By Kathleen Swift • Photos by McGee Creative

When Derek Daniels proposed to Kayla, he took her completely by surprise, but then, he swept her off her feet from the beginning. 

“Derek and I met our junior year at College of the Ozarks where we both played on the basketball teams,” recalled Kayla. “Having so much in common and being on a small campus, we developed mutual friendships and had classes together. That first year, our friendship grew. I remember thinking not only how handsome he was, how his personality would light up our classes, and how he was a genuine and fun-loving man, but also how much fun he was to be around.”

During their senior year, the couple found themselves, “shooting flirty smiles, sitting next to each other in classes, and becoming tennis partners,” said Kayla. “When our final basketball season rolled around, the connection between us could no longer be considered friendship.”

On a basketball bus trip to Nebraska, the couple found themselves sitting across the aisle from each other, talking and becoming closer.

“On that trip, we found ourselves meeting in the hallways at night time, crossing paths in the stairwell and meeting for breakfast before anyone else was there. We were smitten!” remembered Kayla.

Kayla was coaching at Kickapoo and received All-American status at College of the Ozarks and was honored to receive an award from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. The Kickapoo coach wanted to honor Kayla during a game, but she wanted no part of it. Derek had other ideas.

Having lost their last game, Kayla was in the locker room when another coach told her she had to go back out on the court because they were honoring her achievements. She reluctantly headed back onto
the court.

“I had been thinking about proposing on the court to Kayla,” said Derek. “When I got to the game, I was nervous. Kayla was in the middle of the court when I walked out of the locker room and saw her. She saw me, and I got down on one knee. She started crying, tears of joy, and then I asked her to be my wife. Everyone cheered and applauded, and she said yes. That was one of the greatest days of my life.”

The couple married July 15, 2017, at the Gambrel Barn in Verona, Missouri. 

“As soon as we saw the Gambrel Barn, we fell in love with it!” said Kayla. “It was the perfect place for us. The owners, Matt and Erica Johnson, made the entire process so smooth and so fun.”

The rustic setting was perfect.

“Our wedding was themed around vintage pieces. We said our vows with old, pink windows hanging behind us, vintage furniture all around the barn, small vignettes on each table and even handmade pieces by my dad and mom,” said Kayla. “It was the wedding of my dreams; the wedding I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl, with the man that I’ve always prayed for.”

Derek said, “On my way to the Gambrel Barn, I wondered what Kayla was feeling. I knew I was feeling joy, happiness, excitement and passion because I was marrying the woman of my dreams. Once I saw Kayla walking down the aisle in her beautiful dress, and her smile that was so mesmerizing to me, and her eyes that were filled with tears of joy, I knew she was ready to be my wife. When we said our vows and were staring into each other’s eyes, I couldn’t help but think I am the luckiest man in the world to marry such a caring, loving and passionate woman as Kayla. She is and will always be my best friend and my other half. She has my heart, and I know we will always be happy and love each other.”