So on Tuesday night, I proposed to my girlfriend. As you can tell by the title, she responded in the affirmative, and now we are to wed. (I love that phrase. It’s so archaic and stuffy, but it makes me giggle when I hear/read it).
We have been talking about marriage for a while, and we decided that she and I were both going to pick out the engagement ring together. That was a good decision because she’s picky about just what kind of rings she likes. She prefers smaller, simper rings to larger ones (I lucked out), and I couldn’t do justice to her tastes. I did not want her stuck wearing a ring she didn’t like for the rest of her life.
She also preferred to not know when I was going to propose; she wanted it to be a surprise. So there’s a little pickle here. How do I propose and get it right? I can either do it with no ring and then go get one later, but she has nothing to show for it, or we can get the ring early and then I propose later, but she knows it’s coming. I’m a pretty non-traditional guy, and I’ve got a romantic soft spot (as I put it to people: “I’m a sucker”), so I wanted her to have an incredibly unique and memorable proposal because she’s only ever going to get one.
My decision: an Engagement Book (images can be clicked to enlarge, by the way). This way, I can give her something tangible to hold and show off while we finalize ring shopping, and we’re both book nerds to boot. It was the perfect solution since we met three years ago when we started graduate school studying English.
So I went to Lulu.com and got to work. For those of you unfamiliar with Lulu, it’s a self-publishing website for people to publish their own books. I titled the book itself to pop the question, and I wrote Jennifer a letter to make up the inside of the book. I filled the rest of the pages (approximately 400) with blank lines for her to fill in whatever she wants. Scrapbook, journal, cursing at me when she’s frustrated, whatever. It’s her deal. Luckily, Lulu offers a lot of options for self-publishing, and I was able to keep this entirely private (not for sale to others) as well as make it a very nice 8×10 full-color hardcover. This is the only copy, but I have the option for as many as I want if something happens to this one and it needs to be replaced.
So then there’s the actual where of the proposal. Our first date was typical dinner-and-a-movie fare, but the movie started at a weird time, so we had over an hour to kill before it began. The combination of me having absolutely no game and us both being nerds made us end up killing time in Books-A-Million by walking laps and pacing and chattering nervously. Not chatting. Chattering. There’s a difference, and we were most certainly chattering.
I figured that’s a great place, so I contact the management a week or so ahead of time. I ask them if it’s okay that I place a book I self-published on the shelf so that I can bring her in and find it on the shelf and be all “hey, look at this!” as I dig it off the bottom shelf of the Wedding Planning section (on one knee, mind you), popping the question with the title of the book as I show it to her. They say yes, that it’s a wonderful idea, and to just let them know when I plan on actually doing it.
So the day comes that I had planned on doing this. I figured that since we’re going to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and taking the next day off work to hit a couple of jewelry stores anyway, we might as well make it official and do it as fiancés. There’s no better time, and it sure beats having just an evening to celebrate before we both head back to work the next day.
So the day comes, and I get in contact with the Books-A-Million management. We find the perfect place in the store (the Wedding and Etiquette section) and hide the book on the bottom shelf so I can be down on one knee. I give the manager, Candy, my digital camera, and she gives me her phone number so I can text her when we get in the parking lot so they can be ready to take our pictures.
I go pick Jennifer up after work. I’ve got the entire evening planned out (doing the almost recreating our first date thing), but for once, she’s hungry and wants to go to the nearby Japanese restaurant for a quick meal. Now I’m hungry, too, but I’m on a time-table (not a dinner table…ba dum ching). So I have to convince her that I want to wait and let my big lunch settle a little before eating. I didn’t have a big lunch. As an excuse, I tell her that I want to go pick up the new hardcover Stephen King The Dark Tower graphic novel at Books-A-Million across town, and that I’m kind of feeling Olive Garden (where we went on our first date) instead of Rice Box. She agrees that sounds good, but asks that we don’t dawdle too long because she’s legitimately hungry. I say okay. And off we go.
I’m starting to get incredibly nervous as we get to Books-A-Million, but I actually make myself go pick up the graphic novel so as not to ruin the surprise or let on that something is going on. We shop around for a bit, even looking at the magazines for the new Esquire that has a Stephen King short story in it. As we wander, I casually direct us into the Wedding and Etiquette section where her Engagement Book is hidden. We chat for a second, pointing at a couple of books, and then I act like something has my attention on the bottom shelf. I kneel, muttering, and eventually pull out the Engagement Book and let her read the title.
She looks at me incredulously for a moment, smiles a little, and then we hear a camera click and a shutter snap. I can tell on her face that she’s wondering if this is for real, and I ask her “well, will you?” and she nods and says “yes.” Later, she told me that she thought she had said “yes” immediately, but was too stunned by what was going on to realize that was just in her head. We do the hugging and kissing thing for a minute, say our I Love Yous, and I can tell that Jennifer is in kind of a state of shock at this point. Candy takes our picture again, and then a few people congratulate us, wish us luck, and say that this is the sweetest thing they’ve ever seen. She reads her letter and flips through the book while we’re in the store.
Then she looks at me and asks “You really didn’t even want the book, did you?” meaning my graphic novel. I smile at her, say no, and put it back on the shelf. She then asks me “this is why you suggested Olive Garden, too, isn’t it?” I smile, and say yes. She then says “I don’t like it that you can lie to me like this.” I just smile. She tells me that she had expected me to propose when we go see Wicked in September, and this really surprised her, but made her extremely happy. And I let her know that was the plan. I wanted it to be a complete and total surprise. It was. She had no idea what was going on or why there was a book on the shelf that had our picture on it.
So we leave the store and head to dinner, and then we realize that it’s time to stop just looking and that we have to actually buy a ring. She’s happy, though, that she has something to hold and show people, even though she made me take this picture where she’s indicating that she has no ring on that finger. We make our requisite calls to our friends and family to let them know that we’ve gotten engaged, and the rest of the night is filled with Facebook statuses, congratulations, and hours upon hours of standing in line for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince goodness.
The next day, we begin our ring search, and it’s coming up short. I’ve been able to put a bit of money back over the last year to buy her an engagement ring, but it’s nothing extravagant. I am a teacher, after all. Our plan is that if we don’t find a ring she likes, we’ll go to a local jeweler and have one custom made. Since she likes smaller jewelry, we don’t expect this to be a problem. The only store left on our tour leaves us empty (though they have the wedding band she wants to get), and we head to design our own ring. We give the jeweler our specifications, and he quotes us a price. It’s double what I’ve been able to save this year. So that idea is kaput, and we’re back to square one and disappointed. Neither of us wants to have a payment plan for something as silly as a ring when there are legitimate bills and expenses we’ll have to deal with.
We remember there are two other shops around town we hadn’t checked yet, so we walked to them. No luck in the first one. Just not our style. But the second one has a plethora of rings that fit exactly Jennifer’s style. We spend an hour or two looking, and she picks out the ring she wants. It even comes in under budget rather than doubling it! Also, it should match very nicely with the wedding band she had picked earlier that day, and its price allows me to immediately buy it rather than continue to put money away just to get it. Her ring had to be resized, so we should have it next week. I wanted to take a picture of it, but my good camera was left at her apartment. As great as the iPhone is, the camera is too low quality to really show why this ring snagged our attention. There will be a higher quality picture as soon as I’m able.
Jennifer’s a one of a kind girl. She wants to get me an engagement ring, too, and I’m fine with that. I love wearing rings, and it’s been years since I’ve had a ring on both hands (I currently wear one band). I don’t want anything extravagant or expensive. I like pewter bands and silver, so I’m sure something will catch her eye or mine, and she’ll be able to mark me as being hers soon enough.
Now comes the hard part. The engagement ring is bought and the wedding bands are picked out. I’m scared, but I can’t think of a time when I’ve been happier. This week being an adult really slapped me in the face, but I took it standing up and think I’m a better man for it. The next logical step is setting a date, and then actually planning the wedding. There are a few dates we’re tossing around, but they’re limited to scheduled breaks and school holidays thanks to my teaching schedule. She’s got a job with floating vacation days.
I’m pulling really hard for a Halloween wedding with a costumed reception, but I’m not sure she’s going to go for it. There’s something scary, she says, about planning a wedding in three and a half months. Bah, I say. The fun we’d have and the non-traditional nature of it far outweigh the pressure in my mind. And I say that with the perspective of a man who’s helping plan his own wedding and not thinking it’s entirely the bride’s job.
Long story, short: I proposed, she said yes, and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Now back to your regularly scheduled geeky/academic musings.