So the big news is... one week ago today I proposed to Alice, my fantastic girlfriend of nearly three years... and she said yes! Of all the times I've driven her to tears, this has been my favorite. We're both ridiculously happy and I've just felt better and better each day since. It's really, really trippy to have this newfound joyous feeling floating around me.
I've had many, many requests for the full gory details of the proposal and am happy to oblige. Without being too stereotypical, I've found that guys I tell want the 30 second version while most women want the 30 minute version. While my writing style caters to the latter, I'll indulge in both.
Before I do though - Tuesday (April 8) is my birthday, and in celebration I'm going to permanently settle down at Shorty's
in Belltown. All you Seattle people are certainly welcome to come down and say hi. They open at noon! And, Alice is going to rent out the back room there and have a big party (with two free drinks for everybody!!!) one of these weekends (not my actual birthday), though it may not be until May. Keep that in mind, I'd like to start figuring out what a good date is for people.
How I Proposed: The Abridged Edition
Alice is from Hawaii, and that's where her parents live. I had planned to fly out there secretly for a just a couple days, ask her parents' blessing in person, then fly back with a ton of delicious Hawaiian-only food. Then we'd have a picnic at our first date spot, I'd bring out the food, she'd be surprised, I'd tell her about the trip, I'd do anything for you, propose, yes, crying, joy.
That didn't happen because when I told her parents I was flying down to talk to them they understood and appreciated my motives, but feared Alice would take my flying to Hawaii behind her back the wrong way. I respected that, canceled all my plans, and thought of an emergency Plan B.
Plan B involved reserving the nicest table in a semi-private room at the restaurant at Salish Lodge
, overlooking Snoqualmie Falls
. I brought in six photos of us that I had framed and added titles to beforehand, along with some personalized poetry for each photo. I arranged for each one to be brought out during the dinner (which was 6+ courses so that worked out very well). Each photo was for a certain time in our relationship, from the beginning, to dating, to moving in, etc. Photo #5 was actually a mirror, titled "What's Next?", with the most romantic, sappy poetry you've ever heard. That's when I would pop the question.
So I surprised Alice with the dinner, thankfully she honestly thought I was just surprising her with a really special dinner, and was being extra sweet with the photos. When the "What's Next?" photo came out she was awfully suspicious, more so when I got down on one knee and proposed to her. She said yes! She even came down on the floor and we hugged, kissed, etc. Afterwards I had the server take our picture with a Polaroid I'd brought to tape onto the mirror in the photo frame. Afterwards I had one last photo brought out, of us as old geezers, with poetry like "Even when we're changing each other's bedpans I'll still love you just as much", which she liked. And life is good.
How I Proposed: The Shameless, Verbose, Extremely Detailed, Premeditated Version
Part 1 - Preparation and Plan A
Alice and I have been thinking about marriage for a while, and talking about it, and it even got to the point where we had pretty much settled on the fact that we were going to get married. That was about the time we moved in together, roughly six months ago. I started seriously thinking about getting a ring around her birthday in January. From our previous talks I had known exactly the kind of diamond Alice wanted, though it would be very difficult to afford. John Brian Losh once told me, in his best mobster tone, "Never pay retail for a diamond." Good advice, though I needed to figure out how to accomplish that. I absolutely did not want to compromise on the diamond I knew she wanted. And... Alice loves a good deal more than anybody I know. I knew if I could get a good deal, it would only score me extra points with her!
My good homie and biz partner, Jon
, knew all this and mentioned to me (I think on February 5?) that his aunt was at the Seattle Gift Show, where all the wholesalers get together to shill their stuff, including loose diamond vendors. I could represent Neutrino
and get in. So I went to the show and checked out all the jewelers (and pirate goods suppliers but that's another blog), asking all the booths about loose diamonds and getting quotes, and felt really good about a jeweler in Bellevue called J. Lewis Jewelery
. That's who I eventually ended up going to, and wow, did Jill find me an amazing diamond! She had to special order a few for me to look at, but they were fantastic, and based on her advice and what I had learned online
, I knew she'd love it. Internally Flawless, F (colorless), round brilliant, excellent symmetry, .53 carat, and right-on with all the proportions. At an amazing price. Exactly what Alice wanted.
I carefully took that diamond over to Getty Jewelers in Redmond Town Center, since that was the jewelry store owned by Alice's family friends (she used to teach their kids piano and tutor a bit), and I wanted them to make the ring and set it. After swearing they wouldn't tell Alice anything about it, they made me a beautiful platinum custom ring that would fit her, with a setting that would keep that diamond from ever falling out. When it came out I thought the band was actually a little thick, but I think that was just me being nervous, as when Alice saw the ring she nearly did a backflip she loved it all so much. Turns out that it's almost exactly like this guy over at Tiffany's
, only custom-made for Alice's little finger and a little more secure.
Anyway, to the proposal. I'm very serious (which I hardly ever am) about Alice and I being married, for like ever, and wanted to do everything right, including asking her parents for their blessing beforehand. But, her parents live in Hawaii, so I could either talk to them on the phone (nah) or fly there and talk to them in person, which sounds kind of silly but this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing! At first I thought flying there would indeed be too much, but as Jon put it, "It's only a 5 hour flight! You could totally do it!" So I figured shoot, I would, and I could bring back a bunch of food that you can only, only get in Hawaii (Alice grew up there and misses that food dearly). Then shortly after I came back I would take her on a picnic to where we had our very first date (Discovery Park), then when we reached the beach there I would unpack the food. As I unpacked it she would see that it was really food from Hawaii, which would be confusing, and I would also unpack the little ring box... and tell her what I did, how I would go anywhere and do anything for her, then propose... and it would be lovely!
So I did a lot
of preparation for this. Plane tickets (coordinating this took a couple days since I had to figure out my own schedule, Alice's scheduler, her parents' schedule, etc without telling anybody), hostel reservations, parking reservations, bike rentals, bus schedules from the Honolulu airport, maps, a plan for each day, a special cooler for the food, delicious wild salmon for her parents (from Spaccarotelli, some of the best salmon I've ever had), a lock for the hostel, SPF-70 sunscreen so I wouldn't get a tan, etc. I would be gone from April 1 to 3, under the guise of going on a retreat with Jon to his family's cabin on Lopez Island in the San Juans. As I lied to Alice telling her that's where I was going a red alert went off in my head that said "You are lying! You are lying!"... so it's good to know I have that reflex. My face got all red, too, but apparently didn't blow my cover. Anyway. I thought it was fitting that the day I left would be April Fool's Day, as that would make me feel a little better about saying "I'm going to the island now! Be back on Thursday!"
Then I finally called her parents the Monday before the trip (March 24). I talked to her mom and she was really excited about me coming, offered to pick me up and let me stay with them, etc. She definitely knew what I was going to talk to them about of course, though my message was basically "I'm coming to Honolulu for a couple days, just to talk to you and your husband, and please don't tell Alice." I got off the phone and felt really good about things, as getting their 'ok' to meet was the last piece of the puzzle.
But, that night they called me back, and the next day I talked to her mom again who told me they had changed their minds. They understood what I was doing and thought I had good intentions, but because they knew Alice they were afraid she might take it the wrong way (specifically, me telling her I was going to Lopez Island instead of Oahu... Island). I understood and respected that, we ended the call very well, and I canceled and returned nearly EVERYTHING! And... I had to think of a Plan B! Crap!
Part 2 - Plan B
I figured that since I didn't have an orchestrated plan happening anymore I wanted to propose as quickly as possible so I could stop having all these secrets! So this was last Tuesday, March 25... and I wanted to propose that weekend if possible. Not only did I want to propose, but a lot
of people close to Alice knew now and I didn't like that!
I thought for some time and came up with the idea of taking her out to an amazing gourmet dinner, at a place that would really take care of us (she really loves good food and good service). During the meal they could bring out photos of us or something that I'd prepared previously, so Alice would know this was a personal dinner meant for just the two of us, and I could propose during that time. Looking around I had thought of a few places and asked availabilities... Canlis had a private table but was booked solid on weekends until May, I thought about Salish Lodge over Snoqualmie Falls but their two-person private tables were all taken during reasonable times, and other restaurants looked nice but either didn't have the view I wanted or were too public (Alice is a fairly private person, which explains the lack of her pictures on this Balrog). I even asked Jon since he's a living encyclopedia of restaurants; he had some good suggestions but the only qualified overlapping ones were Canlis and Salish Lodge. So I tried Salish again and found out that they had a four person table that was available that Sunday at 6:00 (perfect for the sunset around 8:00 with a lengthly dinner), it was their best table with the best view and the most privacy (three walls were glass windows). First I called Alice at work, to make sure she could make that time. I told her I wanted to take her out on Sunday, but would need her for a few hours from 5:15 that day, if she could make it (her job is nuts right now so we need to schedule things). She said she could, so I called back Salish Lodge and took it! I told them what was going on and that I wanted to see them beforehand to deliver my photos and choreograph how the dinner would go, so we agreed I'd see them on Thursday, and I got to work on the photos.
I really wanted the photos to be fantastic and very personal... I think some of the most meaningful things people can have are photos of themselves and others during good times. So I went through all our photos and chose four from different times in our relationship - the beginning, dating, going to Disneyland, and after we moved in together. I figured the fifth photo would be the engagement photo - but I don't have a photo of us getting engaged. So I thought I would use a mirror (btw, Hy-Lite on Stone Way
whipped up a 5x7 custom mirror for me in like 5 minutes! And cheap!). Then the last photo would be us as old geezers together to represent our future (I ended up photoshopping our heads on the American Gothic
painting). I also thought it would be nice to write a little something for each photo (have you noticed I like to write?), some poetry to talk about each time in our lives. I picked up six matching frames, got some supplies from PaperZone for the titles and poetry (special fancy paper, decorative scissors, 3-d glue dots for the titles), and got to work. I finished the last photo at my friend Sara's place after watching America's Next Top Model, which I do nearly every Wednesday.
After assembling the photos on Thursday I went to Salish Lodge to deliver them and go over the plan. They were going to setup the table for two people (usually it's for four), and put rose petals on the table, a bouquet of flowers, and candles alongside the three windowed walls. Check! We went over the timing of the photos, and I explained that Alice is very financially minded (she does work for Ameriprise as a financial adviser, after all) and I wanted her to think that I was getting a great deal on this dinner and not to worry about the cost. We don't typically go out for 6-course gourmet dinners on random days so I feared this might tip her off unless I was able to justify it. I asked if they could say something when we got there like "Congrats on winning our VIP romance dinner package!" and they said no problem. I also arranged to get the bill sent to me later and to have sparkling cider served throughout dinner (Alice doesn't drink alcohol but she does like a good sparkling beverage).
There was one last thing to coordinate... with the mirror 'photo' I wanted to put a photo of us on there after I'd proposed. So, I needed a Polaroid camera... and going to a bunch of places in town I sadly discovered that Polaroid is no longer making cameras or film
, as of last month! So crappy! So some stores around here were still selling the cameras but nowhere, absolutely nowhere I checked or called had any film. There was no time for eBay, so I turned to Craigslist... there was one wonderful woman in the south side (Cheryl) who was selling her camera and called around to discover that her local Target and
WalMart both sold film. She agreed to buy the film and meet me with the camera, so I picked it up that Sunday afternoon while Alice was working. She was thrilled to learn I was going to use it to help propose. It's a great camera too, it uses sonar to autofocus, which some scientists have used to communicate with bats (I've become a diamond expert and a Polaroid expert as a result of this engagement).
As a final act I also made a mixtape for us to listen to while going to dinner and back (it's about a 45 minute drive). I arranged it carefully so it started with a song I like and she doesn't, just to psyche her out... then a couple songs she likes, then a couple karaoke songs during the long stretch of more boring road... then some more lovey songs that are meaningful to the both of us, which gradually get lighter until we're in Bob Marley and Gorillaz territory by the end of the tape. The lovey stuff started to play strong as we pulled up to the lodge.
So we went to dinner, and Alice told me later she had a suspicion I might be proposing to her because we were driving pretty far, in a direction we hardly ever go, and Salish Lodge is awfully darn fancy for a secret date. When we were taken to our table (by the restaurant manager, whom I had talked to three days before), he casually mentioned, "As you know we had an anniversary dinner cancellation, and we are happy to work you in to their spot." This is what convinced Alice that this was 'authentic' and I wasn't going to propose after all.
We decided to go with the six-course dinner (which I tried to push a little since it would work best with the photos!) and they began to serve us some amazing food I won't go into detail about. Totally worth it, I was even full at the end which doesn't always happen with these types of meals. Anyway, the first photo and poem came out and I thought this would blow my cover... but Alice thought I was just being really sweet since she's been working so much! Our dinner conversation was all over the place, from dinner to the beautiful scenery to burning rocks to iambic pentameter.
After the main course they brought out the mirror with dessert. As they sat it down in front of Alice and left the room (ninja style!) I attempted to nonchalantly pull out the ring from my pocket while she read the poem, which let me tell you, was a doozy (it actually answers back to a poem she gave me two years ago on Valentine's Day, which I always carry around, and has a back story itself!). She was shocked and looked at me with a very shocked face, as I got down on one knee next to her and opened the ring box back. She quietly said "Oh my God!", just like in the movies, and I started to propose with a well-planned speech that I completely forgot, of course. The whole time we were both crying, then she said "Yes, I will!", and then came down off her chair to join me on the floor, where there was much hugging, kissing, and more happy tears!
So several minutes later after we composed ourselves a bit I took out the Polaroid and asked our server to take our picture, which he did, and after developing ("Like a Po-la-roid pic-ture!"
) I taped it on the mirror (yes, I brought tape). It was a beautiful thing. We somehow managed to eat dessert, which had indeed melted (the ice cream one, though the three mini crème brûlées were perfect) and I finally got to tell her all that I have now told you. She was so happy, and I was so happy. She was thrilled that I had gotten that ring, and I had gotten it from her family friends, and talked to her parents. She also liked my Hawaii idea and said she definitely wouldn't have cared if I secretly went over there if the intent was to propose!
We took a few more pictures and returned home, called our respective parents... and now we're trying to get used to introducing each other as 'fiancé'!
There's no wedding date planned, and honestly it won't be happening for a couple years. She's far too busy with 12 hour days at Ameriprise, and I'm too busy with Neutrino
and Karikas Interactive
(and don't forget Pirate Jokes
) to plan a wedding. But... we are leaning towards having it in Hawaii with a separate reception in Seattle.
I've never been happier in my whole life (not even when I got Fortress Maximus
as a kid). I swear I've even been getting happier each day. My grateful thanks to everybody who helped out my plans, including Alice's parents, my parents, Sandy and Danny at Getty Jewelers, Jill Lewis at J. Lewis Jeweler, everybody at the Restaurant at Salish Lodge (Simon and Brett in particular), Jon, Cheryl with the Polaroid hookup, Jeb at Spaccarotelli Akira and Dipika
who kept it in their freezer for a week, and everybody who gave me their advice from Houston to LA to Seattle!
Mama Pringle, 12-10-2009 with $9.08
Hooray! You did an awesome job Michael! :D
Cynthia Ur Niece :), 6-1-2008 with $19.29
I like this...it says basically everything!!!:D
Tasha Schacher, 4-8-2008 with $19.21
Wow! Thats so AWESOME!! I <3 The long version... just like you said, guys like the short version, ladies the latter! Love it love it love it!!! Congratz you two!
Scott Vandehey, 4-7-2008 with $9.42
Congrats, Mike! That's great news!