Proposal Behind The Scenes

On Saturday, I proposed to Rachel. She said yes. It was awesome.

But a lot of people have asked me for more specifics, so I want to go into a deep dive here.

Prework

I felt it necessary to ask for her parents’ blessing before proceeding with any real planning for the proposal. I even felt bad looking at rings before asking. Not because I was worried they would say no, but because I thought it was disingenuous to ask their blessing whilst making plans. I wanted to make it a genuine gesture and conversation, so I decided to head up to their house when I had a family party in the area later that day1.

It took some time to get to asking them due to an unexpected sister visit and not wanting to cut off conversation, but we did eventually get there and the response was great. It was at that moment that I truly felt accepted into the family. Rachel’s family has always been kind and inclusive towards me but it was still a special moment in my eyes as it was the first time I really expressed what their family meant to me.

Before leaving I let them in on my seedling of an idea – to use their dogs and house as the setting for “The Albatross Protocol.” 2

The Plan

In early January, after my cousin’s wedding which kickstarted Rachel’s engagement fever, we visited her parents. When we parked in their driveway they let out the dogs to greet us. It was later that night when trying to go to sleep that I had the idea of recreating that moment as part of the proposal. I stayed up entirely too late searching the web for others who have tried something similar.

The original plan was to have the dogs deliver the ring in a box. I searched Etsy high and low, and there seemed to be nothing like it. A lot of people end up tying the ring to the collar with a ribbon or a small lacy bag. That wasn’t quite rigid enough for my tastes.

Then I had the idea of my aunt Polly to make a box to attach to the dogs collar. She is exceptionally skilled with woodworking and I knew she could make an incredible keepsake. Though the plan started as a box for the collar, it quickly became apparent that the box would be too large and simply too beautiful to put on the dog where it could potentially get gnawed on by the other dog.

So what to do? I initially thought a special dog tag saying “Will you marry Alec” could work, potentially with a ribbon to draw attention to it. I also saw bandannas online to the same affect. Though I like the subtle nature of the dog tag, I didn’t want to potentially point it out to Rachel so I decided to go with a more obvious approach with the bandanna.

I’m glad I did. I spoke to my friend Alice about it who did an incredible job making the bandannas. It was her idea to put “She said yes” on the back and make them reversible for a photo op. I loved the idea and they turned out nicer than anything I could have ordered online. Since I proposed on Saint Patrick’s Day – more on that later – I decided to lean into it a bit with a subtle clover pattern fabric and green ribbon accent around the exterior of the bandanna. They came out great.

Another reason why I wanted to propose at Rachel’s parent’s house besides the dogs is because I know how much her family means to Rachel. As a big believer in our chosen family too, I wanted to make sure to invite some of our closest friends. I am so glad that Rachel’s parents were okay with playing host for this day. Having my mom there with some friends and her family made the day even better and Rachel ended up loving it.

The Date

Around Christmas last year, I commented to Rachel how I would never propose on a major holiday because you already celebrate that day and it makes more sense to add a new day to the calendar to celebrate. She joked, “knowing you you’ll propose on a little holiday like Earth Day” and I replied back, “no, a bit too mainstream, but I would consider Arbor Day.” Turns out, Arbor Day is a Friday in late April. I proclaimed it a wonderful day to get engaged and it was a running joke that Arbor Day would be the special day.

Clearly, Arbor Day was no longer in the running.

But I did want to propose before our trip to London3. I also wanted to propose on a “golden weekend” so Rachel could enjoy the whole weekend and not have to worry about work. That gave me two options, March 17/18 and April 14/15.

I also wanted to see if I could plan for us to go to Opera Night at Sotta Sopra, one of our favorite restaurants downtown. They do this once a month and lucky for me, both months happen to hit on those golden weekends. I thought this would be a great distraction from the main event, though Rachel apparently never thought much of the plans considering we had talked about going for ages and because she correctly assumed that I would not propose at a restaurant.

March 17/18 won out for two reasons. Rachel became available for Easter through a schedule shift4 and I thought it would be great for the family to  see her post-proposal. Second, I rather plan for the early weekend and fall back to the later one if weather was poor. I mean, if today’s weather was a few days ago, I doubt I would be writing this blog post or a major last minute change of plans would have been in order.

The Box

Like I said, this box went from a box to hold a ring box on a dog to an actual ring box. What a good change of direction that was! Polly did an incredible job. We sat down at my family party just after I asked for her parents’ blessing and she learned my preferences in wood and styling.

I was responsible for the etched logo on the cocobolo5 but she did the rest. I’m glad I gave her a direction and let her run with it because it allowed her and Lisa to surprise and delight me with the final product. I never imagined it would come out that good. A great touch is the magnet to keep the box shut. It reminds me of my various Apple products.

The Ring

Rachel and I had looked at rings a few times together so I had a good idea of what she wanted. Luckily for me, we have the same tastes so I was pretty confident anything I selected would be a winner. The only thing Rachel was torn about was whether to get diamonds along the band or not. Ultimately, she decided they distracted from the main stone and to go with a plain solitaire.

When I went looking with my Mom at a few places and ended up with a family friend, Rhoula. We told her what we were looking for and mentioned side detailing and she pulled out the perfect ring. It was a unique style, with diamonds on the side. If there is such a thing as love at first sight, it was me with this ring. My mom says I have never been so excited about a product not made by Apple. I think she’s right.

My only gripe was the stock version had 4 prongs and we both prefer 6. This small tweak took over 6 weeks to make, but it was absolutely worth it. Thanks for all the help Rhoula.

The Execution

After a historic UMBC victory, I was up the night before basking in Twitter. I eventually was exhausted and fell asleep around 1:45am and woke up promptly at 6:15am, earlier than a work day, because obviously getting good rest is too much to ask for on a day like today. But lets be real – the last time I woke up so anxious for the day to begin was Christmas morning as a child.

I made a nice bacon and eggs breakfast for us to try and pass the time and calm my nerves, but I basically had to force feed myself because I had no appetite. One goal of mine was to not drive so I could text updates 6 to the people at the house so I acted like I wasn’t feeling well –I wasn’t– and should try and get some rest on the ride up — knowing I wouldn’t. Rachel bought it and said she would drive up this time.

About 10 minutes from her parents’ house is a lovely bagel shop we like to get things from. Luckily this made my request for a dozen bagels with the idea of having some leftover for the week a believable one.

As we drove down her street, I insist she never has obeyed the speed limit so closely. It felt like it was taking entirely too long. We finally drove into the driveway and parked and Rachel giggles seeing Lucy in the window with her bandanna7. I sold getting out of the car per normal as she did the same. Once she got near the dogs I went back in to grab the box out of the bag8. When I turned the corner from the car I had the box on display and she started to say yes repeatedly. I told her to hold on and let me ask my question, guiding her to the center of the yard as Jun closed in to take photos9. As I was petting the dogs and she let out another “yes” the peanut gallery inside the house started to cheer. I laughed and waved them to come on out. It was once everyone filed out that I finally said my spiel, which basically amounted to “I know how much your family means to you and I wanted to make sure they were all a part of this special moment. Rachel, will you marry me?” Finally I got the yes that actually mattered, after months of planning and overanalyzing.

Cheers. Kisses. Hugs.

  1. The only time Rachel really was on to me was when she saw her dad text me a week or two later. She insisted I was talking to him to go and ask. I insisted no asking would be occurring (since I already took care of that). Besides that, it seemed like my incessant scrubbing of my iPhone, iPad, and Mac paid off as she never saw any other preparations. I wish Messages in the Cloud was a thing so I wouldn’t have to erase messages on every device out of paranoia.
  2. All good plans need a codename, right?
  3. London was the original plan until Rachel realized I was thinking of doing it there. Surprise was one of the main things I was going for. Though, honestly, I doubt I would have proposed internationally because traveling with a ring terrifies me.
  4. Not anymore sadly, though she will come and just work a 24 effectively. God bless her.
  5. I used this project as an excuse to use the laser cutter at work. At first, I was planning on etching a groove and cutting an inlay, but I realized that would be too tiny given the laser’s cut thickness and went for an outline of the logo instead. I love how it came out with the gold filling.
  6. I created a ridiculous workflow to autogenerate a message with a current ETA using my currently location to the group. Nerd alert.
  7. These dogs have never worn such a thing since I’ve been around. Luckily you couldn’t see the words on her back from how she was sitting.
  8. I convinced myself during the car ride that I didn’t actually move the box from my bass case the day before and thus the whole plan would be ruined. I used my feet to try and detect the box in my bag. Anxiety was really getting to me.
  9. Thanks again man, we owe you and Carolina big time.

9 Replies to “Proposal Behind The Scenes”

  1. @apulianas I haven’t taken the opportunity yet to say congratulations! Sounds like you executed your plan effectively, and the lady was impressed. I hope I get to meet her sometime. Best wishes on your wedding planning and beyond.

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