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Nicole Carfagna had been basking in the euphoria of getting engaged for only 20 minutes when fiance Danny Rios had one more question for her.
Do you want to get married right now?
Rios, 33, already had their family and friends in a tent in the backyard of the couple’s home in Smithtown, New York, on Dec. 8 for the surprise engagement. Everything for a wedding, including an ordained minister and a dress for Carfagna, was in place.
“I thought he just wanted a minute to be like, ‘Hey, we’re engaged,”’ Carfagna told TODAY. “Then he said he would like to end the night as husband and wife, but only if you want. I said yes immediately.”
Carfagna, 32, was diagnosed in 2011 with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that often saps her energy.
“With her condition, I knew there was no way she was going to be able to plan a wedding,” Rios told TODAY. “When the time came when I knew I was going to propose, (planning a wedding) almost came naturally.”
“I didn’t want to plan a wedding,” Carfagna said. “Stress is my biggest trigger for getting sick. Once he asked me and I said yes, then I completely calmed down.”
Rios had secretly enlisted the help of both sets of parents, who put the whole backyard scene together while Rios and Carfagna were on a trip to Disney World in celebration of her birthday on Dec. 4 and three years of being together.
They purposely took it easy at the Florida resort, with Carfagna using a wheelchair all week, because Rios wanted her to have plenty of energy for the day they got back.
Rios had previously gone with her mother and picked out a pair of wedding dresses of different sizes so Carfagna would have a choice if one didn’t fit properly. His father got himself ordained online so he could perform the wedding.
He had to get creative to keep the surprise intact when their flight from Orlando to New York’s LaGuardia Airport got back an hour early on Dec. 8. He took the long way home and stopped for food in order in an effort to stall before guests arrived.
“I don’t get nervous, but my stomach was inside out on the way home,” Rios said.
Carfagna had no idea what was about to happen until she saw the house decorated with lights, but she figured it was probably for Christmas. It finally sank in when she saw her mother starting to cry and a heard a Coldplay song that the couple loves.
“Everything just went perfectly,” Carfagna said. “I was just shocked and happy. I’ve been on cloud nine.”
“It went by so fast,” Rios said. “We woke up the next morning and she was so excited. We were smiling for weeks.”
Since writing about their big night on her blog, Carfagna has heard from the lupus community around the world.
“I’ve cried a lot,” she said. “So many people who have lupus have been reaching out, saying, ‘You’re giving me hope that I can meet someone.’ If we could inspire anyone, that would make me incredibly happy.”
Her condition worsened when she started dating Rios in 2015, but it never became an issue between them.
“It wasn’t even a second thought,” he said. “I wanted to be there for her.”
Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.
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