Erin and Matthew met in graduate school in 2014. Matthew was a student ambassador and came to welcome the incoming class during new student orientation. Matthew walked into the auditorium and Erin could not take her eyes off of him. It was as if they knew each other in a past life. She hadn't spoken a single word to him but she knew that was the man she'd marry. She even went home that weekend and told her family that she met her husband. Well, fast forward to the fall semester where the pair had class together, but they barely spoke to each other. Erin jokingly thought to herself, 'well, maybe my calculations were off!" Fortunately, at the end of the semester, Matthew and Erin both went out to celebrate a mutual friends birthday, where they finally got a chance to connect on a new level. Over winter break, while he was home in Phoenix and Erin was visiting her sister in New York, Matthew reached out to her and suggested they grab drinks once they were both back in at school. Their first date was on a cold Chicago winter night at a bar close to campus, and it was on that night they found out their moms went to the same all-girls school in Philadelphia. But it was on their second date when Erin truly felt she had fallen in love with him. Matthew suggested they go for a drive. It was his first time getting to see other parts of Chicago. They talked about everything from mentors to their love for the Obamas. They even finished the date by riding past the Obamas' Hyde Park Chicago home. Even though they didn't have class together that semester, they managed to bond over empanadas every Friday and any other time they could manage to see each other. Matthew graduated that semester and on the first day of his new job, June 15, 2015, Matthew officially asked Erin to be his girlfriend. Obviously, Erin didn't hesitate to say yes and promptly invited him over for a Father's Day dinner to meet her family. Erin's family loved him; her father even pulled her to the side to tell her how much he liked Matthew and how that never happens! That summer Erin went to Phoenix with Matthew to meet his family and they were so loving and kind. Erin could not have asked for a more beautiful, complementary love. In no time, this lovely couple got engaged, and as a way to celebrate their upcoming wedding with a romantic desert engagement session at the Desert Botanical Garden in Pheonix, Arizona. Check out their special occasion, captured by Jen Jinkens Photography.
Bride's full name, age and occupation: Erin Carmella Raymond, 30, Federal Grant Manager
Groom's full name, age and occupation: Matthew William Berkley, 27, Healthcare Administration
Place of residence: Chicago, Illinois
Engagement Shoot Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Wedding date: Sunday, September 30, 2018
Matthew and I have a shared love for the Obamas. He even refers to me, a girl from the South Side of Chicago, as his Michelle Obama. In 2016, we visited Washington D.C. for the opening ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where President Obama was giving a welcoming address. However, there was such a large attendance that we were unable to actually get into the museum so we made a promise that we would come back a year later when it wasn't as crowded and bring our families with us. His mom got our tickets to the museum in January, Matthew asked my parents for their blessing in February, shopped for a ring with my sister in June and blew my mind in August!
On August 25, 2017, Matthew, I, and our immediate family left our D.C. hotel and headed to the museum. I felt jitters that day because I was anxious to check out the museum. If you haven't been, I strongly encourage you to go. The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a beautiful, intense, emotional roller coaster. At some point during the museum tour, Matthew specifically calls attention to a different letter from President Obama, with special attention to his signature. I thought that was a bit odd at the time but still not obvious to me. Knowing it could be a lot to process, the organizers of the museum inserted a serenity room with a tranquil waterfall. After finishing the tour of the museum, Matthew suggests we all pop in the serenity room for a moment. It was in there that my sister hands me a letter and tells me to read it.
At this moment, all of our family members begin to form a semi-circle around us and pull out their phones. My antennas were on high alert at this point! I start reading this letter. I see it's from the White House and it's dated for November 2016. I'm completely confused at this point. Then the first line of the letter is congratulating Matthew on his engagement. At this point, I see Matthew drop down to one knee and I can no longer focus on this unbelievable letter. Matthew asked me to marry him with our families present, a letter from President Obama, and a tour of this incredible museum. I could barely get my 'yes!' out, I was crying so hard. His brother flew from Geneva, Switzerland and recorded every second of the wedding proposal. Later that night his parents threw us an engagement dinner at the Mayflower D.C., where we were staying. The level of planning, preparation, love, and thoughtfulness put into asking me to marry him left me speechless. Not that I had before, but if I ever wondered how much he knows me and loves me, it was painted so clearly that day.
For the Groom: Walk us through the behind the scenes of creating this special day:
After our first visit to the NMAAHC, I mentioned to a coworker that it would have been a good weekend to propose. This same coworker tells his friend, who happened to be a White House staffer at the time, about us visiting the museum and wanting to get engaged. The White House staffer shares this with President Obama, who then writes us a letter congratulating us on our engagement! I go to work one day to find out I just received a letter from the President himself, so I started planning our proposal almost a year in advance. I told my family during Christmas (2016) and they were all very excited and supportive. In February 2017, Erin went to Phoenix just to visit my parents and I reached out to her dad that weekend and asked to meet for lunch. During our lunch I expressed my desire to ask for his daughter's hand in marriage and he might not admit this, but he got a little teary-eyed at first. He did not hesitate to give me his blessing. The next call I made was to Erin's mom. I also took her out to lunch and couldn't hold it in. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Ms. Raymond, I'd like your blessing to marry your daughter." There were no denying her waterworks!
From there the plan continued to come together. Through some of Erin's family connections, I was put in touch with a representative from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Even though the rep loved the idea of the proposal, it was technically against museum policies so she was no longer able to work with me. But I knew it would mean everything to Erin to get engaged at the museum so I went through with the plans on my own. My mom reserved the museum tickets and everyone bought their flight to Washington D.C. for that weekend. In June 2017 I worked with Erin's sister to find her a ring she would like. I sent the ring and the letter from President Obama home to Phoenix for safe keeping. Then Friday, August 25, both of our entire immediate families headed to the museum with everyone in on the proposal except Erin. After we finished the tour, I suggested we all visit the serenity waterfall. In there, Erin's sister hands her the letter from President Obama and I drop down on one knee. And the rest is history. I walked out of the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a fiance. My parents threw us an engagement dinner party at the Mayflower D.C. to help us celebrate. All the stress and planning was worth seeing the love of my life smile from ear to ear!
What makes your love special?
What makes our love so special is how well Matthew and I complement each other. Although we're both outgoing and down to earth, Matthew is strong in the areas where I am weak and vice versa.
What was the theme of your shoot?
Our theme was a "Phoenician Desert Engagement Photo Shoot" since the wedding is in Chicago I wanted to incorporate some of Matthew's background into our wedding, so we did the photo shoot in his hometown of Phoenix.
Were there any memorable moments during the shoot?
Yes! I had a complete meltdown in the parking lot just seconds before we met the photographer because I didn't like the color of Matthew's shoes! But I also knew I couldn't mess up my makeup, so it was the most controlled outburst I've ever had. Fortunately, we were able to resolve it and Matthew spent the rest of the engagement photo shoot whispering in my ear how crazy I am. Which made for great pictures because I was laughing the whole time!
What are you most looking forward to about your wedding?
We are looking forward to stating before God, our family, and friends, that we're committed to each other as amazing human beings. I'm also looking forward to celebrating our union with our loved ones!
Have you started planning your wedding?
Yes! According to my countdown, less than 100 days until our wedding day!
Congratulations to the happy couple! We wish you a fruitful wedding and marriage.