Featured in HowHeAsked by The Knot
Bride: Ashlei Elise Mason
Occupation: Regional Marketing Specialist
Groom: Elias Panagiotis Mihalis Doulgerakis
Occupation: Sustainability Consultant
Engagement Shoot Location: Piedmont Park Atlanta, GA
Photography: Donnell Perry Photography
Before I give the details, let me say even I was impressed by Elias’s level of mastery when pulling off this proposal! Mid-October a close friend of mine from Canada gave me a call with some awesome news. As a fellow Latin dancer, she had won dance tickets for two to a festival in Toronto, Canada. She laid it all out perfectly: free tickets and a free place to stay at her place. Elias had agreed to go AND there was a deal on airfare to Canada where we could use our miles and make it just about a free trip. Needless to say, I was stoked. For the next two weeks I raved about how we could go find Drake’s house (I wasn’t serious, I mean…not entirely) or go to Niagara Falls, among a list of other things. I went on the festival’s website and got all the details of what to expect for the weekend. The night before, as I began to pack for the trip I checked Toronto’s weather one last time. They were calling for snow and low 30 degrees. The following morning after dropping our puppy off at her puppy hotel, we checked our bags and boarded our first leg of the trip, a flight from Atlanta to Charlotte. As we landed and taxi’d in, Elias told me, “Babe, we only have 20 minutes to get to our next gate. We need to get to gate B4.” I hurried to gate B4 and looked for Toronto on the boards. It was no where to be seen. “Umm, babe…I don’t see Toronto. Are you sure we have the right gate?” And as I began to scramble in my purse for the flight ticket Elias pulled me around and said, “that’s because we aren’t going to Toronto.” It took me a moment to process this bit of information? “What do you mean?” “Pooneh (my friend) is waiting for us!” “Where are we going!?!” “It’s all fake,” he said, “We’re going to Aruba!” In that moment I took in my surroundings; everyone around the gate was wearing shorts and tees, sandals and 100% ready to get to a beach. Elias was even dressed light. Whereas I was in jeans, boots, a sweater, hat and coat. Seriously. “I have one rule,” he continued as I was awe-struck, “no questions this weekend.” And just like that, we were off to Aruba. We spent the weekend exploring literally the entire island and just about everything that these awesomely cool people could offer. Each day and each night Elias had planned an adventure. From watching Broadway’s “Rent” to scuba diving at an old war sight, to riding the island party bus as well as hiking through Aruba’s National Park to see a natural lagoon and get completely sunburned. And of course we were hanging out at the beautiful beaches and snacking on local cuisine. As Sunday rolled around, I didn’t think it could any better and then it did. He took me to Aruba’s Butterfly Farm. Butterflies are so special to me; I have one tattooed on my side to remind me to find beauty from any struggle. Turns out, he had secured a private viewing and guide of the Aruba Butterfly Farm. We were able to see and learn about butterflies’ lives from all over the world. It was a beautiful sight to see. Hundreds of butterflies flying around this beautifully constructed garden space. I nearly cried. When he asked if I wanted a photo I was beyond giddy from the awesomeness and gave over my phone to our tour guide. Two snaps later and looked over to Elias to smile just to see him down on his knees. “Ashlei, you’ve been giving me butterflies since the day we met…” And honestly, everything else is blurry AF. All I know is that there was a rose gold beautifully crafted diamond ring staring back at me from the hands of a man who went above and beyond my wildest dreams to ask me that one question I’ve been low-key itching for him to ask for the past year. “Will you marry me Ashlei?” Welp…and as you know it…I said yes. And that’s how my loving boyfriend became my fiance and will soon become my husband. I am so excited about our engagement and about the year ahead worth of planning that we will be doing together.
Elias and I met on a dating app (no, not Tinder!) in late January of 2016 when our companies moved us both to the middle of Georgia not knowing anyone. Elias was coming was Dallas, Texas while I was coming from Pullman, Washington. We first began texting via the app for a month. During this time I had joined a Latin dance team and had begun traveling an hour and half to Atlanta each night to practice; most nights this meant driving back home close to midnight. Elias took this opportunity to call every night to help me stay awake on the drive back. After a month of this, Elias finally worked up the courage to ask me out on a date and meet for the first time. I agreed but was nervous as all get out. Kinda wanted to throw up… The night of the date I was late because, like have you driven in Atlanta’s traffic? It be cray! Beforehand we agreed that the date would be close to my dance studio so that I could get back to my practice on time at 9pm. Welp with me being 30 minutes late (due to traffic people!) and Elias getting lost a little bit himself, it left us with very little time together. In fact, the date lasted long enough for us to chat nervously about absolutely nothing, order food at this Italian restaurant and take literally two bites before I announced, “Umm, I gotta go to practice…” Needless to say, it was an epic fail of a first date! I knew that I had blown it and had already told myself, welp there goes that one! That night after practice I got in my car and prepared myself for a long drive back without help. 30 minutes into the drive and my phone began to ring. I picked up and it was Elias! What the heck!?! I answered, “Why are you calling me!?! I was horrible on that date!” He laughed and said, “I like women who have things to do! So how was practice…” And just like that, we picked up where we left off! Now, nearly two years later, I can confidently say that Elias is my best friend. The two years hasn’t be easy but they have been worth it! We have laughed and cried together, traveled to two countries, attended countless ugly Christmas sweater parties and have learned so much about how to love each other in the best way possible.
Our theme was simple and chic. We kept our looks simple with monotone colors as well as jeans and white tops to allow our scenery of the Atlanta downtown skyline and park to work its magic.
Yes yes yes! I started planning our wedding the very day that Elias proposed. Who am I kidding? I’ve been planning that thing since nearly a year into our relationship! Our wedding is going to be the first of its kind, but like literally. As we work to blend both my African-American and Elias’s Greek cultures, we will be going a less traditional route and have picked a unique historic venue that has NEVER been used for a wedding in the nearly 70 years it has been open. We have planned for big surprises during our reception and special performances. We’ve named our DIY wedding “A Greek & A Rose” and will be using the colors of rose gold, creams, and hues of blue.
Donnell and his wife Tiffany were amazing! They went out of their way to make our experience worthwhile and special. Elias was a bit nervous about the shoot, but Donnell helped him to get comfortable through encouragement and total guy talk. During the shoot we dubbed Donnell the “photo-ninja” because of the heights he took to get the shot. And in the words of my mother, “Donnell’s photos really captured the ‘love’ between us.
We are looking forward to seeing our vision come together. Our venue allows us to have almost a blank canvas to create our own magic for the day. Every piece of the wedding experience will be planned and orchestrated by us with the help of close family and friends. On the big day, seeing our love ones celebrating our love in a dream of venue that we love will be everything.
Marrying Ashlei and eating some good snacks with the boys is what I’m looking forward to the most. Everything else, all the behind the scenes, planning and organizing is Ashlei’s forte; I’m just going to be a great fiance, nod my head, say yes (to some things) and try to keep her on budget.
Our love is forgiving. In the two years that we have been together, Elias and I have been through a lot. Like, a ton. Yet through it all, we’ve learned the power of forgiving and healthy communication.
Donnell Perry Photography is an Award Winning Raleigh Wedding Photography company based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. Please view our portfolio to see more of our work. We are available to travel for wedding and portrait photography, please contact us through the contact form on our website for more information.
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