Erin and Matthew

Proposal Ideas National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C.

How We Met

Matthew and I met in graduate school. We were in the same program but he was a year ahead of me. He was also student ambassador and came to welcome the incoming class during new student orientation. Matthew walked into the auditorium and I could not take my eyes off of him. It was as if we knew each other in a past life. I hadn’t spoken one word to him but I knew that was the man I would married. I went home that weekend and told my family I met my husband.

Well, fast forward to the fall semester where we had class together, but we barely spoke to each other. I jokingly thought to myself, ‘well, maybe my calculations were off!” Fortunately, at the end of the semester Matthew and I both went out to celebrate a mutual friends birthday. I don’t know if it was feelings of a school girl crush feelings or the relief of my first semester of grad school being over, but Matthew and I finally got a chance to connect on a new level.

Over winter break, while he was home in Phoenix and I was visiting my sister in New York, Matthew reached out to me and suggested we grab drinks once we were both back in town. Obviously, I did not hesitate to take him up on that offer. Our first date was a cold Chicago winter night at a bar close to campus. It was on this first date that we found out our moms went to the same all-girls school in Philadelphia. I grew up in Chicago, Matthew grew up in Phoenix, what are the odds are moms are from Philly AND went to the same high school? Something about that coincidence confirmed my sneaking suspicion that Matthew was in fact my husband!

But it was our second date when I truly felt I had fallen in love with him. Matthew suggested we go on a drive. I was confused because I had never just gone on a drive with someone, but excited to spend time with him I took him up on his offer. Matthew moved to Chicago for grad school and didn’t have a car, so I swooped him up and around we rode. It was his first time getting to see other parts of Chicago and it was my first time going on a drive as a date. At one point during our drive, Matthew asked if I could sing. I cannot. So naturally he requested we sing the next song that came on. I kid you not, the very next song to play was Al Green ‘Let’s Stay Together’. Agreeing to his request, we both start belting out, ‘I..I’m so in love with youuu. Whatever you want to do, is all right with meeee!” It was beyond serendipitous! Both of us loved every second of that date. We talked about everything from mentors to our love for the Obamas. We even finished the date by riding past the Obamas Hyde Park Chicago home. Even though we didn’t have class together that semester, we managed to bond over empanadas every Friday and any other time we could manage to see each other. Matthew graduated that semester and on the first day of his new job, (also the same day the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and his favorite uncle’s birthday), June 15th, 2015 Matthew officially asked me to be his girlfriend.

Obviously, I didn’t hesitate to say yes and promptly invited him over for Father’s Day dinner to meet my family. My family loved him. My father even pulled me to the side to tell me how much his liked Matthew and that never happens! That summer I went to Phoenix with Matthew to meet his family and they were so loving and kind to me. I could not have asked for a more beautiful, complementary love. I’m still convinced that we knew each other in past life and will continue to find each other in every lifetime to come.

Erin Carmella and Matthew William's Engagement in National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington D.C.

How He Asked

As previously mentioned, Matthew and I have a shared love for the Obamas. He even refers to me, a girl of the South Side of Chicago, as his Michelle Obama. In 2016, we visited Washington D.C. for the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where President Obama was giving a welcoming address. However, there was such a large attendance that we were unable to actually get into the museum so we made a promise that we would come back a year later when it wasn’t as crowded and bring our families with us. We return to Chicago and Matthew mentions to a coworker that it would have been a good weekend to propose. This same coworker tells his friend, who happened to be a White House staffer at the time, about us visiting the museum and wanting to get engaged. The White House staffer shares this with President Obama, who then writes us a letter congratulating us on our our engagement!!

Still not engaged, Matthew goes to work one day to find out he has just received a letter from the President himself. Matthew sends the letter home to Phoenix for safe keeping and starts planning for our proposal almost a year in advance. His mom got our tickets to the museum in January, Matthew asked my parents for their blessing in February, shopped for a ring with my sister in June and blew my mind in August!

On August 25th, 2017 Matthew, I, and our immediate family leave our D.C. hotel and head to the museum. I felt jitters that day but because I was anxious to check out the museum. If you haven’t been, I strongly encourage you to go. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a beautiful, intense, emotional roller coaster. At some point during the museum tour, Matthew specifically calls attention to a different letter from President Obama, with special attention to his signature. I thought that was a bit odd at the time but still not obvious to me. Knowing it could be a lot to process, the organizers of the museum inserted a serenity room with a tranquil waterfall.

After finishing the tour of the museum, Matthew suggests we all pop in the serenity room for a moment. It was in there that my sister hands me a letter and tells me to read it. At this moment, all of our family members begin to form a semi-circle around us and pull out their phones. My antenna’s were on high alert at this point! I start reading this letter. I see it’s from the White House and it’s dated for November 2016. I’m completely confused at this point. Then the first line of the letter is congratulating Matthew on his engagement.

At this point, I see Matthew drop down to one knee and I can no longer focus on this unbelievable letter. Matthew asked me to marry him with our families present, a letter from President Obama, and a tour of this incredible museum. I could barely get my ‘yes!’ out, I was crying so hard. His brother flew from Geneva, Switzerland and recorded every second of the wedding proposal. Later that night his parents threw us an engagement dinner at the Mayflower D.C., where we were staying. The level of planning, preparation, love, and thoughtfulness put into asking me to marry him left me speechless. Not that I had before, but if I ever wondered how much he knows me and loves me, it was painted so clearly that day.

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Special Thanks

Jen Jinkens Photography
Photographer