Eight years ago, Dawn Gibbons’s friends at Chantilly High School told her they’d found the perfect guy for her. They’d met Nick Mitchell at a swim meet and wanted to set her up with him. There was only one problem: Dawn was 15 and not yet allowed to date. So her friends hatched a plan for her to meet Nick, a student at Westfields High School, at a school play—an event that would warrant an okay from her parents.
Dawn’s friends planned the meeting, and she just needed to show up. “When I got there, I saw two guys, and I was hoping the one for me was Nick,” says Dawn, 23. “I can’t remember the play at all, but I remember how funny it was because Nick has a very original laugh. While he was laughing at the play, I was laughing at his laugh the whole time. The scary part was that he laughs exactly like my father—go figure!”
Nick, 23, and Dawn hit it off. Soon after they met, Dawn and a few friends went to see The Mummy Returns. Nick and a friend met them at the movie theater. Despite Dawn’s parents’ rule that she couldn’t date until she was 16, Nick remembers this as their first date. “I held her hand for most of the movie and she leaned her head on my shoulder,” says Nick, an engineer. “Eventually, I built up enough courage to whisper into Dawn’s ear, ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ On the way out of the movie theater, I snuck a quick kiss in. Not quite romantic, but I figured I’d go for it. From then on, she was hooked!”
Almost a year later, Dawn turned 16 and her parents allowed them to go on their first official date. They got dinner at Wendy’s and saw a movie. Nick’s mom played chauffeur—neither Nick nor Dawn was old enough to drive. “I remember him being so nervous because his mom was driving and asking lots of questions,” says Dawn, a recruiter. “I think we just made small talk. It was awkward all around for us and his mom, so we kept it casual and listened to music.”
The two dated throughout high school. “Friends used to make fun, saying it wouldn’t last,” Nick says. “And family used to say that we were just in high school and it couldn’t be that serious. But the more time we were together, the more I knew I wanted to be with her.” When it came time to think about college, they both chose North Carolina Sate University in Raleigh, where they now live.
Dawn’s grandmother, who met her husband later in life, tells Dawn how lucky she is to have so much time with the love of her life. “People say your twenties are for finding yourself,” Dawn says. “But for me, my twenties are about exploring the world with my soulmate so that when we do settle down we’ll have so much to reflect on.”
When: Saturday, October 4.
Where: Westfields Marriott in Chantilly.
Colors: Brown, red, orange, and gold.
First dance: “You and Me” by Lifehouse.
Honeymoon: Maui, Hawaii.
Proposal: Nick proposed to Dawn on the beach in Nags Head, North Carolina.
Dawn’s first impression of Nick: “I thought he was so cute, and his eyes are this incredible shade of blue.”
Nick’s first impression of Dawn: “She was a fun person to be around, and I wanted to find out more!”
Silliest fight: Dawn and Nick agree on this one: where to eat dinner.
Worst name Dawn calls Nick: “I have the mouth of a truck driver,” Dawn admits. “But he is a pain in the butt at times, so I’ll go with that.”
One thing others would be surprised to know about Nick: “That he’s a neat freak! Every night he picks up every little thing and puts it back in its place.”
Favorite date spot: Japanese steakhouse and a movie.
When Nick knew they were meant to be: “Within that first six months of dating, we just found that connection. There wasn’t really anything we found too annoying about each other, and we felt that we could be open and honest about anything and everything.”
When Dawn knew they were meant to be: Freshman year of college. “I was so homesick, and he took care of me that year,” Dawn says. “He stayed in with me while everyone was out going wild!”
The benefit of having met so young: “We’ve experienced so much together, and we’ve matured as individuals and as a couple,” Nick says. “It feels special that almost everything I have experienced in my teenage years up until now I have been able to share with the person I love most.”
Says Dawn: “It’s so wonderful that I met my soulmate so young because I get to spend so much more time with him than most couples.”
What Dawn loves most about Nick: “How romantic he is. He never holds back what he’s thinking, and that’s what has made our relationship so successful. Even if it’s the silliest thing, he will just say it. I love that.”
What Nick loves most about Dawn: “That she loves to have fun. She can just let herself go and dance around while music is playing in the car or when we’re out together or with friends. Everyone loves to spend time with Dawn because she’s funny and is easy to get along with.”
One food they’ll make sure to grab a bite of at the wedding: “Steak,” Nick says.
Says Dawn: the cake, which will be chocolate on chocolate. “This cake is a dream come true!”
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