What it Takes to Reach the Top


Visitors to the Harbour Town Lighthouse sometimes remark on the persistence it takes to clear the 114 steps to the observation deck and the Shoppe at the Top. For many, it becomes a point of pride. For Emily Blumette and Wesley René, there were plenty of steps to take before the 114, when Wes chose the lighthouse as the setting for his proposal to Emily in April 2021. The joy in their voices when they recount the story tells you that persistence paid extraordinary dividends, when it led them to the lighthouse.

And yet, more than persistence, it takes inspiration to shepherd a relationship such as theirs from college through nearly a decade of wayfinding and career building.

Where Paths Converge

In the frosty environs of Syracuse University, Emily and Wes met as undergraduates a decade ago, she from distant Manasquan, New Jersey, and he from Rochester, New York, less than a couple of hours away from school. What began there proved to be even more than romance, because it withstood one of the greatest disrupters of young love – graduation – and endures to this day.

Finding their respective footholds in this world led Emily to an ad agency in New York City, and Wes to a couple of years on the job before returning upstate for law school. Three years later, with a law degree, Wes was still with Emily even when geography said otherwise. Their relationship was not long distance in their hearts during those five years after college.

When Love Prevails

“I waited way too long to propose,” Wes said. “My family loves Emily, too, and I could feel all along that they were anticipating the good news.”

The suspense wasn’t about ‘What,” but rather about “How.” Hilton Head Island became the setting.

“Our first romantic vacation together was here,” Emily recalled, “and I was hooked even sooner than I expected. Hilton Head has everything I want in a vacation.”

Growing up on the Jersey Shore, Emily’s favorite vacation pastimes include beaches and biking. As a varsity tennis player in high school, Emily found plenty of easy court time here on Hilton Head Island, too. Emily visited Hilton Head with her family once or twice, even before coming here with Wes.

Even for a Hilton Head Island vacation regular, the Harbour Town Lighthouse retained its magic.

Wes’s connection with Hilton Head Island was deep and long.

“I’ve been coming here since I was nine years old,” Wes said. “Extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – for those times when we were all together, it was on Hilton Head Island. Our fondest memories are here.”

Signal of the Happy Place

“You don’t’ miss the lighthouse,” Wes said. “For me, it’s a sign that I am in my happy place. In fact, I felt that Hilton Head Island was my family’s place, and I wanted Emily to be part of that.”

On their first vacation together, Emily and Wes captured a string of fun-time pictures in the photobooth at the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Casual and unprepared as they were, one of these photobooth shots became a framed feature of Emily’s apartment in New York.

“I saw it every time I went there to visit,” Wes said. “It was a lasting connection with what we have together.”

Making it More than a Dream

What if I could propose at the lighthouse? Wes wondered.

“At first, I thought it was a pipedream,” he said. “And then I called Nadia. She bent over backward to make everything fall into place.”

Lighthouse Keeper Nadia Wagner even scrambled to fix the photobooth – it was out of paper – in time for Emily and Wes to restage their photo there, to mark the day of their engagement, bringing the fun full circle.

It was no mystery that Emily and Wes were to be married. The obstacles of time and space that they overcame continually testified to that. The surprise came from when and how. Making that special is where the magic of the lighthouse played its part.

“He didn’t’ say at first where we were going,” Emily said. “Just, ‘Pack your bags.’ The whole trip was a complete spur-of-the-moment surprise to me.”

The story of Emily and Wes, what the lighthouse signaled for them, and how it played a part in the genius of their enduring relationship is one of the treasures we embrace here. We are grateful to become part of so many love stories, in all the surprising paths that lead together.