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GETTING ENGAGED IN TURKS & CAICOS

Photo credit: http://myparadisephoto.com

I've dated my girlfriend, Yanique, for 3 years now, and we've been friends for over 13. We met freshman at Temple University in front of the library. (Super cheesy right?) When we met, I had a girlfriend, so I didn't look at her in a romantic way at the time, but we hit it off as friends both being from New York City, both of Caribbean descent and sharing a lot of other similarities in personality.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, after losing contact for a bit, I randomly bumped into Yanique at a mutual friend's cookout. We caught up, hung out a few times, and realized that our connection as adults was on a different level. We dated, everything fell into place perfectly and we've been amazing together ever since. It's one of those situations where you question why you didn't make a move sooner, but things happen in their own timing, and I couldn't have asked for anything better.

In 2014 I decided that I was ready to propose to Yanique and it was going to take a while to save up for the ring (she's worth it) so I wanted to plan a special proposal. It was really difficult thinking of the perfect set up. I knew a few things:

1- I wanted her to be totally surprised

2- I wanted the proposal to be unique to us and our relationship dynamic

3- She always joked that if/when I ever propose to her, that I need to make sure that her hair is LAID (freshly done), nails are newly manicured and that she is dressed for the occasion

I pondered, plotted and scrapped ideas for almost a year. Then finally I thought of the perfect idea. Yanique and I both travel (we have over 40 passport stamps between the two of us) so I would work with a resort to create an ultimate destination proposal in a heavenly, tropical environment. Since Yanique has a fashion and travel blog and I have a travel and food blog, I would just tell her that I was reporting on a resort and working with the tourism board on a lifestyle photo shoot for the resort, that way I could cover all of the key points - she would be totally surprised, the proposal would be unique to our relationship dynamic and because we were having a photo shoot, she would be sure to have her hair and nails done and have picked out nice outfits to wear.

Intro The Somerset on Grace Bay - a beautiful, serene and intimate resort on a magical island, Providenciales in Turks & Caicos, which was literally just voted the #1 Island in the World according to Trip Advisor. I reached out to The Somerset and after sharing my idea, their team was on board to help create a magical surprise proposal experience with me.

I worked with Paradise Photography to set up the "lifestyle photo shoot" that would of course end up being our live proposal and engagement photos. Frank Withers was our photographer for the day and he was super cool, down to earth and easy to work with. Most importantly I love that he took the time to find our best angles so that we could look our best and feel great once we saw the final photos! We took photos around the resort, together and separately (to not give away the true reason for the photo shoot), showcasing the beautiful aesthetic of the resort with their amazing fountains, gardens and more - oozing with charm. (Read on for more.)

I knew that I wanted to propose at sunset on Grace Bay beach. I did my research to find out the estimated sunset time for that date, 7:07pm. So around 6:30pm we changed into our second look. Again, we continued to take a few photos around the resort and the beach.

Grace Bay beach is AMAZING by the way. Perfectly clear water, powdery white sand, and the sun sets directly into the water. You couldn't paint something more beautiful. Having an ocean-view villa at The Somerset resort gives you a perfect shot to view the sunset every night, with easy access to walk to the beach if you desire.

As the sun was setting, the photographer Frank, asked Yanique to take a solo shot closer to where the waves were crashing by the shore. Having her back towards me, Frank looked at me and gave me the cue to get down on one knee. My stomach literally dropped as if I was on a roller coaster. I have absolutely zero doubt of my relationship success with Yanique or the idea of marriage in general, but there's just something about that moment that forces you to feel sick.

Thanks to my years of competing in sports and performing on stages, I guess I am not really one to back down in the face of anxiety. I powered through, got down on one knee and called Yanique's name. As you can see in the next few photos, she went through a myriad of emotions from confused, to shocked, to scared, to excited and finally (not really, all of this happened within a minute) I got a loud "YES!" and a kiss, sealing that the proposal was a success.

We cried, we looked into the sunset, we continued to walk down the beach as she smiled, cried more, and kept hitting me in disbelief of what just happened. She was totally surprised. She was so beautiful, even with her smudged makeup. The moment was amazing and it was picture perfect. I was SO happy that I decided to capture the moment with professional photos.

We proceeded with the surprises that The Somerset and I had planned for the night, including a very romantic and beautiful private dinner on the beach by the amazing Executive Chef Justin Currie. He prepared three courses which were all unlike anything we've ever tasted before. The seafood was so fresh, and the coconut curry snapper is something that I have been dying to have again. As the sun completely set and we were lit by the moon, stars and fire torches set up along our path, the dining experience was honestly the perfect close to a magical proposal evening.

Yanique was mad because I kept having Frank take photos of us after her makeup ran, but come on! We had to capture it all. I have no regrets.

Finally, we went back to our villa and there was one more surprise waiting for my brand new fiancée. Tonight's turn down service included a trail of rose petals and candles leading to the bedroom with champagne waiting for us and rose petals that spelled out "YES" on the bed. I guess it's a good thing she agreed to marry me :)

I honestly couldn't have asked for the proposal to go any more perfectly. With lots of planning, an amazing resort with top of the line staff who went above and beyond to make sure my desires were surpassed, an extremely talented chef at The Somerset and a wonderful photographer - Yanique and I were and still are on Cloud 9 - which makes it all worth it. I will continue to share our love story with you and hope it will inspire you to travel, love and hopefully, if you're lucky, find some combination of the two.

-Rondel

Special thanks to Urmas, Justin, Jasmine and every single member of the staff at the The Somerset who made this the best moment ever.

#caribbean

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