by Anna Ferraro
Brandon Pilarte was signing “Hey There, Delilah” by the Plain White Tees and wearing a ball cap when he first caught 14-year-old Audra’s eye. A junior at the time, he was also drum major, and in Audra’s young eyes, “very cool.” She shares, “What 14-year-old girl wouldn’t be attracted to a handsome upperclassman?” Beyond the good looks, she perceived “a smile and genuine care for others” in this handsome drum major – an observation that captured her young heart and “officially made [her] fall head over heels for him.”
Brandon? Yes, he noticed Audra. Just ten months after their first meeting at that summer band camp, he went on his first date with the girl who had pulled at his heart. He shares, “Her overall cuteness, joyfulness, and energy is what I first found most attractive, and still do! She was always smiling at me, and was laughing at my jokes.” In Audra’s words, “We became great friends really quick, and the attraction continued to grow.”
Their early memories together revolved around music, such as being in the band room at JHS, taking trips to music competitions, going to Friday night football games, and laughing together at “the craziness that was our music teacher.” As the months and then the years passed, Audra shares that laughter bonded them deeply, saying, “I was first attracted to Brandon’s smile, he’s got a great one. He has such a good sense of humor, too, and is always making me laugh.” In turn, Brandon stated, “I love making her laugh! She has a great laugh.”
On Easter Sunday, 2015, they were attending church with Brandon’s family, and doing lunch with them afterwards. After lunch, they decided to go to Centennial Park in Springfield to walk around. Audra shared, “It was such a beautiful day, so Brandon suggested we take some pictures together, which seemed odd. He isn’t one to just suggest that we take cutesy pictures. But, we have often walked around the park before, so it didn’t seem off to me when he suggested walking up to the top of the hill for pictures. I was so oblivious to what was happening.”
When Brandon complained of not feeling well, Audra assumed he had eaten too much at lunch. Dismissing Brandon’s upset stomach from her mind, Audra was oblivious to the fact that her life was about to change, and his funny stomach complaint was a bad case of “pre-proposal” nerves. She shares, “We made our way up the hill and that’s where Brandon shared with me how special these last seven years had been to him. Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him!”
With her precious smile and laugh that Brandon had grown to so deeply love, Audra said “yes!” And with that “yes,” there was no, “wait!” Audra says, “We’d been together for some time, so at this point, we wanted a quick engagement. We booked our venue and the earliest date they had available was September 19, 2015. We said yes and started planning!”
Their wedding day was all they had ever dreamed and more. Brandon shared thoughtfully, “You could just feel the love. The love from family, the love in the ceremony and the culmination of love that had grown [between us] over the last seven plus years!” For Audra, “Officially being called ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ was the best feeling.”
They celebrated the happy day by killing the fatted pig – compliments of Tywfords BBQ. In the tone of a man highly satisfied with his meal, Brandon declared, “We went with the works and had the hog roast and all.” He chuckled at his wife’s response to the ordeal, saying, “I think the pig was named Julie and when they brought her out, Audra’s eyes widened in disbelief and my eyes widened with pure happiness.” Brandon continued, “The man roasting the pig proceeded to reached into the cheek of the pig (the most tender part of the pig meat) and pulled out a piece. We fed it to each other and everyone cheered. It was great!” Audra, the happy bride, had the forethought to bring a full coverage apron, which, in her own words, “was a lifesaver!” Through the messy but tasty BBQ extravaganza, her beautiful white dress remained a beautiful white.
And the romance, laughter and love, didn’t end at the wedding. From doing high school, band, and movie theater dates together, they now do dishes and life together, with no less laughter! Audra shares, “Not a day goes by that we aren’t sharing a laugh or two or a few thousands together. We also work really well together and we make a great team! It makes kitchen clean up and folding laundry a breeze!”
Audra still enjoys doing the things she loves – DIY projects, restoration, upcycling, collecting cookbooks, perusing Pinterest, and being adventurous in the kitchen. When it comes to her DIY projects, she says, “I come up with the ideas and Brandon brings them to life. DIY projects are something we absolutely love doing together.” Brandon too, makes time for his music (if you ever need a saxophonist, give him a call!), and doing woodworking and restoration projects.
As time goes on, their young love keeps them going. Both born and raised in Jacksonville, IL, the young Pilarte couple is now going on ten years since their first meeting. Audra shares, “We are starting to read each other’s minds and finish each other’s sentences. It’s kind of creepy, but somewhat hilarious. My parents say that it only gets worse with time.” But for Brandon and Audra, the “worse” aspect of becoming more and more like each other, could really be translated into a “better.” Brandon concluded, “We are honestly each other’s best friends. We keep each other laughing and that’s really what makes life together so easy.”