JUNE 2014

I have known Ally all my life.  It was probably up until about a few years ago that I really let it sink in that we aren't actually related.  She has been coming to our family reunions and a part of our family vacations since about as long as I can remember, so you might see where some of the confusion could come in.  When we were kids, Ally seemed so much younger than me--she was kind of the "next generation" under my tier of cousins... But then, that Time thing happened, as it always does--and all of a sudden, we are both adults out in the big world and Ally had met this amazing, loving and incredibly tender southern gent named Clay.  

You could tell immediately that they had this amazingly soft, confident, and respectful love for each other.  He adores her, and she thinks he hangs the moon.  They are both super social, and at a party, they are the couple that can be at opposite ends of the room--in separate conversations--but you can still feel their steady love in the space between them.

I was so honored to be a part of all the scheming and surprises and witness this special proposal.  It was a full-on The Bachelor-style proposal: i.e; roses, petal-scattered walkway, riverside scenery, candles, and photos!  Clay had arranged everything with Ally's parents, and the proposal took place at their house.  To keep Ally off their scent, both Ally's parents and her lifelong sister-friend Kate had made up LIES (hehe, the good kind!) to convince Ally that they would both be out of town.  She knows that Clay would know better than to propose when those two weren't around!  

Clay had set up a nice little dinner in town that evening for the two of them.  He went over to pick her up early and, as he often does--he helped her pick-out her outfit for the evening (I mean--how adorable is that?!).  While they were away at dinner, friends and family gathered at Ally's parents' house as final preparations were being made--framed photos from their years together were arranged along a rose-petal trail, candles were lit, and the lush red roses went on display at the jetty overlooking the river.

And it was time.  

Clay texted that they were on their way!  Everyone filed in to the house, closed the blinds, flipped the lights off, and found the best spot to scope-out the proposal from in-between the shades.

The rest, as you can see, followed as any magical summer's eve should.  Ally about crumbled into Clay's arms when she opened the back gate to the patio and realized what was about to happen.  When she hugged him, her whole body was enveloped in his caring arms the way honey drips from the comb, so sweet and slow.  And she looked so deeply into his eyes with love, joy, and uncontainable excitement, that I was tearing up behind my lens.

After the proposal, I watched Ally--and there was a moment when they began walking back to the house after the flurry of the proposal that Ally was just ever-so-conflicted as to what came next--being the family-centered, down-to-earth, social and loving little butterfly that she is.  And just at that moment--the patio doors swung open, and about 50 of their family and friends came pouring from the double doors on the back patio to congratulate the newly engaged love birds!  

As if a fairy-tale proposal wasn't enough to make her heart explode, she now got to share it in the best of ways with all those she loves most.  I am pretty sure all the young bachelors there were not-so-thankful they brought their ladies to the party because, well--Clay set the bar about as high as it can go that night!

Fist pump, YEW!