How we met:
KJ: It was the Fall of 2009 and I had just started my junior year at James Madison University. I began to lead a small group of freshmen guys through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and one of my best friends Charity had started leading one for freshmen girls. It was during the New Student Retreat that my guys and I performed a skit to mock the stereotypes of freshmen life. As Charity and her group of girls made their way on to the stage, I saw Emma for the first time. I thought she looked so cute in her yellow JMU sweatshirt and even remember thinking to myself, “One day I’m going to marry that girl.” But…seeing as I was a junior and she was a freshman, I dismissed the thought and kept my distance for a while, but I never forgot seeing her that night.
Emma: When Charity told me that she had a friend interested in “the girl with the yellow sweatshirt”, I hid it in my closet for weeks. Who was that guy? Eventually, I loosened up and when KJ asked me to lunch, I agreed. We talked for hours, but barely ate a thing. From there, we had many more lunches, studied together, talked on the phone for hours, and began dating that summer.
How KJ proposed:
KJ: To tell you how I proposed, I have to go back a ways in our relationship to 2010. About two days before Christmas, I decided I would write her a story about our relationship up until that point. I titled this book The Adventures of the Bird and the Worm, and it featured a bird and a worm who immediately became friends after meeting in the forest. The story follows the two friends as they encounter a boy and a girl who are falling in love with each other, and the bird and worm end up joining them on their adventures together. I used a basic set of Crayola markers to draw my outfit, and for Emma’s, I drew her in a simple pink and white dress with pink daisies on it. Not only do all the lines rhyme, but I also illustrated each picture to go along with it. The adventures of the boy and girl were actual experiences Emma and I shared together, joined by the bird and the worm.
A little over a year ago, I had the idea to bring the story to life. I began my search for the fabric that I would get made into the pink sundress her character wears in the book. Once I found it, I ordered it and met with a friend of Emma’s who could sew it for me. She gave me a few patterns and I chose the one that most resembled my imagination. I wrote an entirely new story about the adventures we’ve had since the last book…
Emma: It was a Monday. I went into my boss’ office for our weekly meeting and she told me that she needed me to drive to Richmond to pick up a package. Strange, I thought, but ok. I’m still new here so I’ll practically do anything you want me to. I drove down to Richmond and as I approached the office door, still not knowing why I was there or who I was meeting, I heard someone call my name. I turned around to see that it was Chad, KJ’s friend. When he told me to follow him, I looked at him strangely, but agreed. I guess you could say I’m easily convinced. On the way back to the car, I caught our friends Sam and Jordan filming me from their car. I knew something was up, but I didn’t quite know what I was in for. When we arrived at Chad’s house, I was greeted by a bright blue box. Inside was a white sundress with pink daisies on it that looked all too familiar. I put it on and it fit perfectly…like it was made for me (It was! By my very talented friend Shea). “We are going on a trip”, they told me. We drove for what seemed like forever, (I was later told it was only an hour) and we arrived at a house on the lake. When I arrived, I walked down the driveway to find various items that KJ held onto throughout the course of our relationship—the yellow sweatshirt and receipt from our first date among others. At the very last station, I found the new book KJ wrote and began to read it.
KJ: I kid you not…it had been raining the entire week up until this day. I purposely waited until she drove up to the location to draw in the sky on the final page so that it would be 100% true to real life. I decided to draw a grey sky with clouds, but as she stepped out of the car the clouds broke and the sun was shining unbelievably bright. While still in my hiding place, I drew an orange sun peeking out from behind the clouds. As she read the final page, I dropped down to one knee and proposed to her exactly how the character in the story did. When she said yes, I pointed to the picture on the final page, and off to the distance the bird and the worm were right there watching us in the grass.
Emma: We decided to celebrate by having dinner together, just us two. We contemplated how to tell family and friends, and decided to make the calls on the way home. However, when we drove by Chad and Ali’s to pick up my car, I noticed my Mom’s car outside. I gave KJ a look and he told me that he just invited my parents over. When we walked inside, I was completely taken aback to see not just our families, but many of our dearest friends there to celebrate with us. It was an absolutely perfect day and I’m so grateful that so many were able to share in such a special day for us.
Our wedding venue
KJ and I were married at the beautiful Monumental Church in Richmond, Virginia. It was designed in 1814 by Robert Mills, America’s first native-born architect and Thomas Jefferson’s only apprentice. It is unique for many reasons – It’s Greek revival architecture, turquoise Delorme dome, and Prussian blue altar to name a few. We chose this historic landmark because we knew that it’s perfect simple elegance would create the perfect romantic setting for our ceremony.
What was your favorite part of the day?
Just one (of many) favorite moments of the day was our first look as KJ was waiting at the top of this beautiful staircase to meet me. The anticipation I felt while climbing up the stairs was incredible – I could sense all these feelings and emotions I felt over the past few years just welling up inside me. I had to stop and take a deep breath before going all the way up! Seeing him waiting for me was one of the best feelings ever – pure joy and thankfulness.
Is there anything you can point out about your pictures that we might not have noticed?
The photo of KJ holding black, leather-bound journals: Beginning January 14th, 2010, KJ wrote a letter to his future bride on the 14th of every month. He gifted the journals to me at breakfast on the second day of our honeymoon, July 14th 2014. I may have cried in the middle of the restaurant. I love getting to read them aloud to KJ.
Arriving at the altar with my father to see KJ wiping away his tears – I really had to hold it together (so did everyone else from what I hear!) The look on his face is something I’ll never forget and I’m so happy Ali captured such a beautiful moment.
I found my gown when I stumbled across a photo online! I HAD to see in person so I drove all the way up to Maryland to a small bridesmaid’s boutique. I tried on only 3 other gowns (all Saja!) and knew I had found the perfect dress for me!