We’ve been together for nine months. We met where most couples do these days – an app. Justin was at the airport on his way to Montenegro. Leandro was in the area, and by a stroke of luck, we matched just before Justin boarded the 17-hour flight. We messaged almost constantly for the week Justin was in Montenegro. By the time the week was over, we already had six dates planned and only three weeks before Justin returned to his next contract – about four of which we managed to complete before Justin left. We hit it off instantly.
We have so many things in common, from both being middle children and both having large families to the same favorite movie genres and same clothing sizes and everything in between. Justin was sad to leave for his next contract for the first time in almost five years. Having cried most of the 15-hour flight to Athens, he knew Leandro was the one. Never had he thought he’d be sad to leave the United States. Similarly, the moment Leandro knew Justin was the one was after having cried for the first few weeks Justin had left on his first contract since they’d been together. After being able to build a healthy, successful relationship even long distance, they knew they could make anything work. Now they are working toward getting Leandro a job onboard so that they never have to be long-distance again.
Tell us about the planning process for the proposal.
We had talked about marriage and how we felt about it since the beginning. By Justin’s second contract after we started dating, we had already been through so much together – standing by each other’s side through it all – Justin knew he wanted to propose on his next vacation. He immediately started planning (about four months before the proposal). Even being long distance, it was tough to keep the secret. Justin had to continuously fight the urge not to tell his best friend about the proposal since his best friend was the one to whom he was proposing.
Are there any stories from the lead-up to the proposal stressful or funny?
It was a very stressful time leading up to the proposal; Justin was in the home-buying process while planning it. To make the usual buying a house process even harder, Justin had to manage it from the middle of the ocean with limited connection. And in the end, the application got denied the day before closing. Thankfully, Carrie was extremely understanding and helpful through the whole process.
What lead you to the destination of the proposal?
Due to Leandro’s asylum status, he is unable to travel outside of the United States, but we both love traveling. So instead of traveling abroad, we decided to travel domestically somewhere neither of us had been for a spring vacation – a road trip to the Grand Canyon. We planned the trip together, only Leandro did not know Justin was also planning a proposal along with it. We typically do photo shoots wherever we travel, but Justin is the photographer. So Justin convinced Leandro that he did not want to take the photos this time. Instead, he wanted to hire a photographer. Leandro agreed, not suspecting anything. After Googling “Grand Canyon engagement photographer,” Justin found Carrie’s website. After seeing a photoshoot she had previously done at cathedral rock, he knew immediately that’s where he wanted to do it and who he wanted to do it.
Tell us about the engagement ring experience.
Leandro had mentioned a Tiffany ring in conversation multiple times throughout our relationship. But after looking through their collection, a lot of the rings were overpriced purely for the name. Knowing what it was that Leandro liked about Tiffany rings, Justin wanted to find something simple, elegant, but also stunning – a solitaire but not too dainty. With some Google skills, Justin found the perfect ring at Blue Nile. Luckily there was a Blue Nile store at Aventura mall, and Justin’s ship ported in Ft. Lauderdale once a week. Jaime at Blue Nile helped Justin pick the perfect matching diamonds within his budget. The ring buying experience could not have gone any smoother – all due to Jaime’s fantastic customer service – going above and beyond and even communicating through WhatsApp since that was Justin’s only form of communication onboard.
What does your engagement mean to you both? Has anything changed?
Our engagement meant the world to us. Knowing that we had finally found our life partners was the best feeling either of us had ever had.
How is wedding planning going? What do you hope for your wedding to be?
We actually already got married. We decided to have an elopement. We wanted to do it just the two of us and in Valencia, Spain. Valencia holds a special place in Justin’s heart as he considers it his second hometown. But again, traveling outside of the US was possible for Leandro. So we decided to do it in Nashville. Since we were doing where we currently live, we decided to invite the immediate family that we have in the city.
Amazing, congratulations to you both, then!! How did you go about finding your vendors?
We found an elopement event planner who works out of the Belmont Mansion, elopements of Nashville. Having been within the budget and offering all services, including venue, photography, videography, flower rental, etc, we decided they were perfect for us. We used Oshi Floral design for our boutonnières and Leandro’s flower crown because we wanted to be able to keep them.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Our plan once Leandro is able to travel outside of the us is to renew our vows in a second elopement and adding the eternity band to our set to celebrate both our love and his safety and security.
Photography by Carrie Rogers Photography