Words by Jennifer Edwell
Every relationship is a story. While there is plenty in each story that we can’t control, there are moments when we get to make decisions about the kind of story a relationship will become over time. When it comes to our relationship, April and I both believe this love is our masterpiece.
We met through a mutual friend named Tinder. At the time, I was a graduate student, and April was a medical resident at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. From our very first date, we both knew that this was something special. Although I tried to remain nonchalant, I found myself wondering, “What if?”. Imagine the day you first meet your future wife. What if you knew that she was the one? What would you do?
In these early days, we shared deeply with each other, practising the kind of eager vulnerability that comes easily when you are falling in love. We would stay up late talking and dreaming together, while cautiously reminding ourselves to “be cool” and not rush things too fast.
Six months into our relationship, we had both realised that “this might be it,” although we still hadn’t said it out loud. I knew it was important to start laying a strong foundation, especially if I wanted this story to be truly lasting. So, during winter break, I invited April to visit my home in Ohio. During her trip, I surprised her with a photoshoot. The amazing Megan Leigh Barnard took our pictures in the Short North neighbourhood of Columbus. Like all new relationships, we were dizzy in love.
Several months later, we had a casual conversation about marriage. After I picked out a ring, I coordinated the proposal with a handful of our friends and family. On the day of the proposal, I sent April on a scavenger hunt. Each stop was a location that was important to our relationship: the bar where we first met, our favourite nail salon, a favourite restaurant. Also, at each stop, she met some of her favourite people, who presented her with a gift that included several scrabble tiles. At the last stop, she met a friend from med school and her brother—who had flown in from Chicago to surprise her. With all the scrabble pieces, she had to decipher the final message: “Please come home.”
When April and her brother arrived home, I was waiting in the backyard with my Mum and a photographer. Daniel Keren captured the rest of the evening. I had prepared a speech — a good thing too, because all those emotions make it hard to think straight! Also, April cried through my whole proposal, so she appreciated that she could reread it later. After she said “yes,” and made a quick outfit change, we took some more pictures. Our dog, Colby, even got in on the action.
To be honest, I was pretty stressed all day, worrying about whether the plan would work, and I was grateful my Mum was there to help me keep things together. But once April stepped into the backyard, I knew it had all been worth it! I wanted April to have a proposal story she would be excited to share.
A few months later, on my 29th birthday, April proposed to me. One of my best friends, Kate, from Ohio was visiting, and we had planned a weekend of birthday festivities. April had secretly hired a limousine to drive us to a special birthday dinner at one of our favourite restaurants: Counting House in Durham, NC. The restaurant is inside 21c Museum Hotel, a contemporary art museum in a historical building. When we arrived, we headed to the basement to show Kate the old bank vault.
To my surprise, when we entered the vault, Daniel was there waiting! While he snapped pictures, April got down on one knee and asked me to marry her. Of course, I said yes! Meanwhile, Kate had called my Mum and another best friend to watch the proposal. Although we had technically been engaged for over two months, putting on my ring made it feel so much more real.
People often asked if anything changed in our relationship after we got engaged. “Does it feel different?” For me, it changed a lot. Dating is about getting to know someone, discovering shared interests and trying new things. However, the deeper purpose was to decide if someone would make a good life partner, if they were headed in the same direction and shared my values. While we were dating, April and I asked each other every question we could think of, and we never tried to influence the answer. But after we got engaged, there was a shift from exploring to building on our relationship. We weren’t just talking about our dreams for the future anymore. We were planning it. Together.
And those plans started with a wedding. In the initial planning phase we both picked one thing that was really important to us. April had always dreamed of getting married at her alma mater, Duke University, in the gorgeous Chapel. It was important to me that we hire a photographer who specialised in working with LGBTQ+ couples and families. I had been following Tara Beth Photography on Instagram for quite a while, and I was overjoyed when she agreed to be our wedding photographer.
On our wedding day, we got ready in separate rooms at 21C, the museum hotel from our proposal. For wedding day gifts, we got each other journals, which we thought was beautiful and hilarious. With the help of my Mum, brother, and Kate, we arranged all of our flowers, which we had purchased from a local farm. We wanted to make a point to use as many local, sustainable vendors as possible. We even got to take a few pics in the vault with our bridal parties before we headed to the venue.
April and I decided not to see each other before the ceremony. I know people have lots of opinions about this, but it felt like the right decision for us. Planning a wedding is stressful. But the moment I stepped into the aisle with my Mum and Dad, I felt like I was floating. April was escorted down the aisle by her brother. Watching her walk toward me was one of the most magical moments of my life.
The ceremony was moving, beautiful, and a total blur. Our officiant had invited us to help plan the ceremony. So, I helped write and arrange many aspects, including a short address to the guests and a statement on the gift of marriage. We also wrote our own vows. I quoted the song “Wait for it” from Hamilton.
It went like this—
A great prophet once said:
Love doesn’t discriminate
between the sinners
and the saints,
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep loving anyway.
We laugh and we cry
and we break
and we make our mistakes.
And if there’s a reason I’m by your side…
Well, I’m not really waiting for it. But you better believe I’m going to fight for it.
And just like that, we were married!
We had our reception at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. For décor, we used books (I’m an English PhD student) and science equipment. A close friend (and member of the bridal party) made our stunning cake.
The whole day was amazing and we were surrounded by so much love and support – it was one of many “best days” in our relationship, and we look forward to many more!
Photography Tara Beth Photography