If there’s a moral to the love story of AJ and Emily Tumminello, it’s that first dates probably don’t matter as much as you might think. That, and the receipt might come in handy.
AJ, an infantry officer at Fort Carson, and Emily, a student currently pursuing her bachelor’s in elementary education, met during a Bible study in May 2014. Their first official date was walking from Emily’s apartment to King Soopers and returning to make spaghetti. “I told her I liked her,” AJ says.
“I never had a guy be just super honest with me. So I was all smiles and butterflies,” Emily says.
Over the following year, like turned to love, and then to talk of marriage.
AJ was looking at four months at Fort Knox in Kentucky and a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. He knew he didn’t want to wait until after deployment, and he knew something else: “I wanted to go back and surprise her. Emily likes surprises.”
With one of her friends, he began to plan the proposal, including a photographer to capture it—“because I know Emily also loves pictures.” (“By the way,” Emily adds, laughing, “AJ does not like surprises and does not like pictures.”)
AJ got approval to fly home from Fort Knox and arrived, to Emily’s shock, at her apartment on July 1, 2015. They had dinner at one of Emily’s favorite restaurants, Pizzeria Rustica; then AJ drove her to Palmer Park.
At the park, groups of Emily’s friends were stationed along the way with manila envelopes filled with mementos from their year of dating: Date No. 1’s King Soopers receipt; a Despicable Me DVD; a photo from a hiking trip in Ouray.
“Eventually it was just me and Emily,” AJ says. “I gave Emily a letter that I had written to her the day that I knew I wanted to marry her, and then I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me.”
But, says Emily, “You’re leaving out the best part! … The letter ended with something like, ‘I know today that I want to marry you, but I’m not obviously telling you right now. So my hopes are that one day you’ll be reading this, and I’ll be down on one knee.’ … And as I look up from the letter, he is on one knee. It was perfect.”
So were the proposal photos captured from a distance.
“She said yes,” AJ says with a laugh.
And on Sept. 27, 2015, they both said, “I do.”
First Date Meter
Because every engagement starts somewhere.
Crash and Burn
Heading to a clothing-optional hot spring.
Cruising Nevada Avenue on a Friday night.
Old-School But Endearing
Pack a picnic for Monument Valley or your favorite park.
Sharing popcorn during an indie flick at Kimball’s.
Pedaling the Pikes Peak Greenway on a tandem bike.
Racing up the top-rope routes at CityRock.
Peak of Romantic
Aim high with 100-mile views over the city and Pikes Peak in a hot air balloon flight.
Martinis by The Broadmoor fire pits, and a hand-in-hand stroll around the lake.
Popping the Question—and the Flash
When it comes to popping the question, seasoned Springs wedding photographers Adonye Jaja and Allison Daniell, of Stellar Propeller Studio, have seen it all. Read their advice here, and you’ll still be nervous—but for all the right reasons.