I didn’t have a grand plan for it. No speech that I wrote out beforehand and memorized. There would be no clever and elaborate proposal that I spent a year planning. No flashmobs. No other participants. Just she and I. Nothing would be recorded and uploaded to YouTube for girls to gush and cry over. I did it in a very public place, but tried my damnedest to make it as private a moment as possible. All I knew is that I just wanted to do it, in my own awkward and honest way.
I picked out the ring a couple months before I put it on her finger, and I paid it off and walked out of the store with it just the night before I made my move. I knew I didn’t want to hang onto it any longer than I had to. The weekend prior, I asked her parents for their permission, which they gladly gave. There were joyful tears all around, and my promise to always love and take care of their only daughter.
On the day of, Jenn and I headed out to Point Pleasant’s annual Festival of the Sea, a large fair that features seafood from local eateries, all types of vendors, arts and crafts, live music, a wine tasting and other festivities. We love the festival and we’ve missed it only once in the time we’ve been together. At first, we drove from her house, which wasn’t far from where the event is staged, but when we couldn’t find parking, we doubled back and decided to walk over.
As we walked, I was looking for a decent spot to do it, but nothing was jumping out at me. Thus began the frustration I experienced for the first few hours of the day. It was early, but the crowds had already descended upon Arnold Avenue, the town’s most lively street, adorned with antique shops, restaurants and other small businesses. My eyes darted back and forth constantly, looking for the most secluded spot I could find. My mind wasn’t on the lobster roll I get each year, or the root beer stand we always go to. I had one mission, and my vision was accordingly tunneled. Her parents were wandering around there too, knowing that that I would be sealing the deal that day, and I knew that several of her friends would later be in attendance, so I wanted to get it done. After hours of looking around, and nervously but discreetly checking the pocket of my shorts to make sure the ring was still there, I finally pulled her away from the crowds, and into a parking lot on a side street. It wasn’t the nicest place in the world, as there were a couple of porta-potties in plain sight, but the time was now.
I found a strip of grass lined with a few small trees, and I launched into forever. It was simple, and not overblown in any way. Theoretically, you only get one shot at a marriage proposal, so taking the understated approach cut down on the chance for disaster, as far as I could see. I told her how much I loved her, and that I would be honored to spend the rest of my life with her. I took off her sunglasses to look into her beautiful brown eyes, which were tearing up as I spoke. She knew what was about to happen. She had an idea for some time that it was coming, she just didn’t know exactly when or where I would pull the trigger. I got down on one knee and popped the question, the ring gleaming in the bright sunshine as I held it up.
When she said yes, a wave of pins and needles swept through my body. I couldn’t even react at first. “Are you gonna put it on my finger?” she asked, trying to compose herself. I eagerly agreed and slipped the ring onto her finger. We kissed, and we couldn’t stop smiling. Her friend Kaitlin, who we met up with for a few minutes earlier, was texting her wondering where we went. We met back up with her and her boyfriend Mike and shared the happy news. Then it was off to find her parents to let them know that the deed was done. Soon after that, we went to the wine tasting. Jenn’s friend Tina was to meet us there. After what seemed like forever, she walked up and Jenn simply said “I have something to tell you”, and held out her hand. Like a slingshot, one of Tina’s hands covered her mouth, and her other arm swung outward, almost involuntarily, as she looked down at the ring. Her eyes welled up with tears instantaneously, almost as if on command. It was one of the most genuine, unrehearsed reactions I’d ever seen, to anything.
We proceeded to drink wine, and bought a few bottles to take home, one of which will be saved for our wedding next year. After that, we wound our day at the Festival of the Sea down, and headed back for a much-needed nap. During the downtime, we told the people we wanted to know the news but couldn’t immediately see, and recharged our batteries before going out to celebrate. We went to one of our favorite spots called River Rock, a bar and grille on the marina in Brick. The place was more or less destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, but was rebuilt to be even more beautiful than it was before the storm. In a matter of a couple hours after hearing the news earlier in the day, Jenn’s friend and coworker Justine baked us a cake in the shape of an engagement ring and snuck it into the bar without us seeing it. The restaurant staff was gracious enough to hold it in their kitchen, as we later found out. The cake not only looked great, but tasted great as well. There were drinks, there was food, and much celebration until everyone was exhausted.
So goes the story of one of the most joyous days of my life. It didn’t matter how the proposal happened, or where, all that mattered is that it was real. Nothing was for show. One year ago today, I proposed to the love of my life, and forever more, I get to love her, protect her, and do everything I can to make her happy. Her smile alone will afford me a lifetime of better days, and I may never understand how I got so lucky to be chosen by her. Here’s to the future, and no matter what comes our way, together it will be a bright one.