After writing their dreams and wishes down, Dan and Lauren sent lanterns up into the night’s sky – then Lauren got down on one knee and asked Dan to marry her.
Tell us about your love story, and overcoming coming out to your parents before the proposal.
After an instant connection, the next five and a half years we’ve spent every night in our long-distance relationship talking, sleeping on Facetime, and making weekend trips to see each other, and we couldn’t imagine our lives without each other.
Those five years were also spent “in the closet” with our conservative religious families – but very much out and proud in every other aspect of our lives.
We had very difficult conversations about what our future would and could look like as we knew that we couldn’t truly move forward without coming out to our parents. At times the idea of an engagement felt unattainable; something we both dreamed of but couldn’t possibly make a reality.
With therapy (shout out to mental health professionals) and support from our friends and siblings, we gathered the courage to come out to our parents.
That journey is still a work in progress, but it felt like we were in control of our future for the first time in our relationship.
Tell us more about planning your proposal.
We have made it a top priority to have open and honest conversations from the very beginning. The big things, the little things, the difficult things, and everything in between, so when it came to a proposal, we had already decided that Lauren would be the one to do the initial proposal.
“Keeping the secret from Dan was the most difficult part of the proposal planning. When your partner is your best friend, you want to share all the exciting things that happen in your day with them. I wanted to tell her when I ordered her ring. I wanted to tell her when it was delivered. I wanted to tell her when I bought the tickets to the lantern festival. I wanted to tell her about the surprise engagement party I was planning. I wanted to share the experience with her but knew I couldn’t. It was very hard and at times lonely but it was absolutely worth it in the end.”
Tell us more about your lantern festival proposal.
In late June 2021, Lauren finalized the when, where and how of the proposal!
“Dan LOVES lights. Christmas lights. Lanterns. Twinkly lights. All of it. When she first watched the movie Tangled, she fell in love with the scene where Rapunzel and Flynn were in a boat during a lantern festival and thus, “Operation Tangled” was born.
I knew I was going to propose at a lantern festival and decided to reach out to Leah Miessler, the photographer Dan had been obsessed with on Instagram for months, to capture the moment.
The timing couldn’t have been better as the lantern festival was being held at the end of a very stressful week for both of us so when I asked Dan to spend the weekend with me to celebrate making it through the week, she was excited but she never expected a thing!
I told Dan this weekend was all about being pampered and relaxing, so when she got to Maryland, we got our nails done, got dressed up, went out to lunch and then drove an hour away for a surprise. Dan fell asleep on the drive, like she usually does, and when she woke up, we were in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, at the entrance of the lantern festival.
When Dan saw the festival signs she immediately began to cry as she’s always wanted to go to a lantern festival.
These were the first of many tears that night.
We found our spot, and I left Dan to finish laying the blankets while I collected our lanterns and found Leah to finalize our plan.
When I got back, we began to write all our wishes, loves, hopes and fears on our lanterns as we prepared to release them when the sunset.
30 minutes before the lanterns were set to go up, someone from the group sitting in front of us asked if she could take pictures of us releasing our lantern for her portfolio. Dan smiled and agreed but what she didn’t know was that this kind stranger was actually Leah!
The sun finally sets, the music begins to play, lanterns are released, and the sky looks like something right out of a fairytale. It was magical. We got our lantern ready, and once Dan released it, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me while Leah brilliantly captured it all.
I look back on the pictures from that day and it still doesn’t feel real. It was the most magical moment of our lives and I couldn’t have asked for anything more special. I will cherish these memories and the pictures forever.
Finding an LGBTQ+ friendly photographer was super important to us, so we were on the hunt for a photographer in the DMV area and Leah is a true gem! She made us feel so safe, comfortable, beautiful and magical!
We drove an hour back to my apartment, still on cloud nine from the festival, and just when she thought it was over, Dan walked into a surprise engagement party with our closest friends and her siblings, who both flew in from Boston and New York just to celebrate with us.
As most of Dan’s friends and her parents are either still in Jamaica or weren’t unable to make it to the party, with help from her brother, I was able to make a video with clips of her friends and parents who couldn’t make it to the party sending us both love and congratulations. .
Our community of friends who have become family have been such a big part of our relationship that I couldn’t think of a better way to end to the night than to celebrate with them. The weekend was even more perfect than we could have ever dreamed and we feel so lucky and blessed to have found each other and can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together!
Captured by Leah Miessler Photography