J&A: Our Story
how we met
I first saw James when I visited his company to give my annual presentation on one of our Leadership Programs at the Chamber. When I got to the back of the room, I noticed a handsome guy "pretending" to work on his computer while kinda staring at me and, of course, had to make an introduction. When we made eye contact, I made my move and started chatting with him about who knows what (surprise, surprise). After I presented, his boss asked him to walk me out and as we approached the door he said "hopefully I'll see you around this summer" and we shook hands then I walked out. I immediately texted my best friend telling her about this guy, James Bailey, that I just met and how bummed I was that he didn't ask me out.
Fast forward to three months later, I was scrolling Bumble and saw his profile pop-up on my screen (because who could miss that eyebrow I love so much)? I immediately thought to myself, "I can't believe he's single and didn't ask me out when we met!" I jumped on Facebook and noticed we had a few friends in common so I messaged him and asked him out to drinks. He responded with a "Yes, I'd love to!" We met for drinks three days later at Savory Grain, right down the street from our current house, and we stayed at the bar all night talking until they kicked us out. From that night, we've been inseparable and he's been the best thing that's ever happened to me. I'm SO glad I made the first move on July 9th, 2016.
james' (much longer) version:
I remember the day we met like it was yesterday.
Every May my company has a big orientation day for our new summer interns. My department runs the internship program so naturally it's all hands on deck. It had been a long day of activities and presentations and now it was getting towards the end. I was sitting in the back of the room trying to catch up on email while the last few presenters spoke to the incoming class of interns.
In walks Austin. She immediately caught my eye. I knew most, if not all, of the people who had presented that day but this was the first time I had ever seen her. She was gorgeous. I shut my laptop and acted like I wasnt busy. She sat at a table in the back next to mine and I tried not to be obvious while trying to catch her eye. I smiled at her and played it cool. She asked "Are you presenting next?" and the flood gates of conversation opened. We chatted back and forth for a few minutes about where we went to school and what we loved about RVA until it was her turn to present to our interns. She got up to present and I immediately texted my friends about this amazing woman I had just met.
She finished presenting and needed to be escorted out of the building because my company is very security conscious. Well, my boss at the time must have seen us chatting and asked me if I would escort her out, to which I replied "absolutely, I will!". We chatted some more as we walked and I kept debating with myself on whether or not I should ask her for her number. Ultimately, I figured this beautiful woman must have a boyfriend, and certainly doesn't want to get hit on in a professional environment. I opted to subtly show my interest by asking her if she goes to any of the intern events and said that maybe I'll see you around this summer. That was that. Until one summer day in July.
It was a Saturday, I think, and I was with those same friends I had texted about Austin the day we met. It was hot outside and we were looking for something to do inside, so bowling it was. We were getting ready to start our first game and as I was waiting for them to finish putting on their shoes I checked out Facebook. I noticed a notification that I had missed and found a message request. It was her. I immediately jumped up and showed my friends. Its her! That girl I told y'all about! She asked if I was interested in grabbing a drink. I looked at the message again. She had sent it 3 days prior. I thought for sure she would think I was playing some game and not responding even though that wasn't my style - I truly hadn't seen the message request because Facebook puts those in a different place if you aren't already connected. I wrote back and said I would love to. We texted back and forth and set Wednesday of the following week. I told her I'd pick a place and let her know.
I picked Savory Grain. A quaint little restaurant on Broad Street. She had indicated that she was a bit of a foodie and would know immediately if this would work by the place I picked so the pressure was on. I guess I did alright! We sat at the bar and talked. And talked. And talked. It was so easy and the conversation just flowed. We had a lot of common interests and lots of laughs. She had this contagious smile that I just couldn't get over. We ended up as the last 2 customers in the place. At that point we asked the bartender what time they closed. He said "eh kind of whenever you two are done, but no rush! Hang out, I've got a lot of things to do around here!" We figured since it had been almost 4 hours we should probably call it an evening.
We finished our drinks and I walked her to her car. I told her what a great night I had and hoped to see her again soon. We briefly talked about our plans for the weekend and said we might try to meet up. And we did meet up, that Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the evening together.
Ever since then we've been pretty much inseparable. I couldn't be happier to make it official and spend the rest of my life with that beautiful girl with the contagious smile that I just couldn't stop staring at in the back of the room one afternoon in May.
before the engagement
Let's take it back to a few months before the proposal. As we all know, there's an age where you start to feel the pressure to find "the one" and begin to settle down. So I promised myself I'd never be that person that pressured J about an engagement or marriage because I've always believed that everything happens for a reason on a timeline that shouldn't exist. Well a few months before we got engaged, we went to a friend's going away party and as we picked up my best friend, she shared with us that she was pregnant! Of course I was SO happy for her and her hubby... it was such a good moment. When we got to the event, my other good friend pulled me aside to share that she was pregnant too (this is a true story). Again, I was so happy for her and her husband but for some reason I felt behind or a sense of envy. After that, another friend showed up engaged and another one almost about to have her first little one.
To be honest, I felt a little overwhelmed with emotions for so many different reasons. But I made sure to enjoy the afternoon as we talked about babies, weddings and things I couldn't yet relate to. When I made it home, I walked into the house and immediately started crying. I couldn't pinpoint if it was because I felt jealous or because I knew we were all growing up and it wouldn't be the same. Either way, James walked over and hugged me while I cried. He grabbed my face and kissed me then said "you know I'm going to ask you to marry me, right?"
My heart skipped a beat. This was the first time we'd ever really said the words out loud and I think it was the first time I really knew that we were ready. I knew James was the one for so long by this point... we lived together and had created a beautiful life full of so many memories. I just never wanted to put pressure on him so I never talked openly about a timeline for marriage because I just figured it would happen when it was supposed to happen. It wasn't until all those emotions that day that I knew I was really ready to spend the rest of my life with him and to begin the next chapter. I can't explain the feeling other than everything felt right and I was eager to move forward.
Little did I know, James had already scheduled time with my Father and my Step-Dad to ask them for my hand in marriage. He had already been looking at rings and had designed the one of my dreams. It's so crazy how love works and how two people can be on the same page without even discussing it. I'm so grateful he felt the same way.
***DISCLAIMER: This story is very dreamy but to be very clear, our life is far from perfect. We've had our ups and downs, just like any relationship, but we've always been committed to the bigger picture. Like with all social media, you are seeing the best highlight reels of my life. Don't get me wrong, we are extremely happy, but no one is perfect and every love story is different, and unique, in it's own.
J told me to reserve Saturday, July 7th on my calendar for a fun date day. This wasn't out of the norm as he frequently surprised me with dates without filling me in with the plans. We woke up like any normal day and took the dogs on a long walk. The weather was PERFECT. It was the coolest day of the summer and the breeze made it feel like Fall. After walking the dogs, he drove me to the farmers market (my favorite Saturday spot) to find all our produce for the week. We walked around, explored all the vendors and even ran into some of my best friends (I later found out that J was rushing to hurry away from them because he was worried someone would ruin the surprise that was coming my way).
After that, we went back to the house and James told me to stay in my workout attire because we were heading to a casual lunch. He pulled out a picnic basket full of food he had prepared and grabbed our helmets. We biked over to a local park and enjoyed the weather. James was a little quite but I thought he was just hungover from the night before (oblivious me). After the park, we hopped in the car and he drove us down to the canal. We jumped on a boat and toured Richmond via water. It was funny because this totally threw me off. Who plans a historic boat ride on a surprise date? So random.
Anyways, we got home and he told me to get fancy for dinner reservations and then pulled out one of the new outfits I had purchased a couple weekends before. I laughed at him... since when did he pick my wardrobe? We both got ready, James drank a cup of coffee then we headed out the door. He told me he didn't feel well and had the jitters... of course I told him to stop drinking coffee so late because it would make him sick. I didn't think much of it as we made our way to Church Hill.I kept trying to guess restaurants he was taking me to but he was pretty much silent.
We pulled onto the main street of Libby Hill park which is a beautiful overlook of Richmond. I looked at him with a smirk because I knew there weren't any restaurants around. He pulled into a parking spot and came over to open my door. I kept making funny jokes because he wouldn't tell me where we were going but he wasn't laughing, wasn't smiling and I don't think he was even breathing. This guy was NERVOUS. Then it hit me, was James proposing? I tried to shut out the thought because if he wasn't, I didn't want to be let down. We walked over to the best point at the overlook where we could see the entire city. He put his arm around me and we stood there for a second in silence just taking in the view. Then he said "I hope you didn't mind that I wanted to bring you somewhere to overlook the city of all our firsts." My heart sank... it was happening.
He turned and grabbed both of my hands and the most beautiful words came out of his mouth. He talked about our past, our present and our future together. He shared the reason he fell in love with me, the beauty of our life together and his hopes for our future. With tears rolling down both of our faces, he got on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was a moment that I can't explain because I'm pretty sure I blacked out with emotions. I've never had a feeling like this one. Pure bliss. We enjoyed the moment and reminisced on how we got to this point in our lives together.
After we both finally stopped crying... he told me there was more to come. We got back into the car and I immediately asked if we could call my sister. He told me he wanted to keep everything to ourselves for the night and just be in the moment and that we would call everyone the next day. I thought to myself "does he know my family?"... they need to know about this. We drove to dinner at The Stables which was one of the best meals I've ever had. They had champagne waiting for us and J got to fill me in on his planning process and all the juicy details of choosing my ring, asking my Fathers and his nervousness of making the day perfect.
After dinner he told me he had one last surprise. We started driving downtown and pulled up to The Graduate hotel because he wanted to have drinks during the sunset. When we pulled up, one of the employees asked if we were staying overnight... James answered "yes." I was shocked and immediately asked "who's going to watch the dogs and what will I sleep in" (about right because I'm such a planner). He told me the dogs were taken care of and he pulled his backpack out of the backseat full of clothes and toiletries to get us through the night. He was prepared.
We went to set our stuff down in our room while I was still in shock. But then he hurried me up to the rooftop bar because he didn't want us to miss the sunset. As we turned the corner of the rooftop, I heard a loud "CONGRATS" and noticed so many familiar faces. There stood 50+ of our closest family and friends to celebrate with us... cue the waterworks. All my people were there on the best day I could have ever imagined. July 7th was a day I will never forget with a man that I can't wait to call my husband.
We are getting married on October 27th, 2018! Yes, that's a three month engagement. You may be wondering why... and it's for so many reasons. But mostly because we didn't want a long engagement and everything was able to fall into place easily. Since I was a little girl, I've always known I wanted to get married at my family's bay house so it will be such a magical day in a place that means so much to both of us. We are keeping it more intimate with around 100 guests, made up of our closest family and friends (we have a lot of family) and we are so thrilled to celebrate with many of the people we love the most.
Most importantly, we are beyond excited to begin the next chapter of our lives. There's so much pressure on this generation to have the "PERFECT", most glamorous, wedding but we really just want to do us. We are keeping things simple because that's what we love about our life and we hope to share that side of us with our guests. October 27th will only be one day in our lifetime together... but it will be a dang good one. Thanks for being part of our journey.
Cheers to #ditchinthekitchen and becoming a Bailey!