Ashlee Hewitt and Nick Britt, newly engaged, share a kiss at the surface after their underwater proposal. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

“When you know, you just know.”

That’s what they say about good music, a great day on the water, and, of course, love. 

For Nick Britt and Ashlee Hewitt, the confluence of all three led to their underwater engagement last week at the foot of the Christ of the Abyss statue in Key Largo, a few days before the Key Largo Original Music Festival

Britt was in town to play the festival that weekend but had arrived early, A man on a mission ‒ to get engaged to the love of his life, to finish up his divemaster certification and to play original music at the festival, in that order ‒ he’d invited Hewitt on a little getaway vacation. She had no idea that he was working on a plan with his Nashville dive instructor, local Bobby Stoky and The Weekly.

Nick‌ ‌Britt‌ ‌prepares‌ ‌to‌ ‌propose‌ ‌to‌ ‌Ashlee‌ ‌Hewitt‌ ‌underwater‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌Christ‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Abyss‌ ‌statue‌ ‌in‌ ‌ Key‌ ‌Largo.‌ ‌TIFFANY‌ ‌DUONG/Keys‌ ‌Weekly‌

On their very first day in the Keys, Britt and Hewitt hopped into Stoky’s boat, destination secret to Hewitt. It was their first ocean dive ever, and they were blown away by the colors and wildlife. Holding hands the entire dive, they explored the reef at North Dry Rocks, making their way toward Key Largo’s most famous statue with his hands up in supplication.

“My heart was pounding in my chest,” Britt said. “I was not nervous about the dive, but aware that I was about to be engaged to the most unfathomable human I’ve ever met.”

Britt and Hewitt met on the dating app Hinge in April. Three weeks later, they met in person for a first date at a Mexican restaurant in Pulaski, Tennessee, where Hewitt lives with her son, Tuff, 8. The pair quickly discovered a shared love of fitness, faith, music and each other. 

“We never run out of things to talk about,” Hewitt told The Weekly. “We have so much in common. And, he’s so sweet. He wakes up at 4 a.m. every day, so he has six hours by himself before I’m awake, and I wake up to really sweet, well-crafted messages every day.”

What else would you expect of a songwriter who’s won multiple Nashville Industry Music Awards, including Artist and Album of the Year? Hewitt also is no stranger to the stage or the mic. As part of a contemporary country trio called Post Monroe, she toured with Martina McBride and was on “Nashville Star,” a television singing competition from 2003 to 2008. 

As their relationship developed, Britt invited Hewitt to join him underwater and begin scuba diving, his latest passion. When the festival was confirmed as on, Britt “couldn’t think of any other place to propose” than Key Largo.

“We’d just gotten into scuba together, so I thought this was going to be unique, and with the statue, that’s symbolic of one of our personal shared foundations,” Britt said. “Plus, if she said no, it’d be easy to hide the body,” he added with a laugh and a wink to Hewitt.

Britt confessed, “When I saw the statue, I started to choke up, and I thought, ‘Jesus, don’t let me drown while proposing!’”

When they got to the Christ statue on that first dive, Britt motioned for Hewitt to kneel with him and pray. He showed her pre-written dive slates on his arm that asked: “You are the love of my life and I will serve you, Tuff, and Jesus forever….Ashlee Rose, will you marry me?”

Ashlee Hewitt reads pre-written dive slates on Nick Britt’s arm asking her to marry him. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

“I started getting emotional when I read that,” Hewitt said. “But, he didn’t give me a choice! ‘Yes’ or ‘yes’ were the only options to point to. He didn’t give me an option.”

Britt smiled back, “Mama didn’t raise no fool.”

Hewitt didn’t say no. Britt pulled out a turquoise ring safely tucked into a GoPro case to show his new fiancee, and they surfaced to share a kiss in the waves. 

“The center stone is turquoise, native to my region of the country,” Britt said. “When I saw this ring, it reminded me of home, and I knew that when I placed it on the hand of someone who could love me as fiercely as I love her, she would become my home.”

Back on the boat, Britt played a song over the boat speakers that he’d written for Hewitt called “Lovelee.” It was released on Spotify timed just for the festival and proposal.

The pair laughed as the lyrics noted that she “taste(d) like coffee and wine,” and hugged closer as Britt sang, “I’d always hoped somebody like you would knock me off my feet and I’d make her my wife.”

The rest of the week, the pair completed deep and night dives towards Hewitt’ advanced open water certification and Britt’s divemaster and took a motorcycle ride down to Key West and back, Hewitt got a tattoo of a palm tree and the words Key Largo, and Britt played the festival.

Sharing her song on social media, Hewitt noted, “I’ve never been loved so hard by anyone, Nick Britt. You amaze me.”

The next day, the pair drove back to Nashville with a truck full of scuba gear, music and love.

Nick Britt and Ashlee Hewitt enjoyed a day on the ocean after their underwater proposal in Key Largo. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly