I will be kicking off a series of wedding planning posts with my girl, AJ, once she launches her new website. (Spoiler: her site is going to be sick!) But I have been getting the wedding itch over here, so I wanted to kick off that nuptial vibe by sharing the story of my engagement to my now husband, John.
John and I had been dating for almost four years before he finally popped the question. We knew long before that fateful day that we were meant to be. He first told me he loved me after a few short months. It was right before I was taking off to Mexico with my mom and a few of her friends for her 50th birthday. It was a really romantic setting: sitting on the bed of my childhood home’s guest bedroom where John stayed. (At that time, my dad made us sleep in separate rooms. AND on separate floors.)
On that rainy morning, he got up the courage to muster those three coveted words: “I love you.” John isn’t a big talk-about-your-feelings man. So even though I knew those words were true long before he said them, I had to wait it out. Fast-forward three years, 6 months and change, and he got down on bended knee.
I am a pretty forward and determined person. When I really set my mind to something, whether that is owning the first iPhone in college, to ordering Peqoud’s Pizza on a Sunday night, I get it done. (Disclaimer to my mom and dad: I really did spill a martini on my awesome flip phone. The upgrade to the iPhone was purely out of necessity to make phone calls to you guys. Nothing more. Nothing less.)
Getting engaged to John was no different. For a while, I tried to play it cool. “Things happen for a reason and getting married is no place to rush things.” But we were so in love, and we had been for a while. So why not now? Why not yesterday? Where the hell is the goddamn ring?! I placed subtle hints. Not so subtle hints. And everything in between.
But now I know why he waited. Because everything about it was perfect. And I’m not bullshitting here. I cannot imagine things happening in any other way. I have proverbially slapped my past-self in the face several times since then. Patience, Karen. Patience.
Every corner John turned I knew he was about to propose. “He said he was going to pick up bagels and coffee, but I guarantee he is shoving a diamond ring into the chive cream cheese.” Any vacation we took… any date night we had… any holiday that rolled around… I knew it was the time. But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to be totally blindsided and shocked. I live for (good) surprises.
So when we were driving up to New Buffalo, Michigan, for the weekend to meet four of our best friends, I was furious. I was being incredibly difficult the whole drive up. I had a taxi fiasco on the way to meet John at his office. We were way behind schedule and Friday rush hour traffic was inevitably awful. We burned through all our fuel in the grid-lock, so we had to stop and get gas in the hood. Literally the shadiest gas station from here to Gary, Indiana. (John had the ring in his suit pocket at that dreadful stop. Not only did he look like a total yuppy, but he was carrying an uninsured diamond in his pocket.) On top of all of that, I knew in my mind that this was not the weekend for the big question.
I also knew it couldn’t be the subsequent weekends ahead. John was out of town; we had other plans; blah, blah, blah. I thought, “Well, I can kiss my fall wedding goodbye.” Segue to a continued horrendous attitude.
When we were driving through Michigan and making our way to the cottage, John started to cheer me up. Our friend Mike was texting us asking details on our arrival time. This is not out of the ordinary. Like me, Mike is all about the schedule, facts and getting everyone on the same page. I texted him telling him our arrival time was at 8:12pm. (Part smart-ass response, but I also knew he would appreciate the extreme detail.) “Ok, then,” he said. “Meet us at the beach. We are going to start a fire and have a few cocktails there while we wait for you.”
Ugh. Fine. Whatever. It’s freezing out, I’m starving, and this sis needs a cocktail, stat. But, I decided to be easy breezy and agreed to this absurd plan. We were given turn-by-turn directions to the beach. “Under the street light there are steps to a boardwalk. Take those and when it splits, go right,” Mike advised.
Alright, Mike. Sure. Sounds great. We pulled up, and Mike’s Jeep was there in the parking lot. We made it to checkpoint one. It was even darker than it was cold. We started walking and John draped his suit coat over my shoulders. “John…” I said shivering. “I do not see a fire anywhere. Either we made a wrong turn or you are here to murder me.” And then he turned me around and hugged me. And started his speech.
“Well, it took me five years to get you here, but I finally did.” (John had invited me up to the same cottage for the same triple-date before we started dating. And I denied him. I have never lived this down.)
I immediately started bawling. He said a few more words and then got down on one knee. And he asked me to marry him. He asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Without speaking a word, I nodded “yes” through my tears and tackled him.
I couldn’t even see the ring. We’re lucky it didn’t drop between the boardwalk planks to be lost forever. We tried to take a plethora of selfies, but of course the flash on my phone decided not to work that one time and my hand was vibrating from the cold. We captured a lot of darkness and only two pictures of our actual faces. And it was captured perfectly.
We then drove a mile over to find our friends awaiting us at a hotel rooftop with champagne. (The Jeep at the beach was a stunt car.) We snapped a couple photos with the group, then went back to the cottage for debauchery and more bubbles. It was one of the most fun and surreal nights of my life. Was this really happening? I did not see this coming. And I certainly never thought he could pull off surprising me.
The next morning we awoke early and John had a booze-packed limo to take us around New Buffalo. We went to brunch (bouquet of flowers awaiting) and the lovely owner of the restaurant had printed us a list of fun places to stop. After brunch and mimosas, we hit up the pumpkin patch, Journeyman Distillery, Greenbush Brewery and back to the cottage. Buzzed.
We headed back to the same spot on the beach the summer after to take some of our engagement pictures. (Having a wedding photographer as a sister has its perks: multiple sessions, free, sentiment, etc.) Of course, it rained like hell the day we were supposed to take them. The downpour slowed to a drizzle and we were able to get a few rainy pics at the pier.
Then we made an impromptu decision to grab a hotel room (at the same location our friends were awaiting us with bubbles on our engagement night), take gas station jello shots, and wear gas station granny-panties and sweatpants. (I still wear both at home with frequency.)
Since it literally rained on our parade, we woke up at sunrise, drank a bottle of rosé bubbles, ate an abundance of cheese and embraced that magic light for a great engagement session. All before 8am. So worth it.
Everything will fall into place. It all really does happen for a reason. Even if you are a hard-headed, stubborn, give-me-what-I-want-and-give-it-to-me-now type of person, just let it all happen. Because it’s glorious. (Like the storm clouds that cleared right in time for our wedding ceremony. A lotta rain around here, folks.)
So to all my single ladies: learn from my terrible attitude and be nice to your potential fiancé at all times in case he’s about to make you the happiest girl on the planet. Or don’t. Because he’ll still ask.
More to come on wedding planning and our big day!
All photos (besides the engagement night) by my amazing sister, Kristi Yarcho of Made to be Mine Photography.