Laura and Ryan

Laura and Ryan_1

How We Met

We met when I decided to take an internship at a local zoo that was five minutes from my parents’ house, the summer after my sophomore year of college. My friend, who was in veterinary school, was also interning at the zoo that summer, and convinced me to do it with her. Despite being a music and psychology major, and not being able to see any reason why interning at a zoo would help me in my future career endeavors, I agreed. What I did not realize was that I was about to meet the man who would go on to become my soulmate, and who, at the time was a zookeeper at the zoo.

Laura and Ryan_2

How He Asked

Our proposal story is not like many you probably receive on this site. There were no videographers, no flash mobs, no banners being flown through the sky by privately-contracted jets…I’ll admit, the humble, somewhat disorganized nature of our proposal and my less-than-conventional response haunted me, resulting in months of wishing we could do it over, go back, and have the moment I had been picturing for seven years. Of hoping no one would ask “how it happened” so I wouldn’t have to struggle to describe the story in a way that didn’t make them question whether or not I was truly happy about it. But, alas, no such do-over was possible.

However, throughout this whole wedding-planning process, during the countless hours spent at craft stores debating the pros and cons of variously tinted plates, clothespin sizes, and frame designs, through all the late-night assembling of various decorations and gifts, and the few and far between contented moments of downtime during which we bounced ideas and hopes of how our special day will go, I have come to make peace with our (in my mind) less-than-perfect proposal. I have realized that sites such as this one, despite being a creative outlet for giddy brides to spread the word to the entire world how her fiancé bombarded her with a barbershop quartet with flashing neon lights on top of a mountain or other such elaborate setup, also tend to foster (likely unintended) hugely false and unrealistic expectations of what a proposal should actually be. I, unfortunately, fed into the notion that the moment the person I had dated for seven years asked me to be with him forever should be some over-the-top, painstakingly thought out design. What I failed to consider, however, was that this design is totally not my fiancé. While there are definitely several instances scattered throughout our relationship when he did catch me off guard with some unexpected, romantic and amazingly thoughtful gesture – namely the time he drove out of state to buy me a necklace I had mentioned I liked when we were on vacation together months before, or the new digital camera he bought me when mine broke a week before a special event – the moment he asked me to marry him was much truer to the essence of who he is and what our relationship stands for – honest, real, down to earth, and loving.

You see, my fiancé proposed marriage in the least expected setting imaginable. At the time, we had recently found ourselves homeless after living through months of turmoil and arguments with the family members from whom we had been renting. We were forced, as a family of four, to move in with my parents for nearly three months – an acceptable, albeit stressful and crowded solution. The resultant situation meant a longer commute, even more family arguments, and never enough hours in the day for two individuals to work full time jobs, raise two children, and have any time left over to nurture their relationship. As such, I admittedly became frustrated, and because I felt like I needed someone or something to blame for our lowly situation, my fiancé became that target for blame. While I was having difficulty mustering up any desire to put time or energy into our already (what I believed) strained relationship, it was during this time that my fiancé decided he wanted to marry me. He was able to see beyond my hard, cold, and often annoyed exterior to remember the person I had even forgotten that I was. And it was that person, the one he knew I still was despite months of unimaginable stress and bitterness, that he still believed in and wanted to marry.

Very few people have the opportunity before they get married to see whether or not their partner will always want to be with them through every mood, every trial in life, and through every conflict. In our case, my fiancé proposed to me during one of the most difficult times in our relationship, during one of my most unreasonable, coldest moods, and at a time when I considered myself to be in one of my most unlovable stages – it was in that moment that he couldn’t possibly wait to commit to spend the rest of our lives together, in that moment he loved me enough to prove to me that absolutely nothing – lack of a place to live, other people’s negative opinions of our relationship, unimaginable job and financial stress, or the grumpiness and selfishness that results from weeks of night with too-little sleep – nothing was ever going to lessen his desire to be with me or to want to navigate life’s twists, turns and storms together. And that is why I now know that our proposal story was perfect. It was real, emotional, sincere, and the true essence of what love should be – free of judgment, pure and rock-solid. And that is why I know, beyond any doubt, on the eve of our wedding, that our marriage will last a lifetime – not because it started with pomp, circumstance, and flash mobs or surprise photo shoots and billboards, but because it is truly based on what real marriage stands for.