Because I have chosen to.

Everyone, meet my best friend, Brendan Payne. This past Saturday he made me the happiest I’ve ever been by asking me to marry him. I have never felt the Lord’s grace and goodness more than I have in the last year with him, but in that moment it was consuming. Naturally I had my camera with me, so here’s the story of the best day ever!


Yesterday (October 15) was my and Brendan’s one year anniversary, so we thought it’d be fun to celebrate the Saturday before. Brendan typically keeps his date ideas and plans to himself and then gives me clues or riddles throughout the day to figure out where we’re going next. He picked me up at 9:45 AM and after giving me a clue to find Instax film in my dishwasher and telling me to photograph the whole day, we headed out to Chic-fil-a for my favorite breakfast: chicken minis! The next clue, which took me wayyyyy too long to figure out, led us to Anthropologie where I always stop and smell the candles. Like seriously, all the time. He helped me pick out one (pumpkin souffle!) and we were off to our next stop, but not before stopping by a new candy store and buying an enormous gummy bear on a stick. Not as tasty as it sounds. Brendan says it tastes like a rain boot.

In case you’ve never explored the area around Southpoint, I highly recommend it. There are about a dozen or more little pumpkin patches throughout the unexpected countryside nearby. We made our way to Mrs. Ruth’s farm where we conquered hay bales, explored a corn maze, played with little kid games and ate hotdogs. It was delightful and the weather was better than we could have asked. Not a cloud in the sky! And it was the perfect environment for us to act like total kids :)

Below is what’s know as a “hippity hop race.” Clearly I had a hard time excelling at this particular activity.

After our adventures at Mrs. Ruth’s, Brendan’s next clue led us to one of my favorite places in Chapel Hill: YoPo! I knew this was big deal because he is really weird and doesn’t like frozen yogurt. I know, right? They had both my favorite flavors (snickerdoodle and thin mint), so it was quite the tasty treat, and I think Brendan appreciates YoPo much more now. When we finished our snack, I was expecting him to pull out another little slip of paper with the next clue on it, but instead we just walked down Franklin St. towards campus. I kept pestering him about what the next clue was, but he was a vault and just kept saying “Follow me, follow me.” So I consented, and he led us right up to UNC’s Arboretum. As we wandered through I was honestly starting to get really confused. We came out the other side and walked up to the entrance to this vine covered walkway that runs right next to the Arb. Right as you walked in, there was a big sign that said “Emily, I love you because…” and 85 little cards strung from the ceiling.

At this point, I’ll be honest, I had no clue what to think. My first thought was actually “Oh, there must be another Emily nearby!” We made our way through the tunnel, reading from each card. All of them had something that he loved about me written on them.

The cards (close to 100 in total) continued all the way up Cameron Avenue past the Old Well to the bench where we had our first kiss, which was in the rain. I still had didn’t know what was going to happen next!

We sat on the bench for a minute, and I asked about the last card, which said “I have chosen to.” Before Brendan and I ever said “I love you”, we both agreed that love is a choice, not just a feeling. He said that he loves me because he has chosen to. With that, he asked me to stand up, and then I knew what all this was for!

He said that those 100 things were great, but if they all went away, he would still chose to love me for the rest of our lives. He asked me to marry him and really all I could do was collapse! I’m not sure if I actually said yes, but I think it was pretty clear that I was 100000% cool with being his wife.

Then, to make everything even more surprising and exciting, three of our great friends, Jimmy, Caroline and Scott all popped out from various trees and bushes, cell phones in hand. Hence, I have all of this covered from a variety of angles! We had a spontaneous engagement shoot with all the cards and I seriously was not with it! I was pretty much in a dream world for the next few hours and not entirely positive that everything happening around me was actually real. I got surprised every time I looked at my left hand and saw an engagement ring! Here are a few post-proposal pictures, courtesy of the lovely Caroline :)

And I can’t say enough how blessed I am to have had friends be a part of such a great moment. It was awesome.

….. and I got some pretty sweet souvenirs from the day :)

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We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19

Destination Wedding Photographer


East Coast Based. Available Worldwide.


East Coast Based. Available Worldwide

Based in Wilmington, NC

Available worldwide.

We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19

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