The met thru mutual friends in 2011, during a time when Andrea’s father was very ill. Her frame of mind was focused on spending as much time with her Dad, and a relationship was the furthest thing from her mind. After a suggested ‘Facebook’ friend note, they chatted a few times before actually meeting. Unfortunately, Andrea’s father passed away with loved ones there and as anyone could imagine, her world came falling down. Heyward and Andrea had tentatively scheduled their 1st date for May 28, 2011, which was also her father’s birthday. The Allen Family birthday tradition has always been to have lunch or dinner together and so despite his absence, they still celebrated in his honor.
As Andrea approached her last year of her Doctorate program, she and her mother decided to look at apartments closer to Howard University’s campus to help ease the burden of late night lab experiments. Heyward and Andrea’s first date time changed several times throughout the day to accommodate the unplanned apartment lease signing. Since Heyward lived in New Jersey and Andrea in Maryland, they agreed to meet ‘halfway’ between the two states. Delaware was the designated location; a sushi restaurant to be exact. When Andrea realized that the restaurant was three hours away, Heyward said he would come closer to her and the couple met at the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Heyward asked Andrea which street she parked on so they could walk to and from the restaurant together. As trite as it sounds, it was ‘Love at first sight’ for Andrea. They enjoyed dinner and conversation at the Cheesecake Factory. Hours passed and their meters were winding down so Heyward offered to reload the meters while Andrea waited at the table. Those who know Andrea and her fixation on ‘locked doors’, to her surprise, he videotaped her doors being secured to calm her nerves. This small, yet thoughtful gesture went a long way! While leaving the restaurant, she asked to take a photo of him before they departed for the ‘Photo Caller ID’ function on her phone…. truth be told, she wanted to have a photo of him after they parted ways.
For the next two years, they dated long distance while she completed her Doctorate program and by the grace of God, Heyward moved to Maryland for a job he applied to a year before they met. ‘Distance’ has been a constant theme in their relationship and it is has endured thru rigorous graduate school work, military deployments and some vacations both domestic and international.
Since 2013, it has been their yearly tradition to stay in the National Harbor area for New Year’s Eve. They go to Church Service at The First Baptist Church of Glenarden, followed by a light lunch and nap, and dinner at the Chart House in Old Towne Alexandria, VA. In 2013, it was just the two of them… In 2014, they dined with several sets of Heyward’s friends….In 2015, they dined with several sets of Andrea’s friends. They end the evening watching the fireworks over the water and celebrate back in their suite. Heyward stayed on Andrea to get the ‘Save-the-dates’ out to her closest friends as they both know how the holidays can be a busy time for everyone. Typically, she is the ‘planner’ and he kept reminding her to send something out. He also suggested the idea of us doing ‘toasts’ to our guests….. A couple weeks before NYE, Andrea shared a photo on Facebook of a woman’s hand with an engagement ring entitled, “Only 6 Rules:” 1. Ask for my parents blessing 2. Make it a complete surprise 3. Use my full name 4. Get down on one knee 5. Have someone catch it on camera 6. Make sure my nails are done When she shared the photo, it stated, “Dear Future Husband…”. The comments and emoji’s were funny… Unbeknownst to her, she had no idea what was in the works….. Originally, they were to have a semi-private room, but unfortunately, the restaurant double booked the space. (She should have figured out something when Heyward was pretty upset about the glitch…) We made the most of it as we know plans are always subject to change. With a few moments before our guests were seated, Andrea added her creative and festive touches to the tables. The theme was “Good Fortune”. Before they left the suite earlier in the evening, Heyward asked Andrea, “Do you have your toast’ for tonight?”.Ummmm…. yes, I do, she replied. The day was busy and she never had a chance to write it down… the plan was to wing it. Heyward ran back into the suite to grab his before they headed down to the shuttle. On the ride over, he was writing something down on the hotel stationary….. Dinner was phenomenal and the live jazz music was a nice touch. We truly enjoyed the company of our friends and family in attendance. Before the last ferry ride back to the National Harbor departed, we gathered everyone to wish them well into the New Year. Andrea gave her toast first, and then Heyward. As Heyward starting talking, he seemed to veer off from a ‘typical NYE’s toast’… he started talking about how he heard there are these instructions he needs to follow…. as he pulled out his paper from his suit pocket and began reading them, Andrea had no idea what he was talking about. Her look of confusion is clearly seen in their Engagement video. By the time he got to #3 on the list, she still had no idea…. While Heyward was lowering himself on one-knee, it finally clicked that he was referring to the Facebook post she had shared weeks before. With tears of joy streaming down her face, and celebratory shouts from our guests, she said “YES” to the proposal!!!!
After congratulatory wishes from those in attendance, they gathered our belongings to take the Ferry Ride back over to catch the midnight fireworks. New Year’s Eve will forever be a special day in their journey to forever!