Coldplay’s “Fix You” played as Nicole Carfagna walked into the marquee in her backyard. She gasped in shock as she saw all her family and friends gathered there. Her boyfriend Danny led her to the center of the tent and dropped down to one knee. Even if she’d guessed what he was about to ask, she could never have imagined what he would reveal next.
In December 2017 Nicole was living on Long Island with her boyfriend, Danny Rios, and their dog, Max. She is a special education teacher and her partner a police officer. On her blog, she writes, “I love spending time with loved ones, food, the beach, reading, sports, video games.”
Throughout the three years that the couple had been together, Nicole had peppered her social media accounts with pictures of the two together. They undeniably made a good-looking pair. And from staring at beautiful vistas to attending baseball matches, they’d fitted a lot in.
So getting on so well, it was natural that in time Rios would want to propose. He chose his moment carefully. Last December, he took Nicole to Disney World in Florida for her birthday. In a photo from the trip, they wear matching “Forever Your Mickey” and “Forever Your Minnie” T-shirts.
But returning home from the airport on December 8, an offer of marriage was the last thing on Nicole’s mind. “I didn’t think we’d even be getting engaged for at least a year,” she told ABC News. “I was ready to get in my pajamas.”
However, as they approached their home, the teacher saw that their backyard had been adorned with lights. At first, she suspected her partner had planned a surprise birthday party for her. Then, she saw their families lined up waiting for them – with her dad in a suit.
According to local website Sweet Buffalo, Nicole began to have an inkling that a proposal might be on the cards as they walked into the marquee. She explained, “I started to realize what was going on, because I saw my mom start to cry… I heard a song we love, ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay, and Danny said, ‘You know how much I love you, right?’”
Sure enough, in front of everyone, Rios said, “You know all those times when you ask how much I love you? Look around. I love you so much.” With that he took out a ring and got down on one knee. In a tear-jerking proposal, he asked Nicole to marry him.
Nicole, of course, nodded, “Yes,” to the delighted whoops and clapping of the crowd. Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” burst into song. Guest videos show Rios lifting Nicole into the air and kissing her before their loved ones congratulate the couple.
However, she had no idea of what was still to come. Soon, her husband-to-be took her for a quiet word in the bedroom. “I assumed he just wanted to process what happened,” Nicole said, according to the BBC News website.
But there, hanging in the room, was a wedding dress and tux. “He told me he loved me and he said, ‘If you want, I have everything set up to get married,” Nicole added. Danny had thought of everything – his father had even become an ordained wedding officiant that morning so he could marry them.
With the guests outside suspecting it was no more than an engagement party, Nicole was under no pressure to agree. However, she didn’t need to think on it too long. “Suddenly all my jitters and anxiousness went away because I knew I wanted to marry him. I just said yes,” Nicole said, according to BBC News.
Of course, being offered an on-the-spot wedding might not be every bride-to-be’s cup of tea. However, there was a very particular reason Rios had planned things how he did. For, after years of illness, Nicole had been diagnosed in September 2011 with suspected lupus.
The debilitating autoimmune disease would cause severe pain in parts of her body. Throughout the previous few years of illness, Rios had been her rock. In a social media post from October 2017, she wrote, “Danny, the man who stands by my side and holds my hand though this perfectly imperfect life we live fighting lupus together.”
The condition, where the body effectively attacks its own healthy tissue, can be aggravated by stress. Indeed, the lupus flare that triggered her diagnosis was brought on her cat getting fleas. The subsequent obsessive cleaning she felt compelled to do made her “beyond stressed” and made her condition worsen, according to her blog.
Having been by her side throughout the years, Rios knew better than most how harmful the stress of planning a wedding could potentially be to her. In fact, most likely she wouldn’t have enjoyed the preparation, and it could even have made her sick for the big day itself.
Her future life partner consequently knew the best thing for her health was to take away that anxiety from her and organize the whole wedding himself, without her knowledge. And during the five months it took to plan, he was right about the work involved. “I kind of turned into a ‘bridezilla’ during it,” he joked afterwards.
So, surrounded by their nearest and dearest, the couple had a surprise wedding within two hours of the surprise proposal. Nicole, now called Nicole Rios, has shared beautiful pictures of the ceremony on social media, to help raise awareness of the condition.
“We want anyone who has it to know that if you have lupus, it’s a crummy disease but you can still find happiness,” the groom told ABC News. “It’s out there. Don’t stop looking.” And if anyone is living proof of that fact, it is this pair of adorable newlyweds.
Nicole had the kind of fairy-tale wedding she could never have dreamed of having – even if she’d expected it. “The wedding was perfect, with us surrounded by our family and friends… There had to have been people watching over us for it to run as perfectly as it did,” she said.