Inspiration

Valerie and Mecca met on August 13th, 2011 at a mutual friend's birthday party. Valerie almost didn't make it to her friend's birthday party that night since she was feeling under the weather. However, after giving it some thought, she decided to go and support her friend. "When I arrived, I sat in a chair and proceeded to bop my head to the music. I remember feeling parched and grabbed a beer and then returned to my seat. It was then that a young man approached me and offered his bottle opener. I accepted, but in my mind I was thinking 'here we go,'" recalled Valerie. Valerie had already sized Mecca up and was somewhat irritated by his attempt at "kicking game."  Nonetheless, the two began to converse and realized that they had a lot in common. "Once it became clear that we were both NYC public school educators, the conversation just kept on going. I'll admit; the convo "game" was flowing, and he was good looking so I thought, why not," said Valerie. The two began a courtship that lasted 8 months before they officially began dating on May 20th, 2012. "At that point we came to terms with our feelings for one another, and from there our imperfect yet perfect story began." Check out their fun "Alaka Academy" classroom themed engagement session, captured by Ade Olisa.

Bride: Valerie Province, 31, NYC educator

From the Groom: Walk us through the behind the scenes of creating this special proposal:

There are a few goals in a man's life that are considered an "ultimate achievement" (and yes, beating Mike Tyson in "Punch Out" video game is still one of mine) but the highest goal is finding the right woman to spend the rest of your life with, starting a family, and paying bills together. During the last days of 2014, I came to the conclusion that Valerie was the "one." I mean, anyone who could handle my stubborn self DESERVES the privilege to be my wife...but I digress lol. Then came the most difficult task at hand: "creatively, how can I propose to Val without her getting a whiff of any ideas?!" After racking my brain full of future failed attempts, I thought of the one place she'd never expect it to happen: in her own classroom. With the guidance of Mr. Brian Hodge (one of Val's closest co-workers), the classroom idea on June 1st was gearing up to be the epic proposal I envisioned. After talking with Ms. Nyisha Robinson  (another one of Val's close compadres), I later realized the difficulty of proposing in Valerie's classroom. Nyisha also informed me the school building would be busy that same day due to a talent show performance by the students. That's when it hit me: the proposal should happen during the talent show! Once I shared my idea with Ms. Robinson and gained clearance from her principal, Mr. Encarnacion, the gears were back in motion. Now I'll admit, it was VERY difficult to withhold this secret from Val...and for a good reason (all my fellas under pressure know what I mean!). I held on strong; even during our 3 year anniversary trip to Chicago, which was filled with disappointments through the eyes of Valerie. Yet she had no idea what was to come one week later. Ms. Robinson and I devised the perfect idea for one of their vocally talented students to sing the song "Primetime" by Janelle Monae & Miguel as the last act of the talent show. That will be the moment I arrived on stage. The song is symbolic because it was the song Val and I selected as our first dance "If marriage was ever in our horizon." Dapper outfit: check. Engagement ring in pocket: check. No butterflies in my stomach: check. The look on her face was priceless, yet her tears of joy left an impression with me for the rest of my life.

 What makes your love special?

What makes our love special is the way we finish each other's sentences, the way we are able to balance being serious and silly, the way we have grown to become best friends & support systems for each other.