A blind date that starts at a gas station. This isn’t your typical love story. Stephanee and Derek were supposed to meet at Pena Adobe Park for a hike, but Stephanee got lost. “We both enjoy the outdoors, especially hiking, and he thought that would be a good first date,” she says. “Yes, I did embarrassingly fall to make things worse. I thought he would never call me again.”

He called. And they continued the adventures, despite living more than an hour away from each other. “We spent a lot of time together when our work schedules allowed it,” Derek says. “Time spent with Stephanee was always time well spent no matter what we were doing.”

Through the distance and other challenges, Stephanee and Derek became a team ready to take on the world.

“Derek held my hand through every difficult time I had,” Stephanee says. “He always knows how to make me laugh, how to cheer me up, and when he hugs me, it feels like all the sadness just goes away. I knew within a few months he was truly my best friend and my soul mate who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

The couple waited to start planning for a few months after their engagement. “We worked very hard trying to do everything together,” she says. “I’m 99.99 percent sure Derek got sick of the planning real quickly though!”

They tackled the big decisions first—venue, photographer, wedding party and theme. Finding a caterer proved difficult with more than a dozen companies backing out. In the end, they cooked all the food themselves with help from their families. “We had so many great ideas in mind that we wanted for the wedding, but had a lot of difficulties getting it done,” Derek says.

For Stephanee, Pinterest proved to be a friend and a foe. “Pinterest was my best friend, and Derek’s worst nightmare,” she says. “He constantly had to bring me back to reality and tell me to tone it down a few notches.”

As the day arrived, they were overwhelmed with excitement. “I barely slept the night before; I was so excited to see Derek,” she says. “The nervousness didn’t hit until I was about to walk down the aisle. The only thing running through my mind was, ‘Please don’t fall!’ and I really hoped Derek loved my dress.”

During the engagement, they kept Derek as far away from the dress as possible. “I couldn’t see, touch, or even be in the same room as her dress,” he recalls.

And, then, it was finally time for the big reveal.

“I will never forget seeing her walk toward me down that aisle,” he says. “I, however, cannot remember if I was breathing. I remember making the first eye contact with her when she turned the corner. It felt like it took forever for her to get to me. She had the biggest smile on her face the entire time.” 

—Kourtney Jason