Note: A version of this story was previously published on For Your Marriage
Brooke and Tim met in 8th grade and became fast friends, but didn't begin dating until their junior year of high school. Unbeknownst to Brooke, Tim had liked her since their first meeting in middle school, but Brooke was hesitant to start a relationship and ruin the friendship. "While that fear weighed on one part of my heart," Brooke recalls, "another, and stronger, part of my heart told me that if Timmy and I ever started dating, we'd never stop. That would be it, we would spend the rest of our lives together. As amazing and accurate as that intuition was, it scared 16-year-old me. Was I ready to start my journey with the person I would spend the rest of my life with? Then, one night we were talking about our futures and the kind of people we thought we'd eventually marry, and it suddenly dawned on me that Timmy was that person that I saw by my side at every stage of my life. We had our first date a week later, and the rest is history. "
In Brooke's words: We knew by our one year anniversary that God was undoubtedly calling us to marry one another. The next four years though consisted of us going to different colleges, learning how cultivate our relationship even though we saw each other only once or twice a month, and allowing God to shape us into radically different people than we were when we became best friends at 13. Over those years, even as God worked in our hearts to make us more into the man and woman He has destined us to be, we grew closer and deeper in love. Developing a shared spiritual and prayer life was a major area of growth during this time, though the distance made it hard - a major focus of our prayer life has always been the love Christ showed for His Bride on the Cross. It is that sacrificial, self-denying, and painful yet beautiful love that carried our relationship through its college years.
It was so fitting, then, that it was the Good Friday (which was also the Feast of the Annunciation!) of our senior year when Timmy dropped to one knee and asked me to be his bride. We started off Good Friday with a tradition that we've been doing for a number of years now - praying the Stations of the Cross for Married Couples and Families. While we obviously knew that we were neither of those things, that is the vocation we were preparing our hearts for, and so the prayers were helpful to us in understanding what the true call of the cross is. After praying the stations we went to Good Friday Liturgy, followed by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
As we were walking back to my Residence Hall Timmy asked if I wanted to go pray in our favorite chapel in The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception- the Mary, Queen of All Hearts Chapel, which is dedicated to St. Louis de Montfort and his Marian Consecration. We've prayed here many times throughout our years in college and Marian Consecration has played a huge role in our relationship- and so, I thought, what a perfect spot that would be for him to ask me to marry him...after getting my hopes up I came to realize that I was wrong, and Timmy would not be proposing there.
We walked out of the Basilica and I was almost in tears when Timmy said, "Hey you wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms right? Lets go say a Rosary in Mary's Garden later." We ended up going at sunset and as we walked into Mary's Garden I saw framed pictures of us from every year that we have been in each other's lives set up all around the garden, each with a rose in front of it. At the far end, in front of the statue of Mary, was an empty picture frame with a bouquet of roses before it.
Timmy led me to the statue of Mary, turned me to face him, smiled, and said "Brooke Alexis Paris, you've been the perfect sister to me, will you be my bride?" The sweetest nod there ever was to the Song of Songs, which we've prayed over many, many times throughout our relationship. He then got down on one knee and presented me with a ring. I kissed him, said yes and then shouted "We're engaged!"
One of my best friends, a few of his, and his sister, who had been hiding in the bushes appeared at that point, as well as two professional photographers who had stumbled upon Timmy's friends setting up the photos and asked if they could shoot our proposal (for free!). God's providence is amazing, y'all. Looking back on it, his proposal was perfect. We spent the whole day in prayer, engaging in spiritual traditions that we're so important to our relationship, and turning our hearts towards the sacrificial love of Christ that we have now promised to embody for each other for the rest of our lives. We set our wedding date for June 30, 2017 and cannot wait to enter into the Sacrament!
A bit about our engagement photos: We did our engagement session in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Even though I live in DC right now, we're both born and bred Virginians and so we had to cross over into VA territory to capture these beautiful photos. We absolutely adore Old Town and have celebrated many anniversaries and other occasions in the heart of the Old Town cobblestone streets.
The session felt like taking a casual stroll in Old Town while taking in the gorgeous fall weather that we were blessed with that day. Before the session we sat down in a gelato shop to talk about some of the things we're looking forward to and what matters most to us about our wedding day. It was such a great opportunity to let our photographers know where our hearts were at and to communicate to them how strongly we feel about our Wedding Liturgy being the highlight of our day. We were also able to brainstorm some ways to make our wedding day timeline the best for us as the bride and groom but also the best for all of our guests, who we are so excited to spend the most time possible with!
Brooke's advice for engaged couples: Balancing planning a wedding with preparing for marriage is no easy task! It is so easy to get caught up in tablecloths, center pieces and cake flavors (or in our case, pie!). For us, spreading out planning our wedding liturgy and our marriage prep sessions over the course of our engagement has helped us balance the wedding details with readying our hearts for the sacrament. One week we'll be focused on place-card settings and then the next we're focused on choosing a prayer for a particular part of the Mass. It has been so fun jumping back and forth!