For this post, I wanted to take the opportunity to do a little bragging on my future hubby. Because let’s be honest, he is one of the main reasons why I get so excited for other couples. There’s nothing more special than finding your partner in crime and love of your life.
The best part about my relationship with Ryan is that he is my best friend. I know, I know…cliché, but it’s the honest truth. All chemistry, mushy gushy, lovey doviness aside, he is my rock. He’s the one I call at wee hours of the morning when we’re spending nights apart just because I want to hear how his day went; he’s the one I consult when I am in a sticky situation or need some truthful advice; he’s the one I can have dance parties with in the kitchen even though I’m not quite as good of a dancer as Queen B is; and he’s the one who teaches me about new hobbies and experiences, even though I refuse to eat the deer I just watched him kill.
I’m going to give you the short and sweet version of our relationship because prior to our engagement, it did span three years, and my favorite part is when I said “yes” to forever. Ryan and I met over green beer and Red Bull vodkas at Shiloh Bar & Grill (ah yes, the romance!). A few weeks prior to that I had been Ryan’s waitress, but on this particular night we were both hanging out at Shiloh thanks to the bartending shift of our friend Cody. We talked, we laughed and he somehow convinced me to hang out with him and his friends the following day. On our first official date, we went to dinner (he ordered a full bottle of wine….yes, kepper) and we ended the night spontaneously two stepping in the middle of a bar. We spent the next year and a half dating long distance trading off traveling from Dallas to Columbia and then from St. Louis to Columbia when I moved just a little bit closer. And finally, I had the guts to pick up, move to Columbia and pretty much seal the idea that yes, we were meant to be together.
On an annual family trip to Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake (if you haven’t gone, it’s a must!), Ryan and I arrived around midnight after driving in from Columbia. The lodge makes additions and improvements each year and since it was too dark to see anything at that hour, we decided to wake up in the morning and go for a walk around the property.
In the morning, the sun was shining and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t wait to walk around, see the new sites and spend the rest of the afternoon at the lake. Ryan showered, put on a polo and looked much more presentable that I ever would have for a day at the lake (Hint, hint, Kristi! How did I not pick up on this?) So in true Kristi fashion, I threw on my swimsuit, jean cut offs, a kimono and threw my unwashed hair into a messy bun. And conveniently, I hadn’t had time to get my nails done prior to the trip. We walked hand in hand down the trail, and when he suggested we walk up the hill through sopping grass that was wet from the night before, I thought he was crazy. But because I always do, I trusted him and followed behind. We made our way to the top of the hill where a precious little white chapel is perched. Now keep in mind, we had been to Big Cedar before and this chapel is NEVER open. I always peek through the windows and take in the simplistic yet quaint architecture of the chapel. Just as I was raving about photos I had seen on Facebook posted by a friend who had been in a wedding that took place in the chapel, Ryan reached toward the door handle, which turned and opened the chapel door.
Now this was not planned whatsoever. Butch, Ryan’s dad, tried to take credit for “having the lodge unlock the doors for us,” but this was pure luck on Ryan’s part. As the two of us stood looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows, Ryan was asking me about what I was going to wear for family photos that were planned to take place later that week. I was mumbling about how I wasn’t really sure and how it was still stressing me out since I wasn’t technically part of the family yet, he said, “How about this?” I spun around to see him down on one knee with a ring box opened in his hands.
I was in complete and utter shock. Had I thought that it might happen sometime that week? Absolutely. But, I was definitely not prepared for it that soon. I am not sure if I said yes or shook my head, but I just remember that my body was shaking. So many emotions were flooding through me. And the best part of it all is not the sweet way he asked me or the beautiful back drop of the proposal. It’s that each year as we continue this family trip tradition with our family, we will be able to show our kids exactly where our family started.