Courtney and John

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How We Met

John and I met through online dating. During our exchanges, we learned that we both loved Disney, we both shared the same sense of humor, and tragically, we had each recently lost our mothers. Though we shared a few surface-level differences, ( I was a West Coast girl from Los Angeles whereas he was born and raised in a small town in the Midwest), we felt a close connection. After a few weeks of texting, we decided to meet in person.

Our first date was brunch at a restaurant famous for its maple bacon doughnuts. John claimed he wasn’t a fan of those and insisted he would not like them. Me, the optimist, could not fathom someone disliking the deliciousness of maple bacon doughnuts. To his credit, he gave them another shot, but alas, I discovered there was in fact, someone on this planet who did not like maple bacon doughnuts. But that was okay because our conversation flowed easily. It was as if we had known each other for years and were simply catching up, rather than two people on a first date. We decided to immediately extend that brunch date to a movie date as well, and by the end of that evening, we knew we liked each other.

Over the course of our next few weeks, we indulged in things we both loved: Disney, food, and movies. It was also during this time that I ran my first runDisney challenge; a half-marathon and 10k in a single weekend known as the Pixie Dust Challenge. Of course, I shared photos of this event with John, and he shared that it was one of his dreams to one day run a Disney marathon. I told him he should try it, and I would run one with him. He agreed, and shortly after, we signed up for the Star Wars Half-Marathon weekend in Orlando, Florida.

About four months after our first date, I came to a crossroads in my career. Working in the tech industry, I discovered some job opportunities that would require me to relocate from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area. One day, I casually brought it up to John, asking, “Hypothetically, if I moved up north, what would that mean for us?” A bit to my surprise, John said, “Honestly, I’ve always been curious about living in the Bay Area myself.”

I did in fact move up north, and we transitioned to a long-distance relationship, with either myself or John making the six-hour roadtrip for weekends and holidays to spend time together. A few months later, John told his employer he had decided to relocate to the Bay Area, and luckily, his company decided to keep him on as a remote-worker. This was just another instance where everything about us just felt right. Despite our obvious differences (such as race, upbringing, and taste in maple bacon doughnuts), our love felt like destiny.

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How They Asked

John and I had numerous conversations about our future together, specifically about getting married, so I knew at some point he would ask. But I never thought that 2019 would be the year. Throughout 2019, John was traveling between his home state of Missouri and where we lived in the Bay Area because he was renovating his late mother’s house. One of these trips was through November and December 2019, but he promised he would be back in time for Christmas. Ultimately, he sent me a flight itinerary that had him coming in on Christmas day.

The week of Christmas, my dad told me he had a ticket to go to Disneyland and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him on Christmas Eve. Being a Disney fan and pass holder, I would never pass up the chance to go. Christmas Eve came and we headed to the park. Shortly after arriving, I received a text from one of John’s friends with a message to check out a specific Disneyland rental locker. The code to the locker, ironically, was the anniversary of my first date with John.

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Initially, I thought it was a coincidence. Disneyland park goers frequently do random acts of kindness in the park, where they post an image of a locker and the code and give free gifts. I assumed that’s what this was. I traveled to the rental lockers and went to the specific locker John’s friend had mentioned. At first, I could not open it. I assumed someone had already opened the locker and picked up the gift. I was ready to leave, but something told me to try again. After the 5th or 6th try (I haven’t rented a locker in over 20 years), I finally managed to open it and found an envelope with my name on it.

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I was shocked. I did not understand what was happening. I opened the envelope to find it contained instructions for a Disneyland scavenger hunt. My first task was to use my phone to scan a QR code printed on the instructions. As I do so, up pops a video of John
apologizing for not being there with me, but he wanted to make my Christmas Eve special, so he planned a surprise scavenger hunt.

Each segment of my scavenger hunt featured a video clue given by a family, friend, or co-worker of either John or myself. I was shocked upon seeing each new face. What was going on? Each clue referred to a location within the park. When I arrived at that spot, I was instructed to go see a specific cast member who would hand off a new envelope containing the next QR code, linking to a video of the next clue.

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After several hours of following the scavenger hunt, the final clue led me to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. The final instruction was simple: get a Disney photo pass in front of the castle, both with my dad and by myself. We waited in line, and when it was our turn, the Photopass Photographer took the first photo.

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It was as I was getting photos of myself that I hear a familiar voice behind me calling my name. I turn around and see John. Not in Missouri, but here, at Disneyland.

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I immediately ran through a series of emotions. I was happy he was there but upset he hadn’t told me ahead of time. But all of those mixed emotions vanished as he handed me a Disneyland shopping bag. I opened it and found a pair of Minnie Mouse ears. Not any Minnie
ears, but bridal ears. It was at that moment that I realized what was happening. John got on one knee, pulled a small box from his back pocket and revealed a beautiful ring, declared his love, and asked me to become his wife. With tears in my eyes, I said yes. We embraced and kissed as the crowd surrounding us erupted into cheers.

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I would come to find out that John had been planning this as a surprise for weeks. And my friends and family were in on it! He had contacted them without my knowing and asked for their assistance. The “flight itinerary” having him fly in on Christmas day? Totally fake. I was shocked, happy, and a little taken away by my sneaky friends. In summary, it was an incredible day and an unforgettable proposal.

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2020 has been a very different year than in 2019. Because of the pandemic, many Disney parks and public gatherings have been forced to temporarily shut down. And as we approach a Christmas unlike any other, where family and friends may not be able to physically gather, it’s important to remember that just because we can’t be together physically doesn’t mean we can’t be together in heart, especially during the holiday season. Here’s to hoping that the next year will bring with it happiness, love, togetherness, and – if we’re lucky – a little Disney magic.

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