Natalie and Bradley
How We Met
Christmas day, 2016: The day my life changed forever. I was on my yearly Christmas trip to visit my grandparents in Florida, something I’ve always done since I’ve been a toddler. Brad was visiting his family which had just coincidentally bought a house next to my grandparents, his parents were so new to the area that they didn’t know my grandparents yet. After a long day of spending time with our families, we met at the World of Beer located in a large retirement community officially known as “The Villages.”
It would be an understatement to say that there was an instant connection. As Brad and I began to talk, I couldn’t help but notice that our families were connecting just as well with each other. What started as quick dinner plans with my parents and grandparents turned into one of the most memorable days of my life. Brad and I knew from the moment we started talking that we were going to spend forever together. After being inseparable for a few days, Brad had to return to South Dakota for his active duty Air Force job. Fast forward to moving to South Dakota, one middle east deployment, 440 days, and a lifetime of love to: Saturday, March 10th, 2018: my 23rd birthday.
How He Asked
Unbeknownst to me, Brad had already asked my parents for my hand in marriage a few weeks prior when we were at their house in Wisconsin. He has always been quite the planner and often doesn’t talk about our plans before we go and do anything. This is what made his proposal so difficult to see coming, he treats every day like it is my birthday. He had been working with a few of my close friends to make sure he got the perfect ring and that my nails were done prior to asking the big question.
The day started off by me using my gift card to a nail salon that Brad had arranged for my best friend to get me for my birthday. After getting my nails done, Brad told me to dress nicer and be ready for cold weather because the restaurant “will be a long walk.” Being in South Dakota, we usually don’t have to park very far from anything we are going to so I was a little confused as to what he had planned. But to be honest, he has made odd dress requests before we go somewhere and it makes sense once we’re there so I trusted that this was just going to be a nice restaurant.
Let me note: the weather on my birthday is always awful, and this year was no different. In good South Dakota fashion, we zipped our coats up high and headed out. We drove 45 minutes to the Badlands National Park where Brad said we were “running early for our reservation” so we were going to take the scenic route on the way. While we were in the park, he pulled off at a scenic overlook and said, “let’s go take a picture.” At this point, the wind was rocking his now parked truck back and forth, it was some of the coldest weather we had in months. To say that I was opposed to getting out of the truck would be an understatement, but Brad insisted that I get out for “just a quick picture.” But I had just done all of my hair and makeup for this nice restaurant, why would I get out?
Eventually… I got out of the truck and walked with Brad down the stairs towards the edge of the cliff. At this point, he pulled an orange piece of paper out of his pocket. I had made little notes of things I was thinking about while he was gone on his deployment, this note was just one of the many that he happened to actually pull out of the jar that morning while I was getting ready. The note read: “I want to spend an eternity with you.” It was after he pulled this out of his pocket, I forgot about the weather, my now messy hair, or the fact that we were actually 50 miles from the nearest restaurant.
As he went on about his love for me and the future he wants to build, I truly couldn’t believe this moment was here. I knew it was going to be amazing when he asked me for forever, but I truly didn’t know it was going to be this sweet. To make this even better, Brad had arranged for a professional photographer to be hiding out to capture our special moment in time (because of course he did). After many hugs, kisses, and tears, we jumped back in the truck and enjoyed the night telling all of our family and friends the great news, oh and we did end up getting food too.
Life is unpredictable, we found each other in a time when we least expected it. Brad deployed when we least expected it. He became my fiancé when I least expected it. The best things in life are worth waiting for, and I’m nothing but happy to see what transpires.