Makenzie and Duane first met in the summer of 2015 at a mutual friend's birthday barbeque. He happened to be the first person she saw when she walked into the room. So, the pair ended up having a nice conversation and exchanged numbers at the end of the party. They became official a few months after their first meeting. However, now they are ready to cement their lives together for all time and commemorated their upcoming nuptials with an artsy engagement session. Take a look at their sophisticated celebration at the National Gallery of Art, captured by Ananeya Abebe of A Abebe Photo.
Bride's full name, age and occupation: Makenzie McIntosh, 30, Compliance Officer
Groom's full name, age and occupation: Duane Rollins, 32, National Director of Product & Impact
Place of residence: Washington, D.C.
Engagement Shoot Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Wedding date: October 18, 2019
In October of 2018, we traveled together to Nairobi, Kenya. He had received an award to run a program for early-stage entrepreneurs at a local university through the Mandela Washington Fellowship. I traveled with him for a vacation since I had never been to Africa before. About a week in, after we spent three days on Safari, he suggested we go to dinner at a local restaurant where he had made reservations, or so I thought.
As I was getting ready for dinner, he told me that he needed to schedule additional conference rooms for his business meetings and would check on the reservation. Close to 20 minutes passed by and I started to wonder what was taking him so long. When I called to check in, he told me that the hotel had mixed up our dinner reservation, so he was still working with the receptionist. Another 15 minutes went by, and at this point I was starving because I had not eaten since breakfast. I got up to walk out the door to find him and just as I began to open it, he walked in.
He told me that they got everything fixed and to make up for our delay, they were going to give us a free night in the rooftop lounge before we left. As we entered the lounge, I noticed that we were the only people there. None the wiser, I continued to a table they had set up for us. I looked down and saw roses everywhere with a full bottle of wine in front of us. Then he grabbed my hand and began to explain how much he loved me and how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He asked me to marry him! I instantly began to cry and responded with, “Yes.”
After the tears, we took a few pictures to share with family and friends and called our parents to let them know the good news. We ended the night having the dinner he promised me, and he surprised me one last time by having our room decorated with flowers and chocolate while we were out.
For the Groom: Walk us through the behind the scenes of creating this special day.
I talked to both of our parents before the trip to let them know that Nairobi would be the place where I’d propose to Makenzie. I felt it would be the perfect backdrop to create a great engagement story. I was a bit nervous because it would require me to be responsible for the ring for an unknown amount of time because I didn’t pre-plan which day the proposal would be. When we first got to our hotel, I couldn’t find the extra time to set something up that I thought would be special without her becoming suspicious.
I thought about doing it when we went on our safari, but me knowing her, I knew she wouldn’t be comfortable out there with the animals. So, I decided to wait a few days until we got to our next hotel, the Sankara Nairobi. Once we arrived, I started coordinating with the staff immediately. I told them that I wanted to do the proposal somewhere nice but not too public because I wanted us to have the moment to ourselves. At that point, they told me that they had a lounge upstairs that would be a good fit. From there, all that was left was to make up a good excuse so she wouldn’t get tipped off to the occasion beforehand. That day, I told her that we had a reservation at a restaurant and I knew that would be the perfect cover to buy me some time for the setup.
That evening when I got back, I told her as she was getting ready that I wanted to book some conference rooms and confirm the dinner reservation. I went up to the room and immediately started setting up the place to make sure it was special. The staff was just as excited as I was about the occasion, so they were meticulous with the setup to ensure everything went perfectly. Setting up took a little longer than expected, but luckily, just as she had reached her limit and set out to find me, I was back in the room to tell her that I had gotten things squared away with the reservation. At that point, all I could hope for was that she didn’t notice the ring box in my pocket or catch on to the ruse before the surprise.
Once we entered the room I slipped my phone to the attendant so he could grab pictures of us at the moment. Luckily, my words flowed smoothly as I asked for her hand in marriage and she said yes.
What makes your love special?
Our love isn’t a blaze or fire per se; you know, the typical metaphor that others usually say when describing their love for each other. Our love is more like a rock. It’s strong. It’s steady. It has a foundation. It never waivers and it became even smoother as we have weathered storms and new life experiences together.
What was the theme of your shoot?
We both love art. We were inspired by The Carters’ Everything is Love album and drew inspiration from the “Ape Sh*t” video. We also studied the art of Lina Iris Viktor and Kehinde Wiley, as well as the intimacy and strength found in Gordon Park’s photography.
Were there any memorable moments during the shoot?
Makenzie: I loved shooting in the Modern Art Wing of the gallery because there was an abundance of rich color to work with. This had also been my first time visiting the National Gallery of Art and I was blown away with how beautiful the museum was.
Duane: For me, it was the genuine joy the bystanders had watching us during the shoot. They were incredibly warm and helpful throughout the entire day.
What are you most looking forward to about your wedding?
We can’t wait to celebrate with our family and friends on the night of the wedding. We both come from loving families and look forward to seeing them cut up on the dance floor together.
Have you started planning your wedding?
Yes, but we’re still in the early stages. So far, we’ve locked down our venue and hotel block. We’re making progress.
Congratulations to the happy couple! We wish you a fruitful marriage and many years of wedded bliss.