April 25, 2015 will forever be one of the best days of my life.
After seven years together, Dan and I are engaged to be married, and I have never been happier.
Our dating anniversary is April 26, and this year marked seven years since the day he asked me to be his girlfriend in my Johnston Hall dorm room. We were just 19 years old then, with so much growth and change ahead of us, but even then I knew I had found The One. I feel lucky that through the years since we have grown and changed, but grown and changed together always as partners, lovers, and best friends.
For our anniversary this year, I honestly did not expect anything extraordinary, much less a proposal. We have two trips planned for May (Vegas and Punta Cana), so I did not expect or need anything over-the-top for our anniversary celebration. A week out from our anniversary date, we still hadn’t discussed or set firm plans, so I assumed we would just go for a nice dinner and take it easy together.
But Dan had other plans: On the Thursday morning before our anniversary, I woke to a note from Dan that said we would be going away for the weekend. The clues: “It will be cold, we can drive there, and you’ve been there before.” Friday evening after work, we began driving, and I quickly realized we were headed toward Chicago and my parents’ house.
We arrived late at my parents’ house, and, in all honesty, they acted as if the trip was a bit of a surprise and thrown together last minute. They were happy to see us, of course, but they asked me what we had planned for the weekend and feigned surprise when I said it was our anniversary. This helped squash any ideas in my head that a proposal was imminent because after seven years of waiting, you don’t just throw together a proposal last minute (nice acting, Mom and Dad!).
Before bed, I saw Dan pull my mom aside and then a few minutes later she asked me if I wanted to join her at her nail appointment in the morning. I should have known something was up! But I just thought he was being sweet because I had planned to get my nails done in Columbia this past weekend and cancelled my appointment for our trip. In the back of my mind, I still expected he might propose during our Punta Cana vacation at the end of May, so a proposal wasn’t on my radar for this “last-minute” weekend away.
The plan for Saturday was to get my nails done with my mom, and then meet up with my dad, Jess, and Dan for lunch in Evanston. Saturday night was reserved for a “surprise” in the city, which I figured would be a nice dinner or perhaps a concert. Saturday morning, I did start to get this feel that perhaps, maybe just maybe, he was planning a proposal in the city that night. I have very good intuition, and I started to sense something was up… But still, I was wrong about that. What he really had planned far exceeded my expectations…
After our manicures, my mom, dad, and I headed out to lunch at Ten Mile House on Central Street. While at the restaurant, Dan called to let me know that his new tire (which he had mentioned “felt off” on the drive up) had blown out, and he was on the side of the road 30 minutes away waiting for a tow truck. Despite my concerns, he insisted that I stay and enjoy lunch with my family instead of coming to get him. When I returned to the table after getting off the phone with Dan, my parents feigned worry and insisted I call him back to let him know we’d come get him and eat elsewhere. I called him back and again he insisted we just enjoy lunch.
My sister arrived to the restaurant then and though we enjoyed lunch together, I couldn’t help but wish Dan was there and curse our bad luck. After lunch, we decided to drive around our old neighborhood near Fourth and Linden. My parents mentioned that the village was building a new lakefront center at the beach, so we decided to drive down there and take a look. I love going to Gillson; it is one of my favorite places in the world and means so much to me. It’s rare these days for my family of four to be together in the place where I grew up, so as we started to drive around the lakefront that had so many memories, I started to get emotional and tear up. I really wished Dan was with us.
Suddenly my dad made a turn in the deserted beach parking lot and there was Dan, standing alone looking devastatingly handsome with his amazing, beaming smile. He was holding a single red rose (later he joked that it was his nod to my Bachelor obsession). My heart leapt into my throat at the sight of him! I had never been more surprised! I was not expecting him to be there at all. I turned to look at my family, and they were all smiles — they knew exactly what was happening and had been in on the plan from the beginning! This was definitely not a thrown-together, last-minute, nothing-special weekend away. This was my proposal.
I joined Dan, and together we walked down the beach. I instantly knew what was happening when I saw him there waiting for me, but I was so caught off-guard and surprised that our entire walk down the beach felt surreal. It was a cold, gloomy day with few people out, so it felt like we had the entire stretch to ourselves. Poor Dan was probably hoping for much nicer weather in Chicago at the end of April, but it made the moment that much more memorable. We cling to each other even closer.
Dan walked me toward the overlook portion of the shoreline, to the spot where I brought him during his first visit to Chicago when our love was just a couple months old. This was the spot on the beach where we’d come often during our visits to my hometown.
It was this spot where Dan dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him.
Of course, I said yes!
The moment went by in the blink of an eye, and I wish we could have made it last forever. The cliche is absolutely true: In the moment, I could not fathom that it was really happening, that this life-changing and once-in-a-lifetime moment that I had dreamed about for so long was finally here. It was overwhelming in the best way.
After embracing and taking in the moment together, we walked toward the tennis courts and circled around the park on our way back to his car. We were giddy with excitement and disbelief over what had just happened. We had to snap a selfie to remember the moment, of course! (Photo above) When we got back to the car, I made him say his proposal again, because I never wanted to forget the beautiful words that he said to me.
Dan had packed our bags and revealed the second surprise of the day: We were going downtown for the night. On the drive, we called his parents to tell them the news. I told his mom, Kathy, that we would change our usual route and drive through St. Louis on the way home so we could stop by their house and tell them the whole story in person. We then called his grandmother, Rose Mary, and told her what had happened. It was bittersweet, because the funeral of Dan’s grandfather was just a couple of weeks prior. I couldn’t help but think about him and wish he’d been able to see us engaged.
We took the long drive into the city, taking Sheridan to Lake Shore Drive. We wanted to take our time and relish the moment. We could not stop gushing over what had just happened, over being fiancé and fiancée — finally! We finally made it to Hotel Allegro downtown and just as we checked in, the hotel was hosting a guest happy hour in the lounge, so we snagged some glasses of wine and headed to our room. We called all our best friends to tell them the exciting news and took some time to soak in the excitement ourselves.
Still giddy and buzzing from the rush of excitement over our engagement, we walked to the restaurant next door for our celebratory dinner. I had blinders on as the host walked us back to our table, because I did not see surprise number three coming at all: Dan’s parents, Kathy and Jim, were already seated there with my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend, Josh. I literally jumped! I have never been more surprised in my life! Little did I know when I was talking to Kathy on the phone earlier that she was actually in town! Our parents did an amazing job acting during this whole day to throw me off. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at 312 Chicago, and not wanting the night to end, took the celebration across the street to Randolph Tavern for another drink.
Celebrating with both our families was the perfect finish to the perfect proposal. Dan could not have planned a more personal or thoughtful proposal. He literally took my breath away.
I feel beyond grateful to have found my soulmate.