered quickly, “Oh, yeah, through the Internet, too!”

Suddenly, all became a whirlwind. Looking back in my memory, when my life was (unknowingly) about to change (for the better) forever, it all became crystal clear and slow.

Like slow-motion.

I remember the feeling of the cool sand on my toes as we ran toward the place Jackie supposedly waited.

The sun, setting very quickly in the pink sky around us. The sea, as “Laguna” as ever. Crystal blue – always clearer and cleaner and more “tropical” than any other California beach. I’ve always said, it reminds me so distinctly of my childhood trip to Greece – the water and foliage of Laguna looks very much like the Mediterranean sea.

All of a sudden, “Regina” began snapping photos of me. Not Sister. She mentioned something like, “Oh just want to get some shots of you guys walking up!”

I mentioned something about, “Oh this is our place, Sis! The place Daniel played those songs for me that first week!”

And then – out of nowhere and faster than I could take it all in -I saw someone, so unexpectedly: DANIEL.

Walking up toward me.

Through the beautiful arch.

He took me in his arms and kissed me.

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Gasping and surprised, I asked, “What?! Baby! Wait. Why are you here? What are you doing here! You were supposed to be in Malibu! Ahhh I am so glad you could come!!”

I remember how vividly his eyes sparkled.

He didn’t say much. He just smiled.

At that moment, I thought he was simply surprising me at the photoshoot. So happy he could make it, but a little confused, too. It happened so fast and it seemed like such a big moment. I kept thinking, “Where’s Jackie?” haha!

And then, the world began spinning all at once. He took me by the hand, leading me through the arch.

When I saw the sign he painted and heard that very song, “Someday my Prince will come, someday I’ll find my love….” playing loudly from a hidden speaker.

What do you know…. the dream came true.

It hit me.

This is it. 

My heart swelled. I shook. I gasped. My knees literally went weak.

And then I looked up and saw it all.

“All this time, I believed with all I am that I would find you.” Tyler Knott Gregson

My goodness. How can mere words begin to describe the ethereal wonder of the moments that proceeded? We are going to really be spending forever together. It’s huge and very sacred. Significant.

I truly cannot imagine any other moment topping this one in my entire life ahead (although I have heard that weddings and marital bliss and babies may tie and top. We shall see.)

All in one moment, it fell on me like an overwhelmingly good, blessed, amazing waterfall of pure love.

The man of my dreams led me past the “Someday is today” sign he hand-painted. Past two stately chairs, the beautiful little dark wooden antique table he purchased just for the occasion – draped in my great-great grandmothers handmade lace table runner (cue the tears!) Pink, white and luscious red rose petals strewn all around. Candle sticks gracing the rock on all sides. Candles flickering absolutely everywhere. His beautiful viola, set on a chair. Sparkling juice (because it was the beach) and tall champagne glasses. Fresh gorgeous flowers (he chose them because “they look like the ones you showed me that you like for a wedding!”) Pretty pillows in my favorite colors, dotting the scene. It was exactly what I would imagine for my dream “place.” Like a taste of heaven on earth. In every little way.

By the hand, he led me through the rose petals, to a spot on the end of the rock where a little rose-colored pillow set on the ground. The sky, a watercolor canvas of blues and creams and golds and the loveliest hues of pink. The sea, moving and crashing, deep and wide. Sea spray splashing up on me as emeraldy crystal blue waves crashed hard against the rocks. We were out in the middle of the ocean, I felt. Me and him.

I didn’t cry until that moment. If you know me, you know I can cry with the best of ’em. I easily shed tears along with grieving friends, during sad movies or moving songs. But, in this life altering moment, it took a minute to “sink in.” And then, as I stood there above the ocean looking at my man as he played for me, his eyes locked on mine, I lost it.

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All those lonely nights. The long years. Waiting. And waiting. And then waiting some more. For what seemed like forever. All came to a whirling, mind-boggling culmination. And tears flowed freely.

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And then, he bent down on one knee and asked the most important question he will ever ask in his lifetime, the most important question I will ever be asked and then answer.

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Honestly, it is almost a blur to us both, what happened next.

I know he bent down, sweetly and carefully taking my hand in his. And he said:

“I know you are the one for me. You are the one the Lord planned for me. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you. Forever.

Forever.

Forever!”

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I wiped the tears from my eyes. Emotion filled his voice.

He reached to his back pocket and pulled out a maroon-colored little curved-top box.

He opened it up.

Sparkling, glimmering and shining. The most perfect, beautiful, dreamy engagement ring I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Without thinking, my hand covered my mouth as I simultaneously smiled and cried tears of joy.

“I love you so much.

Will you marry me?”

A resounding and passionate, YES!!!! and a kiss.

He slipped the breathtaking ring on my finger.

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Never in my life have I felt more alive. Aware. In the moment. Crystal clear. All there. Never have I felt more present.

Apparently a bit of a crowd gathered around and above. We didn’t notice the cheering when he asked, and I said yes. Sister recorded a little video on her phone, and later when I watched, I was shocked at how loud all the cheering was. I saw him and heard him, alone. Just me and him. The world stopped spinning. All I could see was his smiling face.

We sat on the chairs, crowned in love, reveling in the joy of it all. And, of course, I stared at the ring…

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My family joined us on the rock (perfection!!) Of course, we sooo missed Daniel’s precious Oklahoma/Maryland family who couldn’t be there because of the sheer distance, but we updated them from afar!

I am so thankful to call Daniel Morris my “Fiance” and I am over the moon thrilled to be his wife. Next Spring!! How thankful I am for our loving families and all they did to make our engagement (and relationship!) happen so perfectly.

Daniel, you are mine — the future husband I have long prayed for and loved fiercely my whole life. What an honor to love you… and to be loved by you.

Someday, my Prince did come. And someday is today.

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Photo Credit goes to our photographer: Ally Michelle
Planning help: Jackie Rose, stylist.