The Proposal, Part 1: The Preparation

The Proposal, Part 1: The Preparation

Jun 24

To really understand our marriage proposal, we have to go back almost a year, to July 2010.

As cheesy as it sounds, I knew really early on that Caitlin was the girl I wanted to marry. When I think back on it, it only took a couple dates for us to feel like we were a unit that really belonged together. We’d only been officially dating for a couple weeks when I left town for the better part of two weeks, and it was during those trips that I really realized I’d found someone amazingly special. When I came back, we started talking about the future, and I knew for certain I wanted her to be a part of it. That’s when my proposal plan started. It took a year of preparation, a couple weeks of planning, and one day of detailed execution to carry it all out.


Preparation, Part A: The Picture Board

In concept, the plan was simple. I wanted for there to be some way in which she would have the proposal in her possession for months and months before actually realizing she had it. I didn’t want to just hide it in a picture frame or insert random words into emails and Facebook messages; I wanted it to be something she’d see, though it would take months to understand its significance. So, I hatched a plan. That month, I bought a black-framed cork board and started printing photos of many of our particularly memorable dates; her birthday at Berry College and the 4th of July fireworks at Phipps were the first two. On the back of each photo, I wrote a note, either about what we did that day or what I was thinking about us and our futures together at that moment. I gave her the photo board and photos shortly thereafter, and she read the notes.

What made the plan a bit deeper, though, is that before writing any notes, I had already composed the text of a short pre-proposal speech. Nothing long, just a few words about how special she was to me. The trick, however, was that each line of that pre-proposal speech then became the first line on one of these photos. For example, part of the proposal reads, “I’ve never met / anyone else with whom / I click the way / I do with you”; one of the individual photo’s notes, then, reads “Anyone else with whom / I visit the aquarium…” If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry — there’ll be a picture later in the story.

One by one over the next 12 months, I printed pictures of our memorable dates and days: picking pumpkins in Dawsonville, visiting Santa at Callaway Gardens, decorating Christmas trees at both her house and mine, my birthday surprise party, Valentine’s Day, and several others. On each of the 17 photos, I wrote a note that began with one line of the proposal, and one by one, the photos were added to the board.


Preparation, Part B: The Final Picture

That was only Part A, though. Part B came to mind later. I’m not sure what brought the idea to mind, but I decided that in some way, I wanted the final photo for the board to be a photo taken on the day I proposed, without her knowing that I would be proposing later in the day. On that photo, ‘Will you marry me?’ would be written on the back, allowing me to present her with a photo of herself, taken on that very day, mere hours before, while miraculously having something from me written on the back despite me being with her the entire time.

I went through a lot of ideas for that part of the plan. I figured I’d have my friend, Sunira, hiding in the bushes to take a picture of us early on the date, then run off to a photo printer and print the picture onto a sheet of photo paper onto which I’d already written the question. Deciding on a way to get that photo, though, became a key part of Part C.


Preparation, Part C: The Location

Part C, in a nutshell, was the location. I needed a plan with room to set up the photo board, a picturesque and romantic backdrop, and a way there could be space to have a photo taken secretly at the beginning of the date… or, as it turned out, a completely normal excuse to have a photo taken at the beginning of the date. Also important was that it had to be an occasion for which I knew she would dress up; I knew she’d want to be made up and dressed up, and I wanted to make sure whatever we were doing would encourage that. Initially, my plan had been a play in downtown Lawrenceville or another quaint town square area; the picture would be taken before the play as we walked in, and the proposal would be outside afterward. After that, I momentarily pondered proposing at one of the churches she had in mind for the eventual ceremony.

But then one day, about a month before the proposal, the ideal location hit me: the Georgia Aquarium. Caitlin and I had specifically talked about wanting to go back to the aquarium and get a better picture taken, and to take our time wandering through it since we’d been rushed the first time. It would definitely be an event that she would get dressed up for, given that we were going with the specific plan to have a nice picture taken. I was optimistic there’d be a place to set up the photo board somewhere, and surely the Georgia Aquarium could provide a picturesque background somewhere.

I contacted a representative at the Georgia Aquarium to ask for their assistance in choosing a romantic and picturesque spot and somehow quartering it off just for a small period of time; I received a response that they have a program that “allows a diver to enter our Ocean Voyager exhibit with a sign that asks your girlfriend to marry you.” When I mentioned that was not exactly what I had in mind, I was told they would be unable to help with any other plan whatsoever. So, we were on our own to find a nice place.

To be continued…
Part 2 | Part 3

1 comment

  1. Matt

    I have read Tom Clancy books less complicated than this. Most impressive!

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