Casey & Joel / by Luanne Shillingburg

Casey & Joel

There is a wonderful familiarity between Casey and Joel.  You would think they have been best friends for years, even childhood sweethearts.  In reality they've only known each other for a short while.  This is their wedding story which plays out like a script crafted from an unforgettable romantic film.  It begins  with the modern day equivalent of a handwritten love letter from times past, a Facebook post.  It is complete with a musical score that seems to have been written just for them.   Thus it began, a beautiful Michigan girl's simple comment, written on the Facebook post of a handsome Chicago boy she had never met.   A few simple words that would unite two souls.


How They Met

Whenever anyone asks Casey how she and Joel met, she responds,

  " We met because of music and movies.   I was going to be going down to Chicago for the first time with some friends for a music festival.   These friends knew some people in Chi town who were also going to the music festival and offered to let us stay with them.   So, naturally, I decided to look these people up on Facebook." 

  Joel was one of the friends and a post he had made, featuring a movie quote, caught the attention of this sharp Michigan gal.

" At the time Joel had posted a movie quote on his wall and no one was getting it right."  Casey said.  " I was like "I know this!"  It ended with, "look it up big boy.  (Emma Stone Easy A just in case you were curious), and the rest was history."


Imagine being able to go back in history to the beginning of "your story".  To the first words the two of you ever spoke, your Chapter One,  Page One.   That is exactly what Casey and Joel can do.  About their,  "Chapter One" moment, Casey says,  "Our first conversation was on May 15th and thanks to Facebook, I can look back and read every word."  "Joel said "Casey rocks these movie quotes...I think we are going to be very good friends." We have talked every day since then." 

Joel's version is oddly familiar, "I knew of Casey through friends." he said.  "I didn't actually talk to her until May 15, 2012. Just a few friends chatting online and I couldn't believe how much I felt like I had known Casey forever. The things we enjoyed and both knew.   It was crazy.  After our friends got offline we continued talking.  I get along with all people. I show interest in what they have to say and the conversation goes fine. They like me."

Joel knew there was something different with Casey, something special, familiar, and that was just the first conversation. 

"With Casey SHE was interested in me," Joel lovingly admits.  " We continued talking and it felt like we just wanted to know more about each other. That was the first day. I recently looked back at that conversation and I said, "Casey rocks." Casey replied "I think we are going to be very good friends".


That was the easy part...

"From there on it was tough." Joel recalls.  " At least for a week. Getting Casey to talk was a pain. Months later I asked her what that was about. She said she didn't think I was real. Apparently I was saying all the right things and seemed to be in her head. Little did she know I felt the same way but instead of backing off I got more curious."

Over the next few months Joel, along with his cousin Julia, drove to Michigan to visit Casey. 

"Over time we got to know each other more," Joel said.  "We arranged for big group events with friends. That summer we went to the beach in Michigan and later that summer to a big concert event with a few of our favorite bands playing in Chicago. All through this we couldn't stop talking" he said.

The Moment "She Knew"  

When it came time for the Music Festival and the long awaited trip to Chicago Casey was excited.

"When September finally rolled around and my big Chicago trip finally arrived I was so excited!" recalls Casey.  "We spent the weekend rocking out to Gaslight Anthem, mind blowing since it was my very first concert ever, and because they are one of my favorites.   AWOLNATION, Chiodos (original line-up for Riotfest), Coheed and Cambria (can't resist that hair!) and then my personal all time favorite...A Day To Remember!! I couldn't wait to see them! Had to make it through all three days and it was so worth it! They sang all the best ones including the one Joel and I always sing during Rock Band.  After that mind blowing performance we topped it off with being smooshed front and center for Rise Against and I crowd surfaced my way out of there.  After that I knew I was going to marry him.  I knew a long time before that, but had been reluctant to admit it,"  says Casey.  

Time to Meet the Family

Joel was feeling the same way.  My sister was getting married that year and I invited Casey to come to Chicago for the wedding.  That is when she met my whole family.  All at once.  She helped my sister move,  helped set up the reception and just hung out with everyone the whole time. It was great to see how much my family liked her.  My mom saw a lot of herself in Casey.  For me, the baby of the family, that really meant a lot to me."

Casey had won the hearts of Joel's family.  Now, it was time for him to meet her family in Michigan.   "I finally met Casey's family the next year. Not knowing anything about a guy from Chicago they really had their reservations. As they got to know me I really felt loved. Casey's mom, brother and Grandma really liked me. I didn't know that could happen. To this day it still surprises me to feel love from people other than my family.   From Casey's family, I get that though."


Casey remembers the next year was filled with long drives every other weekend to Chicago and Michigan.  Joel says pretty much the same thing. 

"Our relationship progressed. Many trips to Michigan. Many visits from Casey in Chicago,"  recalls Joel.  " All the time we were talking and learning more about each other. At one point I asked Casey what would her perfect proposal involve. I wondered if she would like anyone to be there. The thing that stuck out to me was she wanted her mom to be there. I filed that away in my mind. As I got to know Casey more I realized how much she cherished the peace and quiet. I made my plan very early on how I would propose to her. I was already planning. By the time we started talking about getting married and how we would do things I already had the proposal planned."

Two weeks on the road together...

The summer of 2013, Joel, Casey and Julia set out on a cross country road trip that would cover over 5,000 miles.  During the trip, everyone, including Casey, expected Joel to pop the question at the Grand Canyon.

Recalling their journey Casey said,  "The following August,  Joel and Julia, who had become a very dear friend, and I decided to take a road trip out west to Arizona and I was certain he would pop the question!"   "More specific, I was certain it would be during sunset at the Grand Canyon!   So I waited through the whole trip.  First stop, the future birth place of Captain James T. Kirk, next, the Garden of the Gods, Vegas, Tombstone, Sedona and finally...the Grand Canyon!

 The Proposal?

 "The first night there, recalls Casey,  we set up our tent and after we got the herd of Elk out of the camp site,  we hike up the canyon to one of the sunset overlooks, it gets darker, the sun begins to set, Joel puts his arms around me and then...the proposal. I was thinking, he missed his chance!   O.k.  I think,  we have another night here.  Second night comes and goes, no proposal.  So now I'm thinking, o.k. man, you're missing all the opportunities here, but, maybe he has something epic planned."

Casey was right, but there was more to it than that.  Joel was sharing the beautiful scenery, romantic location of the Grand Canyon at sunset,  with this amazing, beautiful girl that loved him.  So what prevented Joel from asking Casey right then and there? 

Remembering an earlier conversation he had with her Joel says,  "The problem was her mom wasn't there,"  said Joel.  "So I waited.  After 2 weeks of being around Casey and not wanting to kill each other I decided we could make a marriage work. Not only that, but I couldn't stand to be away from her anymore."  

Joel set to work planning not only the perfect proposal, but also a wedding that would touch the heart of this beautiful girl he had fallen in love with. 

"We talked about so many wedding plans," Joel said.  "Finally, we decided that we could do the Vegas thing but we didn't like Vegas.  I asked Casey for her permission to plan where we got married, just me and her, and our honeymoon.  She gave it to me. I found a resort in the mountains. Started planning. Got everything set, paid for, ready to go, and then I invited Casey and her mom to Chicago."

Finally! He's gonna do it!

Casey recalls returning home from their trip without a proposal.    "We head home listening to the new Civil Wars cd we just picked up, and we get to Chicago...still no proposal.  Now I'm a little bummed," she said.   

Soon though, it would all make perfect sense.  "Then Joel calls and says Casey how about you bring your mom out to meet the family. Finally! He's gonna do it!  So mom and I made the arrangements and we head down to Chicago."



A light-up box, a grapefruit tree and a fountain?

September 20, 2013, Joel proposed to Casey in front of Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago.

HIS PLAN...and almost not going through with it.

Joel recalls planning the perfect proposal and the day he would actually do it, maybe.

"September 20th, 2013.   Casey and her mom arrive in Illinois... late. I was patient.  Also, a nervous wreck. I had planned this speech for weeks. I had practiced it driving home every single day. Multiple times.  So we're walking around the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago. Casey's mom is there. She knows it's coming. Casey had to know it was coming.   I was so nervous I thought about not doing it!   Finally, I start talking. I'm not completely sure what I said but I know I had planned what  I wanted to say. I wanted to talk about all the things we had imagined as a future together. How there were so many paths we could take. Then say the most important thing to me was that I wanted her there with me for all of it. I never wanted to have to leave her side again or watch her drive away from me. That's probably not what I said but I don't think it mattered. At that point I got down on my knee and said, "Casey Ann will you marry me?"

  "It was perfect there were lights, singing and a water show." Casey said.  "He tells me how much stuff we've talked about, our grapefruit tree we're going to have one day, the way I get his quotes but none of that matters because all that matters is me being with him.  He gets down on one knee and pulls out a box. He opens it and I say...


"It lights up! I mean yes!"  Joel  knew it would be night when he asked so he found a special box that shined a light down on the ring.  What a guy!"

What a guy indeed!  Not only did Joel find a special box to illuminate the ring in the darkness of an evening proposal,  but listen as he describes the ring he had made for her.

"It was dark, so I had a box that lit up. Inside was a custom made ring. It was shaped like a flower. Casey has always loved flowers. I even helped her plant some before. A ring shaped like a flower, with blues that sparked like her eyes but could never do them justice. I had it all planned. I'm on my knee and show her. Casey yelps out "It lights up!" and snatches the box from me! She then gives it back and says, yes but then goes for the ring. Stops herself and says I'm supposed to do that for her. I put the ring on her finger and haven't stopped smiling since that day."



Then the day arrived.   Without the slightest hesitation, Joel and Casey set off to Reno, Nevada to be married. 

"November 19th, 2013 my mom, Casey's mom and brother drive us to the airport," Joel recalls. "We get on the plane to go get married. We flew to Reno and got married on top of the mountains overlooking Emerald Bay. A beautiful view. As I said my vows I was tearing up. Not once did I think I wanted something different. This was the woman I loved and I couldn't wait to enjoy everyday with her.

Their soundtrack?  As if he had also hired a band to write the song and the DJ to play it, Joel and Casey found a special connection in a newly released song on the way to their ceremony.  Casey recalls that moment they heard it come on the radio.

"As we drove up the mountains to reach Emerald Bay, where we would be married, a new song came on the radio by the Goo Goo Dolls. It was called 'Come to Me', and has since become a very special song for us."


Casey recalls the details of their intimate wedding ceremony.

"We get there and had a short and sweet ceremony that ended with an Indian blessing " Now you will feel no rain, for you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.  Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth."

There are a few songs that mean a lot to us. The first is the one I mentioned...Come to Me by the Goo Goo Dolls. The others are: Handwritten - Gaslight Anthem Mulholland Drive - Gaslight Anthem Shove - Angels and Airwaves Have Faith in Me - A Day to Remember and finally Tangled up in you - Staind I weep every time I hear that one.

To say they have a special relationship may be an understatement as shown in the last words submitted by Joel for this story.

"Casey doesn't know this but one of the things I really appreciated about her is she respected my huge family. She never wanted to get in the way of that. As we got to know each other more we kept respecting our differences. Though few.. there are differences. In those differences though we found similarities. That is one thing we always do. We find ways to understand and relate. Doing that, probably unknowingly, has caused our love to grow more and more. I know that wont change.  I could keep going because everyday to me feels like it's something there should be a story about. Some sappy love story to make people cringe and say ew about. I'm enjoying each and everyday though. I look forward to many more adventures and memories."


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Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
I'll take you back where you belong
And this will be our favorite song