Rachael and Dominique

How We Met

Nikko and I met during our freshman year of college at San Diego State University. During the first day of the semester, I was sitting in our American Sign Language class when I heard someone whisper, “Psssssss.” I glanced in his direction as he leaned towards me to ask a question. Who would have guessed that the man I will one day marry first words to me were, “Can I borrow a pencil?” We quickly became great friends. We were both in a relationship at the time, so we never expected anything more. Throughout the years we would talk frequently, catch up on campus, and even went on a double date together with our then significant others.

Proposal Ideas Balboa Park - Rose Garden

Nikko played football so I would cheer him on at games each season as our friendship grew. During our junior year of college, Nikko and I were both single at the same time. Prior to that period, we had never viewed each other in a romantic way. We were just really great friends. One day, he invited me to run errands with him between classes to kill time. While we were out, I was talking to him about my desire to rekindle my past relationship, when a random woman approached us and told me that she didn’t know about the ex that I was speaking of, but the man that I should be with was Nikko. Nikko and I looked at each other, laughed at such an absurd thought and explained that we were just friends. 3 years prior, I heard the same thing when I introduced myself to Nikko’s mother as his friend and she quickly told me that I was supposed to be with her son.

Rachael's Proposal in Balboa Park - Rose Garden

He and I both were in relationships at the time so I casually brushed it off and told her we were just good friends. Whether it was Mother’s Intuition, or a lucky guess, it seems that everyone, except ourselves, could see that we were meant to be together. The first big turning point in our relationship was when Nikko helped my Dad plan a surprise party for my 21st birthday. Our feelings quickly grew for one another and we soon became an “official” couple. We’ve been each other’s biggest supporters, having graduated from undergrad at SDSU together, and supporting each other while he was in his Masters Program and I was in law school. We love to travel together and truly enjoy each other’s company. Fast-forward 6 years later…Nikko again planned yet another surprise party with my Dad for my 27th birthday. This time, I was surprised with not only a birthday party, but a surprise proposal as well!

How He Asked

This year my birthday fell on a Wednesday (April 19th.) Nikko was working out of town for the week so he promised to celebrate with me the following weekend (April 22nd.) The weekend before my birthday, he told me I could open a gift early. He gave me a really nice Nikon camera. I never received a camera like that before and love taking candid shots together so I was very excited. The day of my birthday celebration, he told me to dress nicely because we were going out for a romantic dinner and would be out all day and not have time to go home and change. Unbeknownst to me, Nikko had contacted my older sister and asked her to help me get ready that week. Earlier that week, my sister contacted me and said she wanted to help me look beautiful for my “birthday date.” She took me to a salon to get my eyebrows threaded and took me shopping, helping select my dress, shoes, and accessories. Nikko was actually the one who chose my white dress (how appropriate) and sent a picture of how he wanted my sister to style my hair.

The day of my birthday date, we woke up and went to get a couple’s massage. Nikko took my new camera with him because he said he wanted to document my entire birthday. Following the massage, we came home and got dressed for our romantic day. Once I was fully dressed, Nikko looked at me in a way that I have never seen before. He looked in complete awe and told me how beautiful I looked. I’ve never seen so much love and admiration in his eyes and my heart flutters just thinking about it. After the massage, we went to the mall to go shopping and grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant. Even while we were eating, he was clicking away with his camera, making sure to capture each moment. It was awkward, but super cute at how excited he was to spend time with me. After lunch, we went to Balboa Park. I love walking around there and he told me there was a new exhibit at a museum that I would enjoy. I found it odd that he parked at the back entrance of the park instead of our usual spot, but he brushed it off by saying it was closer to where we wanted to go. Once we parked, he grabbed the camera and told me he wanted to take more photos of me because I looked so beautiful. Behind us there was a gorgeous rose garden. He told me to stand in front of the flowers so he could take a picture. Ironically, a few feet away, there was a wedding party taking their wedding photos as well. I had never been to that part of Balboa Park before and he told me to walk further into the rose garden so he could capture more photos.

Once further inside, I saw his grandmother and niece. She enthusiastically wished me a happy birthday and greeted me with a pink heart balloon. Nikko then called his mother and a few seconds later I glanced down the hill as she appeared with our siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, grandmother, godmother, cousins and close family friends. Everyone was holding pink heart balloons and surrounded me with hugs and happy birthday wishes! I was so overjoyed since majority of them live a few hours away and family is so important to us! I felt so loved at that moment. My dad quickly grabbed me and said he wanted to take a picture with me in the center of the garden. As my father and I posed for a photo, Nikko’s sister told us to turn around for better lighting. As we posed, I suddenly heard music playing. Before I could turn around, Nikko tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and he handed me a bouquet of flowers and suddenly dropped to his knee as the music said, “Girl, I’m on my knees saying marry me.”

In that moment, I had tunnel vision; I no longer could hear or see anything around me, except Nikko professing his love. I eagerly said yes and he embraced me with the biggest hug and smile. Following the proposal, everyone returned to my father’s house for a surprise party. More friends and family were waiting and there were two cakes that read “Happy Birthday” and “Congratulations Rachael and Nikko.” It was the best birthday surprise ever!