Gentry and Kevin

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How We Met

Kevin and I first met in October 2013. We were first introduced to each other by some friends, but I, unfortunately, do not recall much of that introduction or conversation. The day before I just returned from St. Petersburg, Russia where I spent a few weeks visiting orphans and orphanages in Russia. Due to the time difference, I was very jet lagged and was exhausted.

The next time our paths crossed was very early Spring 2014. We were both invited to a birthday party of a mutual friend. We did not know that people at the birthday party wanted to arrange for us to meet. We casually started talking and he mentioned how he was leaving for Iraq and then Burma in a week. I assumed he was in the military and asked if he was getting deployed, but he told me he worked for World Compassion – Terry Law Ministries. It is a Christian-based ministry and his job as media director takes him all around the world throughout the year. He told me in Burma they have an orphan care program in place and are helping house many orphans through child sponsorships and through building homes.

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What Kevin didn’t know at that time was that my sister started a non-profit with a friend called Project Orphans. Project Orphans raises money to build orphan homes for orphans around the world and provides the orphaned children with family-style orphan care, food, clothing and education. I told him he needed to connect with my sister and have a meeting to talk with her about these things since they are essentially working towards to the same goal and vision to help those less fortunate. Later on in the evening, Kevin asked for my number and we decided we would meet up to collaborate and discuss these bigger issues to best help those in need.

What I thought was going to be more of a business meeting turned into hours of deep conversation and laughter. As we were leaving that night, Kevin asked if he could take me on a date before he leaves for a three-week trip around the world to Iraq, China and Burma. We had a blast on our first date and he texted me the entire time he was overseas. After he returned, we continued to hang out and we have been having the best time together ever since!

How he asked: Kevin proposed on December 26, 2014.

I am from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina visiting extended family the week of Christmas 2014. Kevin was back in Tulsa, Oklahoma spending Christmas with his family. My family planned on leaving Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on December 26th, but my sister, Tiffany, suggested we stay an extra day so we could spend time in Charleston, South Carolina. We made plans to go to a Plantation and then eat at our favorite restaurant in Charleston called Magnolia’s.

Tiffany convinced me that we should go to Middleton Place Plantation and re-take pictures in the same place we previously took pictures when we visited the plantation years before. There wasn’t a thing about her suggestion that seemed suspicious or out of the ordinary. My sister convinced me to shower and do my hair and make up after I told her I didn’t need to be in any pictures. We were running late and she asked me to stall by painting my nails so she could have more time getting ready (literally, the best sister and I fell for everything). That morning, Kevin sent me a text that said: Have the best day in Charleston. So many times when I have been traveling you have prayed that God would surprise me, so I pray that He does the same for you today. I pray you are delightfully surprised! Love you.” That particular text message was similar to a typical message I would’ve received from him.

My family arrived at the Middleton Place. It was a sunny, 70 degree December day. We walked up to the entrance to pay and as we did, a horse drawn carriage was waiting by the entrance.

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I wasn’t paying attention until my mom asked me what the sign said. The sign just said my name, Gentry Smiling, on it. I was very confused why my name was there then the sweet carriage drivers told me to hop in the carriage. There was a handwritten note on the seat of the carriage that was written in Kevin’s handwriting and said the exact same thing he texted me earlier that morning. I was now even more confused at how he cleverly got a note to me in his handwriting to Charleston when I just knew he was spending Christmas in Tulsa. I turned to my left to ask my family what was going on and at that very moment Kevin hopped up in the carriage on my right.

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He was dressed in a suit, had a picnic basket of my favorite snacks and treats, and then had three wrapped Christmas presents. He is so incredibly thoughtful.

At this point, I have never been more surprised and shocked in my life. I couldn’t figure out how my family didn’t tell me he was going to be in Charleston. I kept asking over and over what he was doing in Charleston and how did he get here? Kevin told me since this was our first Christmas together he wanted to make it special and memorable. At that point, I really believed him and thought he was there to spend a day in Charleston with my family and me (I am so trusting).

We continued in the carriage touring Middleton Place. Kevin said he wanted to give me my Christmas presents a day late and the gifts had specific meanings, representing something in the past, something in the present, and something for the future. I opened the first gift representing “the past” and it was a photo album of pictures from all of our dates, events and activities with notes to the side with the date and a detailed description. The second gift was a gift for “the present.” He got me Kate Spade earrings and a J.Crew coat that he wanted me to wear in case I was cold at the plantation on our carriage ride. The carriage then stopped and brought us to a spot near a bench that was surrounded by gorgeous weeping willow trees and looked out onto a large pond. It was absolutely charming. It looked like a scene straight out of a movie. We stepped out the horse drawn carriage and walked over to the bench.

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There, Kevin gave me my third gift for “the future.” I opened it and it was a Bible. Inside of the Bible had a message that included scriptures he prayed over his future wife over the years and the letter ended by saying I was what he had prayed for. That moment was the first time I finally realized he was proposing! He then said the most kind, caring and sincere words then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I couldn’t say yes fast enough!

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Kevin is an incredible planner and hired a Charleston based photographer named Stacy who was secretly photographing the entire proposal. We took pictures together around Middleton Place and took pictures with my family. We then left Middleton Place and went to King Street in Charleston. We noticed the most gorgeous sunset and went down to the pier near Rainbow Row as sailboats went by. We then stopped by a coffee and pastry store to call our family and friends! After we talked to everyone we finally made it to Magnolia’s and had dinner together to celebrate our engagement. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect proposal.

What I didn’t know was that weeks before, Kevin asked my dad for permission to marry me. With that blessing, he had lunch with my brother Bradley to tell him and then had a lunch with my mom and sister to help plan the engagement at Middleton Place. I didn’t realize that there really could be someone who met and exceeded the qualities and characteristics I hoped to one day find in a future husband. I seriously have the best family and fiancé in the world! I can’t thank God enough!
Kevin and I are getting married August 1, 2015 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Photos by Stacy Howell Photography