I met one of Jeff's best friends (let's call him R) when I was working at a Greek restaurant in Orlando. He and his family came for dinner and we immediately hit it off. By the end of the meal, they had convinced me to go on a blind date with R's best friend and assured me we would be perfect together. Even though about an hour before, they were all complete strangers to me, they were the type of people that make you feel like you've known them your entire life with one conversation. R moved to Hawaii the next week, and I left for a trip to see my family in the Virgin Islands the next day.
When I got back, I went on my first blind date. I had him pick me up at my house so that my sister (we'll call her "A") could meet him and identify him in a line up if he turned out to be a murderer. As I am sure you are in great suspense, I will get to the point and tell you he did not end up being a murderer. Unfortunately, he did not turn out to be the perfect guy for me either…well not so unfortunately, actually, because while we were hanging out, I met his other best friend, Jeff.
The first time I met Jeff I thought he was a complete jerk! Which I am sure he was because I have perfect judgement :-) …a week or so later, I was still talking to my blind date when we all went to a UCF football tailgate together. We all had a great time, and when my blind date left, Jeff stayed and entertained me and all my friends, and I realized how funny and nice he actually was. Later that night, my sister and my roommate kept commenting that they thought I liked Jeff and I told them they were crazy, but admitted he wasn't the jerk I originally thought he was.
A few days later, my blind date and I went out with friends again; Jeff drove. At the end of the night we went to get tacos and being the foodie that I am, I ate way too much for the belt I was wearing, and I took it off in Jeff's car, while he drove us all home. After that night, things with me and my blind date fizzled off.
A few weeks later, I decided I really missed that belt, so I asked Jeff if I could come by and pick it up. We ended up spending the next few hours hanging out watching Top Gear and playing race car video games (I won). We could not stop laughing the entire time and I decided this guy needed to become my new best friend. He said we couldn't be friends because it would be weird since I dated his friend and I said you could hardly say we dated and that he and I would definitely be friends.
I was at a concert a few days later when I got a text from Jeff that he was downtown if I wanted to come hang out. Obviously he could not resist having the world's most awesome friend despite his prior conviction. After we left the concert, I ran home, freshened up, called my friend and told her we were going out. My sister and roommate kept asking me if I liked Jeff and I promised I did not; I just thought he was really funny and wanted to be friends. They didn't believe me, which was really annoying because I totally did not like this guy! We went out and both brought a friend. Jeff tried to set me up with the friend that he brought, but he wasn't my type. Later that night, Jeff told us that the next day was his birthday, so we stayed out until after midnight so that we could bring in his birthday. By the end of the night, he had me in the Dirty Dancing Lift in the middle of downtown Orlando. But I still definitely did not like him; we were just friends!
The next night we went out again for his birthday. The friend Jeff brought the night before hit it off with another friend of mine. The two of them were swooning over each other and singing to each other while Jeff and I amused ourselves with ice fights and jokes. I remember the first compliment I ever gave Jeff was, "You're so normal". He may not have taken it as a compliment, but after two years of living the single life and seeing who is out there to date, being normal was the greatest compliment I could have given. We all went back to Jeff's friend's house and spent the rest of the night talking and laughing, and I finally realized what everyone else already knew....that I had feelings for this guy. Our sense of humor was so similar. The way we made each other laugh was honestly what made me fall in love with him and what makes me fall in love with him over and over again. Now the random guy I served at my restaurant will be ordaining our wedding, my blind date is still one of our closest friends, and even though I promised my sister and roommate I did not like Jeff, TECHNICALLY, I didn't say I wouldn't love him, or date him, or marry him, so… :-)
This brings me to the next story.....Jeff told me that he had made plans for us on Saturday, but wouldn't tell me what they were. He is more the planner in our relationship, so that wasn't something that set off any flags for me. Of course in hindsight there are plenty of things that should have tipped me off, like the fact that after I got dressed on Saturday, Jeff said he thought I should change into a new shirt I had just bought or like how a week before he said I should tan haha...all very weird suggestions for him but very sweet once I realized he knew I would have to look at these pictures for the rest of my life :-)... We went down to St. Pete and had lunch at one of our favorite spots to waste some time because whatever we were doing didn't start until 3pm. Jeff went to the bathroom like 3 times during lunch, which I thought was excessive, but didn't think too much about it. Plus, when he sat down he kept bouncing his leg like some people do when they sit, but he doesn't do that so I remember making a comment about it to him like why are you so bouncy today!
We finished lunch and headed down to the Museum of Fine Arts. Once we were there, he took me straight to the gift shop because he had to go to the bathroom again! (Luckily later I found out he was making phone calls to make sure everything was set up and didn't have any medical conditions we needed to worry about.) I was excited to see the Museum because I love art and I had never been to this one, so when Jeff got back and we started walking around I couldn't wait to see everything. I was taking my time looking at every piece of art for a few minutes before Jeff couldn't take the wait anymore. He took my hand and said he had something to show me which was weird because I didn't think he had ever been before either. Once we got into the next room I stopped to look at the art in there, but he kept pulling me passed every piece before I could look at any of it! Finally, we get out to the garden area and I guess one thing you should know about me is that I have tunnel vision. I never notice my surroundings. We could walk by someone with 3 heads, and Jeff will say “Oh my gosh did you see that person with all those heads?!”, and I will have no idea anyone even walked by. So that said, a normal person would probably have noticed the video camera that was set up out there or that there was a huge banner over my head that said “Jennifer will you marry me”, but I am not that normal person so I just kept walking.
Being used to my oblivion, Jeff stopped us, set down his handful of brochures, and took my hands. At that point I finally realized what was happening and I pretty much blacked out after that. He said something sweet that I can’t remember and pointed up to the banner. I remember my hands were pretty much glued to my cheeks after that and he had to pull them down to get the ring on. He cried (just a few manly style tears) which was so sweet and my favorite part, but my eyes were so wide with surprise that they had completely dried out and I was a terrible fiancé and couldn’t even get one tear out. I said yes and heard the paparazzi in the bushes start to take pictures of us, but it turned out that his cousin was hiding in one of them with her camera and also that we aren’t famous. Then, his parents came out from some other bushes and that was exciting, but they live right near us so not too surprising, but then MY parents came out of some more bushes (this was a very bushy garden) which was very surprising since they live a few hours away, and everyone was crying (except me, as we discussed I was terrible) and it was so magical! And then even more magical, there was a festival across the street and for some reason right then, they started blaring “When a Man Loves a Woman” so we danced in the garden and it was just perfect. Then I tried to call all my sisters and brother to tell them the good news and none of them answered because they, like me, are also terrible. But apparently they all already knew, as another very sweet part of my engagement is that not only did Jeff call my parents to get their blessing on the proposal, but he called each of my siblings to get theirs as well, which is no easy thing considering I have 5 sisters and a brother. Anyways, we just spent the rest of the day walking around downtown St.Pete, not doing much of anything, but it was everything to me, and I’ll never forget it.
Photos by Curtiss Bryant Photography ......except for the engagement photo....that was by the cousin in the bush :)