As most of you know, I got engaged to Stephen Brayda this past October and couldn't be more excited! Not only am I going to marry the love of my life, I'm going to marrying my best friend. He motivates and challenges me to be the best artist and woman I can be. His artwork inspires me. We build each other up creatively and emotionally, as well as encourage each other during creative slumps and personal undertakings. Our faith, love of music (even when I'm rocking out to squealing metal guitars and Stephen is "air keyboarding" to his favorite tunes), and our passion for the arts has shaped our relationship tremendously. He makes me laugh like no one else. He loves me unconditionally, and I him. And it doesn't hurt that he is quite easy on the eyes. ;) I am extremely blessed to have this man in my life.

Stephen and I met when I started attending church at Living Hope Fellowship in Tomkins Cove, NY. Little did I know, he was actually the pastors son! Ironically, Dusty Springfield said it best: "The only one who could ever reach me, Was the son of a preacher man, Yes he was..." ...and the rest is history. 3 years later, Stephen popped the question, complete with the perfect fall day, a song he had written and recorded just for me and a gorgeous diamond ring he picked out all on his own! Doesn't get much better than that. :) That day was by far, the best day of my entire existence...that is, until our wedding in May 2012!

Now for the craziest story you'll ever here.

Back in August, Stephen purchased a ring (obviously unknown to me), and he had been back and forth with whether or not it was the right one. Eventually, he returned it because he was just not satisfied with it. Ring #1.

Stephen proposed with a beautiful ring that had been resized once after he bought one from another jewelry store. He did not know my true ring size, so he did his best to guess. Ring #2. The ring happened to be still too large, so we brought it back to the store where we had to leave it for a few days to get resized again. Apparently, I'm a freak with a size 3.5 ring finger! A week had passed and we went in to pick it up, however, the band was thinned terribly, a diamond was chipped on the side and a few days passed before another diamond fell out. We brought it in to get fixed, and the jeweler told us it had been resized too many times and instead we should have a custom-sized ring made instead. I was given a guard to wear around the band to keep the ring from falling off until the new ring came in, and when it did, we were surprised to see it was still too large, and had a significant inclusion through the center stone. Ring #3. We refused to take it.

The jeweler offered to move the stone from my original ring into the new setting and size it correctly, however, it was around the holidays so we had to leave the ring for a few weeks before the jeweler would have time to get the project done. A week had passed and we were hoping this would be the last of these trips to the store. The jeweler took the ring out of a small plastic bag when we arrived and once again we were overwhelmed with disappointment to see my original stone, if it even was the original, with an inclusion through the center it. We returned the ring entirely and got all of the money back, fed up with how we were treated over months of going back and forth with hardly any proof of our engagement.

Finally, we found a reputable jewelry store that would custom-make an original, one-of-a-kind ring with a similar look as the one we had originally started out with. Not only did they do a phenomenal job on the ring, but the customer service was incredible, and made Steve and I feel confident and really special. Ring #4.

Four rings and 7 months later, I finally have a ring and couldn't be happier with it! It's even more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Sigh!

Ok...aside from all the ring drama, I get to marry into one of the most loving families in the world. It will be an honor to become a "Brayda" and I'm loving every second of being engaged to Stephen and starting to plan our lives together. I want to thank all my family and friends for all the congratulations and best wishes: you guys have always been there for me and I've always felt your love and support, no matter the distance. Thank you for being a part of our excitement and love!

One of the most precious gifts I received: Stephen's late grandmothers wedding band which I wear around my neck, and this beautiful custom hanger from my dear friend Lisa!
Our engagement photos that we shot together!
A few photos of Stephen I've taken throughout the years <3