Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Anatomy of a Proposal: Part 3

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Check out part one and part two of Ben's "Anatomy of a Proposal" series!

It's about two weeks out from the "big day" (which will hopefully lead to a BIGGER day). I head out to the playground from our first date, that I plan to decorate with some strung up lights. When I get there, it is clear that I'm not going to be able to make it look like it was in my head. My mind had exaggerated the number of spaces where I could anchor these lights. I need a plan B. Actually this might be plan C or D by this point.

I wanted to stick with some place that has significance in our history. The first date location was out, but how about the second? We were having a picnic at a local forest preserve when it started to thunderstorm, so we huddled up under a pavilion and cuddled under the blanket until the storm passed. That pavilion might prove to be a good spot. I went and checked it out after work and it was perfect. The lights could go up on the edges of the roof and wrapped around supports, and the path leading back to the pavilion was long enough to put my cards with the "secrets" along the way.

My biggest goal with the proposal was the element of surprise. We had been talking seriously about getting married for a long time before this, so she knew it was going to happen eventually. I had a feeling she thought it wasn't going to happen for another 4 or 5 months, so I figured she was going to be surprised. But I also didn't want anyone to leak the secret to her. So I told almost no one about it. No one in her family knew about it, no one in my family knew about it. None of her friends knew, and only one of mine did. But as we got closer to the day and the planning was coming to a head, I knew I needed some backup, so I enlisted the help of a mutual friend and my brother.

I found out that the forest preserve was not too keen on me having paper bags with fire in them lining their walkway, which was understandable. My "helper friend" happened to work at a party store, so she came up with an idea to use some balloons with LED lights in them attached to the ground. The secrets would be tied to them, lighting the pathway to the pavilion. She also helped set up a ruse to get everyone in place. She was going to pick my girlfriend up to "go get their nails done" and then just drop her off at the forest preserve instead. Not glamorous, but it was all in the name of surprise.

I had been debating whether I needed to find a way to capture the moment with a picture for a while. I'm sure I could figure it out, but was it that important to have a camera snapping away in the background? Remember when I said to listen to the little things? Well, a week before the big day, I got my answer. My cousin had just gotten engaged, and there was a photo of the moment. She said, "I'm so glad they got the picture, I would really want to have that." Bingo. So I spent the next night searching for a way to take pictures remotely, without anyone else intruding on our moment.

Two days before the big day, and the ring still had not arrived. It hadn't even been shipped yet! Commence the freaking out, the numerous phone calls to the amazing folks at Brilliant Earth, and the lack of sleep. But they assured me it would arrive in time. I also spent two nights writing out the secrets on colorful paper. It took two nights because my handwriting is horrendous. I re-wrote them all at least three times.

It is now the morning of the big day. The ring is set to arrive at 11:00 am. I went in to work at 6:00 am so that I could leave by 3:00 and have plenty of time to set up. I spend most of the day refreshing my email and the tracking information. I actually refreshed it enough that I saw the delivery notification before the person at the front desk called me about my package arriving. I tore into the box as gently as possible, and there it was. It was gorgeous, and so sparkly. The perfect ring for the perfect fiancée. I'd be lying if I said I didn't tear up a little.

The rest of the work day was a blur. I locked the ring in my desk drawer every time I got up for any reason. When I was at my desk, I checked every 15 minutes to make sure it was still there. Maybe I was checking to remind myself that this was real and not a dream. It sure felt like a dream.

I rushed home from work and straight over to the location. My two helpers were already there, stringing up lights and staking the balloons to the ground. I was expecting to be able to write a lot more about this part, but it all seems like kind of a jumble in my mind. I was worrying about how cold it was getting. I was worrying about how dark it was getting. I was worrying about setting up the camera in the right spot, and having enough light. I was worrying about singing the wrong words. But I do remember when it was time.

My helpers left and it was just me, some lights, and my guitar. Waiting for the love of my life to walk down that path.

I was nervous. VERY nervous. But not for the reasons you would think. I knew she would say yes. I could have given her a Ring Pop and said, "How about we do this?" and she would have said yes. What I was worried about was making it perfect for her. I wanted it to be something she remembered forever.

It had gotten so dark that I couldn't see her coming. I only knew she was close as I heard her sniffle and "Aww!" as she read the final card. I started playing the song. She started to cry more. I may have cried a little, but I had to play and sing, so I was trying to hold it back. 

 My playing wasn't as spot on as I would have liked because even though I had practiced a lot, I forgot to practice outside or in a walk-in freezer. My fingers were icicles. But I got through it, and got down on one knee. I said the words I had been rehearsing for weeks. It didn't matter, because she doesn't remember them. She said "yes," of course and jumped into my arms. 

 My two helpers came out of the darkness and congratulated us, and then volunteered to clean everything up so that we could go tell our families.

We made a quick stop to get some ice cream, (which was another part of our first date, FULL CIRCLE!) and then spent the night driving around to friend's and family's houses and sharing the news. Her parents cried, my mom screamed (both in a good way). Celebrating it with loved ones was a great way to let it soak in. The next morning we posted some pictures to Facebook, and ran away to Door County to have a nice relaxing weekend before the insanity of planning a wedding set in.

It sounds like I'm trying to tell you to plan for everything, and to have backup plans for your backup plans, but the real moral is that it doesn't matter. If your partner loves you enough to say yes, they are going to be thrilled with whatever you put together. They'll probably be so overwhelmed that they won't even notice the little things that go wrong. Just enjoy the moment, take it in. And know the way you feel in that moment, when you realize she's stuck with you for the rest of her life, will be the best feeling ever.

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