McKenna and Rachel have gone through it all; coming out, long-distance romance, and personal growth. But, on the top of a mountain, Rachel asked McKenna to marry her.
How did the love story of McKenna and Rachel begin?
It will be three years in April! We actually met on Tinder in February 2018. McKenna was living in Dallas, and I was living in Austin, but a long layover in the DFW airport had me swiping. Not long after that, I told her I would be in Dallas for a friend’s birthday party (I lied) and would like to meet up. She agreed, and I drove three hours to Dallas for our first date. The rest is history!
There’s no doubt in my mind – McKenna is the one. Over the last couple of years, we have tackled a lot together. A coming out (McKenna’s), long-distance, a couple of career changes (for both of us), getting our first apartment together, and so much personal and spiritual growth.
Tell us about the planning process for the proposal.
We had discussed our future, so McKenna knew that an engagement was pending, but I tried to keep the planning process for the proposal as quiet as possible. She worked a lot of night shifts over the summer leading up to it, so I did most of my planning while she was at work and hid the ring.
When I started planning what a proposal could look like. I knew I wanted to do a memorable trip. But there were more than a few factors to consider.
As a health care provider, McKenna’s work schedule can be challenging to plan around. It was 2020, and COVID-19 had drastically limited the places we could go and safely socially distance, and we both just absolutely love national parks. So I needed to find one somewhat close to an airport, but neither of us had visited before.
We found a long weekend that would work with our schedules and decided to spend it hiking at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Neither of us had been before, so I still wasn’t 100% sure when and where I would pop the question. But after scouring the corners of the internet (and Instagram) for LGBT+ friendly photographers, I found Emily. And wow, am I glad I did. Emily was incredible to work with. From helping me find the most perfect, private spot to propose (and dropping a Google pin for me so I could find it). To hiding behind some shrubbery so she could capture our special moment (but not tip McKenna off). I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with.
Now you’re engaged, what’s changed in your relationship?
For us, the engagement is just the next step in what we know will be a lifetime of adventures and growth together. We’re excited about the upcoming wedding but are really just enjoying this stage as a couple. The most significant change is that we both have rings on our fingers, and McKenna can correct me if I slip up and call her my girlfriend.
The correct term is now fiancée!
How is wedding planning going? What do you hope for your wedding to be like?
We’ve just started looking into venues and vendors, but we’re both in agreement that the essential part of the wedding for us is that we’re surrounded by the people who love us most. We have a fun group of friends and family, so we know it’s going to be a good time – and neither of us would be surprised if both Rocky Top and the Aggie War Hymn are played before the night’s over.
For inspiration, we are using Instagram! Resources like Dancing With Her have been critical to our planning process. Both in inspiring us and finding potential venues and vendors who are LGBTQ+ affirming.
Give us a little parting advice.
I don’t think either of us ever truly believed that we would ever find a love like this. And, even if we did, we wouldn’t have the freedom or the strength to build a life like this. But we’re so incredibly thankful that God brought us into each other’s lives and know we’re better because of it.
We’re grateful that Emily was able to capture the love we share on camera – highlighting the deep commitment we have to each other and an eternal optimism about what lies ahead. It’s a memory we’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Photography by Emily Klarer