Marissa and Jon met in May of 2018 through mutual friends. At first, things moved slowly. Jon, in the U.S. Marine Corps, was deployed in August, returning in April 2019. Because of the circumstances they had only limited communication and considered each other friends.

When Jon returned home, they spent every weekend together, though it involved traveling about 550 miles each way. “We would have the time packed with specific things we were going to do for our dates,” Marissa says, “and other times we would just do nothing  but talk and hang out.” They both agree that those times just hanging out were when they got to know each other the best.

One of their first dates was spent exploring Marissa’s hometown, going to her favorite places. It put a picture in Jon’s mind of her childhood and upbringing and they found they grew up in the same kind of lifestyle. Their relationship quickly escalated.

Jon had been immediately interested in Marissa when they met, and Marissa, in turn, knew at the beginning that he was the one. So, when he returned from his deployment they discussed the possibility of marriage. Marissa had one stipulation: that he get her parents’ blessing before proposing. Jon also spoke to his family. “I sought counsel, so I could think about it and pray about it,” Jon says, “and make sure it’s the absolute right decision, for the right reasons.”  He tried to make a list of pros and cons of marrying Marissa—but could not come up with any cons.

In early July 2019, less than three months after he returned, Jon showed up at Marissa’s parents’ house at 9:30 p.m. two days before he proposed. “The kindhearted people that they are,” Jon says, “they welcomed me in. I asked for their blessing, and they gave it to me.” 

Then, two days later, while they were walking in a renowned rose garden, a photographer Jon had enlisted for the purpose approached Marissa and said, “Can I take a couple of pictures for my personal memoir?” Though she thought it strange, Marissa consented and turned toward the photographer. When Marissa turned back around, she saw Jon down on one knee. It was a beautiful moment for them both.

The couple did not have a first look but opted for a first prayer instead. They held hands as they prayed from opposite sides of a wall next to a doorway. They couldn’t see each other but the camera could see both. “We really wanted the first look to be down the aisle,” Marissa says. “We believed that if you do the first look prior, then those pictures aren’t the same.”

When Jon saw his bride walk down the aisle emotion took over and he lost it. “It was just pure beauty and pure love and pure happiness,” Jon says.

“Both of us have really strong faith and because of that, everything was easier,” Marissa says. “We knew that God chose us for each other.” 

—Margaret Snider