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The first time Josh Perez asked Alexus Gonzales’ parents if it was OK to date their daughter they said no. She was too young. 

That was understandable. He and Gonzales were 12.

Thirteen years later, Perez, now working for an insurance agency in Lansing, again reached out to Gonzales’ parents for their permission. This time, he had a different question – he wanted to ask for Gonzales’ hand in marriage – and was pretty sure they’d be OK with it.

“I’ve been with her through everything,” says Perez, 25. 

He was right. Thirteen years into a relationship that started in a middle school science class, despite some early parental objections, Perez and Gonzales are now planning their wedding after Perez got down on one knee during last weekend’s popular Michigan Lavender Festival.

The couple took a shuttle ride from the festival in Imlay City to nearby Indigo Lavender Farms and amid the picturesque rows of purple flowers, Perez told Gonzales he couldn’t imagine his life without her and asked her to be his wife.

Gonzales, also 25, couldn’t believe it.

“When I first said something, I said ‘Is this really happening? What are you doing?’” remembers Gonzales.

It was really happening, but thank goodness the couple was with their good friends, Karisa Anderson and fiance Earl Christensen, who snapped photos of the big moment and took video. Gonzales says she was so overwhelmed by the moment that she essentially blacked out.

For his part, Perez was just happy he squeezed out three or four sentences during his proposal. 

“She was so surprised and so happy that I almost forgot what I was going to say,” said Perez.

Most romances don’t start in seventh grade – and they certainly don’t last – but Perez and Gonzales are different. They are opposites, Gonzales say – she says what’s on her mind, he’s more calm and reserved – but they work together.

“We’re like ying and yang,” says Gonzales.

Gonzales is actually the one who made the first move in middle school – calling Perez on his home phone line. 

“His older sister answered and I said ‘Is Josh there?’ and she yelled ‘Josh! There’s a girl on the phone for you!’” remembers Gonzales.

And remarkably, they’ve made it through. Still, like any relationship, it hasn’t always been easy. They’ve taken some breaks. And Gonzales says she knew she wanted to do things differently than her own parents. Her mom had her when she was 16. So she and Perez took their time finding their way to the altar.

“We wanted to do things our way,” says Gonzales, who also works for Farm Bureau Insurance.

So while the couple had finally been talking about wedding venues and even picked out an engagement ring over the last few months, Gonzales says she had no idea that the proposal was coming when friends Anderson and Christensen suggested they check out the Lavender Festival. Christensen is from a town not far from Imlay City. 

Perez had never heard of the lavender festival but thought the venue was just right. He didn’t want to propose at a restaurant or somewhere ordinary.

“She deserves the whole world in my eyes,” says Perez. “...I wanted it to be a little more special.”

Walking amid the rows of lavender at Indigo Farms to get a picture on Saturday, Perez seized his chance. He got down on one knee. 

Gonzales could feel Perez looking at her.

“I thought ‘Why is he looking at me? I told him to take the picture,” she says.

Looking back, she says her future husband couldn’t have picked a better spot.

“It’s crazy how everything ends up in general,” she says. “And I think that’s how our relationship has been – how we ended up in Imlay and at the lavender festival.”

They’re planning for a November 2020 wedding. Their colors will be copper with lavender or rose gold and lavender, says Gonzales – colors she’d picked long before they got engaged.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

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