It’s no secret that JMU alumni connect with JMU alumni…Once you’re a Duke, you are part of a family and it doesn’t matter what your major was, what you were involved in or where you lived…you simply connect because you know you went to the most beautiful and best school in the state…and that makes you purple and gold.
So when I met Jackie and Todd, I really felt an instant connection…but not just because we are Dukes…they are such a welcoming and personable couple! I especially noticed how much of a pair they were…at times they almost seemed like one person…sharing each other’s thoughts. And yet, they both had such interesting individual interests as well. It was easy to see that they were very, very good friends as well as sweethearts.
Jackie even said that she knew early on that Todd was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life laughing, playing, exploring, and growing alongside. She says that Todd is the essence of her “counter weirdness, someone she can be 100% her authentic self around 100% of the time.”
So when they told me all about their plans for their wedding at the Columns at Six Penny Farm just outside of Harrisonburg, it made perfect sense. They are planning an incredible Gatsby-style wedding with a Hawaiian themed rehearsal dinner the night before (read on to hear why!). And do you know what else I love about Jackie and Todd? They completely trusted me with my vendor recommendations and have also hired a great team of folks I know will serve them so very well for their wedding day!!!
I was pretty excited about their engagement session that we scheduled in Virginia. They came up from South Carolina to enjoy time with their people here in Virginia and we had a wonderful engagement session at Morven Park in Leesburg. Yisell Santos is responsible for Jackie’s hair and make up and wow! Jackie’s gorgeous curls and sultry lashes really pop in this incredible location. We had to have a location with an estate house and a little bit of history because Todd did propose at Versailles after all!!!
Which brings me to my next point, don’t you want to know more about how these two met and about Todd’s proposal? Then read on, friends…this is my abridged version of Jackie and Todd’s story and man oh man, it’s a good one!
So how did they meet? In 2009, after finishing a culinary program at Maui Community College in Maui, HI Todd relocated to Harrisonburg, VA to live with a few friends and attend classes at Blue Ridge Community College with the intention of transferring to another four-year university. Jackie was born and raised in the Harrisonburg community, and in early August of 2009, she was preparing to start her Junior year at James Madison University. It was her first year living off-campus with some friends and one evening they decided to go hangout at the apartment’s pool. Todd and his roommates had the same thought and their two groups met that night and instantly clicked.
Through the course of the evening Todd and Jackie found many similar interests and shared their future aspirations. As they continued to see each other regularly with friends, their shared interests grew and slowly the big group hang outs narrowed down to just the two of them. Their relationship blossomed over time, but Jackie says that whenever she things back to that first meeting she cannot help but remember how comfortable she felt with him and the instant connection they shared.
Two years later, they both moved to Columbia, SC where Jackie would pursue a Master of Public Health and Todd would obtain a Bachelor of Science studying Marine Science. Jackie graduated in May of 2013 and Todd graduated in December of that year. After earning their degrees, they secured what they thought would be temporary starter jobs in Columbia and adopted their most beloved fur-baby Dolli; (yes, she’s a cat but don’t tell her that because both she, Jackie and Todd think she’s their child). They both grew to really love their jobs and positions and demonstrate a remarkable ability to grow alongside one another, growing stronger as a team.
Travel and exploring new places and cultures was a common interest that Jackie and Todd discovered on their first night of meeting, and they’ve had many adventures since becoming a couple. Over the course of all of these adventures, particularly Maui, Washington state and Iceland, their friends and family awaited in anticipation that they would come back engaged; however each time they did not. Earlier this year, Jackie and Todd took a trip with friends to London and Paris. Like all of the trips before friends, family and colleagues would ask “do you think he’ll do it this trip?” Jackie’s response would be “No I don’t think so” Jackie really did not feel like Todd would ever risk bringing a ring across the Atlantic Ocean in case something were to happen to it. So the morning they were scheduled to depart, they were running behind and Jackie even assisted in packing both his carry on and checked baggage…clearly no little box in site…so it was going to be like any other amazing trip they’ve shared, but with no proposal.
The first half of the ten day trip was spent in London, somewhere Jackie has wanted to travel to for so long because of the history. They visited everywhere she wanted to go and as the majority of the group are major Harry Potter fans, they toured the studios as well! Going into the trip, Jackie hadn’t planned to like Paris as much as London, with the exception of Versailles, but she did! Paris was perfect and on the second to last day they finally made their trip to Château de Versailles.
That morning Jackie’s bestie, Katie was very insistent on arriving as soon as the gates opened to get the most of their time at the palace and its grounds. Once they arrived, the three couples parted ways to ensure each saw what they wanted to and then would meet up for lunch. Todd and Jackie took their time through the Chateau before progressing onto the immense gardens and fountains. They were both awestruck by the beauty, serenity and peace of the place. At one point it started to sprinkle a bit and Todd made the comment that rain was good luck. After meeting up with the group for lunch they decided to take a group photo before splitting up again. Todd and Katie had the idea of taking the photo with the Château in the background so they made their way over to that part of the gardens.
When the group collected together, Todd located the perfect spot that provided a full view of the Château and they asked another tourist to take their photo. The photo ended up being the best group photo of the whole trip so they decided to do couple photos there as well, taking turns to ensure the three couples each got a good shot. When Jackie finished taking the picture for one couple, it was Todd and Jackie’s turn. Katie asked them to do it again since she didn’t have the HDR on the first time. So they took their places again, and then then were told to do a silly pose like the Charlie’s Angels’ back-to-back. Jackie hates this kind of pose, so she started to walk away but the group convinced her to get back in frame and be a good sport, so she did. Waiting for the torture to be over, she heard Dan (Katie’s hubby) confirm he got the photo and she felt Todd pull away. She turned around to see Todd kneeling, presumably to tie his shoe, but to her immense surprise, not tying his shoe at all. Todd was down on one knee with a super sparkly thing in his hand. Utterly in shock, her hands flew up to her mouth and she backed away! At the same time, Todd was overwhelmed by her shock and emotion and he forgot what he had initially planned to say. He was finally able to collect himself to ask her to marry him.
Nodding her head in tears of happiness, she joyfully accepted! With shaking hands, Todd steadied hers to slip the ring on her finger and kiss. Everyone around (friends and tourists) applauded. It turns out that her friends were instrumental in planning this all along, and their friend Dan was the one hiding the ring with him. Todd then surprised Jackie once again by taking her back to Paris just in time for a private horse-drawn carriage tour he had booked for the two of them before their dinner reservation. He knew that she would feel overwhelmed and would need time for just the two of them. Following the carriage tour and dinner they met up again with their group to toast champagne and watch the Eiffel Tower light up at night. They still love to watch their engagement video once a week, which Dan was secretly filming the whole time and Jackie still tears up each time they watch it. They cannot wait to spend the rest of their lives together!
Michelle Lieb with Lieb Photographic is a Virginia Wedding Photographer, Charlottesville Wedding Photographer, Culpeper Wedding Photographer, Fredericksburg Wedding Photographer, Washington DC Wedding Photographer, Phoenix Wedding Photographer, Destination Wedding Photographer and a wedding photographer in the surrounding areas.