Danny Rios was certain of two things while dating the love of his life, Nicole Carfagna. The first point was that he knew they would someday marry, and the second was Rios wanted their wedding to involve zero stress. Carfagna has long struggled with lupus, an autoimmune disorder that causes flair-ups from stressful situations, prompting Rios to find the ideal solution: a proposal that could potentially end with a wedding.
“I knew for a while that I was going to marry Nicole,” Rios tells The Knot. “I wanted it to be special and something that she deserved… Because of her lupus, I knew that [it would be] difficult for her due to the stress and late nights that go into planning a wedding, so it really was a no-brainer. This was something that I had to do. This was something Nicole deserved.”
In September 2017, Rios cautiously started mapping out his grand surprise. “It was about five months of planning the biggest event of our lives… without Nicole knowing anything about it,” he says.
“I was in complete shock,” Carfagna adds. “He had just surprised me with a birthday trip to Disney World and we had discussed not getting engaged for at least a year. He had recently bought a house… and we had multiple conversations about how it would [delay] any wedding plans. So no part of me thought we would be getting engaged any time soon.”
Rios, however, had other ideas in mind. On December 8—after the couple had returned home from Disney—he proposed, to which she replied yes, and then he followed up with another question. “He brought me inside privately and said that everyone at the party thought it was an engagement party,” she continues. “A few family members helped—his dad got ordained, there was a dress and a suit hanging behind me—and if I wanted to, we could do this right then and go to bed with me as his wife.”
Carfagna didn’t hesitate. “I said yes right away because I knew I didn’t want to stress over a wedding, as it would’ve no doubt exacerbated my lupus symptoms,” she adds. “Danny kept telling me to think about it and make sure that’s what I wanted because if not we could have a great time planning a wedding together. And I just kept saying yes! Once we decided on getting married that night, all of my jitters from the engagement went away. I was completely calm and it just felt right and perfect. I was ready to marry this man.”
The story, first posted to Carfagna’s blog, has gone viral and inspired many people struggling with lupus and chronic pain. “Neither of us ever expected this in a million years. We sat down together after we started getting calls and messages from people wanting to run the story and discussed what we wanted to come of this,” she reflects. Together, the couple decided they wanted to raise awareness surrorunding lupus through their story. “It’s really hard living with an illness and equally as hard dating or being married to someone who is sick,” she continues. “We just want people to know that even though lupus is a horrible disease, you can find happiness and have your own fairy tale.”
“Nicole’s average day consist of pain that I have never felt before. She lives with pain,” Rios concludes. “She sleeps with pain. Yet, she smiles more than anyone I know. And I love the fact that I can make her smile no matter how much pain she is in. And I fall in love with her every time she smiles at me.”
“He is the most genuine, selfless and honest man I know,” Carfagna gushes in return. “He has stood by my side through some really tough health times and helped me more than I could have ever imagined.”