Lauren and Eustace first met in 2014 on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Through the university's Black Graduate Student Association mentoring program, they crossed paths. At the first meeting of the academic school year, everyone in the room was instructed to write their names on a slip of paper for pairs to be randomly drawn. Each pair would be accountable to check up on each other throughout the remainder of the semester, supporting each other's academic and career efforts.
As fate would have it, Lauren and Eustace's names were drawn out of the hat and they were matched for the special program. What began as "big sister and big brother" relationship blossomed into a friendship, and the eventual start of their love story. Check out their gorgeous engagement photos captured by 180 Productionz Photography.
Bride: Lauren Nicole Pinckney, 28 years old, Public Health Analyst
Groom: Eustace Conjoh, 33 years old, Community Engagement Manager
Place of residence: Oakland, CA
Engagement Shoot Location: Charlotte, NC
Wedding date: March 2021(Original Wedding Date of April 18th 2020 was postponed due to COVID-19)
We were engaged in Napa Valley, California. Eustace planned a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. It was beautiful being up in the air overlooking Napa as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful and clear February morning in Northern California, although it was supposed to rain that day the weather held off for our balloon lift off. The most memorable moment during the proposal was the chaos that ensued upon landing the hot air balloon. Eustace had hired a professional photographer (Lauren's cousin) to shoot the proposal upon landing, but she ended up being enlisted to help the pilot perform an emergency landing instead! As the hot air balloon came close to landing, a wind tunnel picked up and sucked the balloon in, and there was a road blockage on the ground that prevented the other hot air balloon staff from helping the pilot land. With the hot air balloon completely overshooting the landing spot and darting towards the vines, the pilot screamed for the photographer and her assistant to drop her camera and assist with this emergency landing! It was definitely a dramatic experience.
With style and grace, the photographer was still able to capture the moment, and once we finally left the basket, Eustace proposed in the middle of the grape vines. The entire experience was very symbolic of life's journey. We went through peaks and valleys on the ride; literally some ups and downs with the emergency landing, all to find common ground. We're grateful to have made it out safely and can live to tell the story unharmed!
For the Groom: Walk us through the behind the scenes of creating this special day
I really wanted to provide a new experience that both of us would never forget. I came up with the hot air balloon proposal idea in Napa Valley, after our recent relocation to California from Washington D.C. Working with the hot air balloon company and our photographer, we were able to orchestrate a masterful plan for the birthday girl who was out there to celebrate her belated birthday. As we made our descent on the hot air balloon the photographer would get in position and I would then have to explain to Lauren that her cousin is on the ground shooting pictures for her birthday shoot.
Keeping the surprise element of the hot air balloon ride up to the last second, I told her we were just doing an ordinary wine tasting tour that morning. When she told me no wine tour starts at 7 a.m. I knew her antenna was up! To really keep her on her toes, as we walked up to the hot air balloon office and as she could start to see people with waivers on clipboards, I screamed that we were going skydiving! The look of shock in her eyes is one that still stays with me today. With that said, when I finally came clean and told her we were going on our first hot air balloon together, she agreed with excitement.
Gentlemen, if a woman is willing to go 3,000 feet in the air with you unannounced in a basket, she's a keeper! All my experiences in sports, entertainment and event management would never have prepared me for what transpired at the end of our ride though! When it was all said and done, she said YES!
What makes your love special?
Our love is one of a kind. The journey of us becoming one crosses oceans and so many parts of the country. Eustace immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone, lived in Boston, MA, Houston, TX, Washington D.C. and most recently Oakland, CA. Meanwhile, Lauren was born in Charlotte, NC, lived in Texas, Washington D.C. and Oakland, CA.
We can always count on one another. As we are both only children sometimes we can be very independent, however as we form our union and make plans to start our own family, we have truly formed an unbreakable bond.
What was the theme of your shoot?
We had a garden theme engagement shoot at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont North Carolina. We love flowers and plants, and wanted to be around living plants during our shoot. We felt it accurately captured our love for nature and the outdoors.
Were there any memorable moments during the shoot?
Our vision for our shoot was natural light. We loved being in the conservatory amongst all the exotic plants. We had a wedding shower planned that same day and we had fun with all the different poses. Unintentionally, we had a James Bond theme with our attire.
What are you most looking forward to about your wedding?
We are looking forward to saying our vows in front of our family and friends as witnesses. The opportunity to bring all the people that we love near and dear together for one day is something special. We have a beautiful day planned, similar to our engagement, we plan to wed outdoors with a tented reception. We have so many special touches that we cannot wait to share with our guests. A wedding celebration that will reflect who we are as individuals and our style as a couple. An intimate, garden setting with clean designs at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina will really bring our love to life.
Have you started planning your wedding?
Saturday, April 18th 2020 was our original date. Our wedding was fully planned and we were just 30 days out when COVID-19 hit home. It was heartbreaking but we made the decision to postpone out of the safety and concern of our friends and family members that were planning to travel for our special day. We've had tremendous support throughout this difficult time and it's been so encouraging to see our family and friends rally around us. We've also been blessed to find incredible weddings planners who stepped in and were able to successfully pivot our wedding to a new date.
Our faith, resilience and love has not wavered during these difficult times. If life and our infamous hot air balloon ride have taught us anything, is that we're ready for anything that may come our way! We look forward to our 2021 wedding!
Congratulations to the happy couple! We wish you many years of wedded bliss!