A Custom Photo Book Made Dana and Jeff's Pandemic Engagement Especially Memorable

How We Met

This is most definitely an interesting story – one I’ve entitled ‘Love in the Time of Corona.’ I (Jeff) had just moved back to my hometown of LA after living in Israel for the last five years producing commercials. Dana (my now fiancée) had also just moved back to LA two years prior after living in New York City to finish her postdoc work in psychology. Now, the crazy part is that we’d both lived in the same place five times throughout our lives – all over the world – and even attended the same intimate event one (not so serendipitous) night six years ago. Yet, somehow we never crossed actual paths. However, as fate always has a way with us (sooner or later, anyway), we both landed back in LA again this past January. As we are both observant Jews, our community tends to reach out to a shadchan (read: Jewish matchmaker) to set us up. They serve as a solid filtration system (…something Tinder could use… just saying…) to help people find their soulmate. So, I reached out to a shadchan when I moved back, and luckily, it was the same person Dana had also reached out to upon her return. And, so it was meant to be! Sort of… but not so fast!

As I was newly back on the LA Jewish dating scene, my friends were also eager to set me up.
And interestingly enough, two of my best friends set me up with two separate women named ‘Donna’ (the same way my fiancée pronounces her name, Dana). Initially, when people kept suggesting I go out with “Donna”, I assumed they were all the same person. Turns out I was wrong. And these two other Donna’s also happened to be Persian (just like my Dana)! Crazy world, indeed. As one of my friend’s wives commented to me when I told her this bizarre backstory, “sometimes, on a soul level, we know who we’re looking for, but our vision can be slightly blurry so we end up dating similar people or people with similar names, until we finally find our actual person.” I guess so, considering I’ve only dated three people this year and all three of them come from Persian backgrounds and all three are named “Donna” (at least in terms of pronunciation). Alas, obviously the other two were mere arrows in the direction of the right Persian Dana and we finally met. Again, sort of…. I had reached out to her two weeks before COVID hit and asked her out on a date. She of course said “yes!” but she was in Costa Rica at the time. We agreed to go out once she got back, only to find out we were going straight into quarantine. After a few days of (my) paranoia, we finally decided to take the plunge and meet in real life – socially distanced, of course. And so, we went on a walk, around her neighborhood, and continued dating for all of Corona…

How They Asked

By August (five months into dating), I knew Dana was the one and I was beginning to prepare my proposal. Just to test the waters, I casually mentioned to her that I was ready to get married, wholeheartedly assuming she would adamantly agree. Apparently, I was a bit trigger happy because she began to freak out! Well, I didn’t let that get in the way, and I began preparing a photo book that I knew I was going to use as my proposal. I reached out to a close friend and graphic designer and asked if she would have time to help. She immediately suggested Artifact Uprising and said I would be in good hands. (She was absolutely right!).

Despite Dana being a bit hesitant, I began outlining a photo book that showed the story and
evolution of our five-month relationship. Now, the trick of the whole story was that I was going to give her the book on our six-month anniversary, which also perfectly coincided with her birthday. I figured my plan was fool proof! And of course, I was wrong. As I mentioned, I had been living in Israel over the last five years and was subleasing my apartment there (with almost all of my belongings inside). At the end of August, I got a message from my subleaser that he was moving out. I began freaking out, not knowing who would cover my rent, and seeing that my life in LA was moving in the right direction, decided it was time to wrap up my life for good.

So, in the middle of a pandemic, and a few weeks before I knew I was going to propose to
Dana, I boarded a plane to Israel to pack up my life. The crazier part is, Israel has a 14-day
quarantine period which meant that the second I landed, I needed to go straight to my
apartment and stay inside for two weeks. Luckily, I had bought my ticket to fly back 14 days
and 10 hours after I landed, but I had a very narrow window to get back in time for our six-month anniversary and Dana’s birthday. And then Murphy’s Law came into action. As I was packing up all of my belongings on this two-week holiday to my former apartment, I start reading the news that Israel was about to go back into lockdown four days before my flight home, including potentially closing down their one international airport.

Luckily, I somehow managed to slip out in the nick of time and fly back to LA. By then, my book was already off to the presses and I was praying Artifact Uprising would ship it in time for me to be able to use it a few days later to propose. Thankfully, their customer team reached out to their production facility to make sure it was rushed. Now, I knew I was going to use the photo book as the vehicle to propose (I even taped the last pages of the book together in case she tried to cheat and jump to the end), but I didn’t know how or where I was going to give her the book. Twenty-four hours before her birthday, at four in the morning, I stumbled upon the most amazing company – Santa Barbara Picnic Company – who builds intimate picnics on the beach complete with Moroccan rugs, a table with plates and silverware, and a beautiful umbrella. I immediately emailed them asking if they were able to help on such last-minute notice. And then for the next five hours (until they opened), I refreshed my email obsessively. Miraculously, they were so excited and had availability!

I had asked her parents for their permission and blessing to propose to their daughter the day before, and her father had the brilliant idea to film the entire thing on my phone. Once we got to beach, she saw our beautiful picnic set up and immediately thought it looked like a proposal. However, I figured she would, and had the picnic company write “Happy Birthday Dana” on a chalkboard to throw her off course. We had a beautiful lunch and plenty of jealous onlookers, and then I finally pulled out our story – ‘Love in the Time of Corona’. I had organized the book by chapters – each including photos of moments big and small from the last six months of dating. I showcased everything from our early first dates and road trip photos to quarantine memes taking over the internet, selfies with masks, and direct quotes about our relationship from my journal. I made her read every word, cover to cover, before using my butter knife to cut the surprise pages at the end of the book. She had no idea what was going on and I was nearly crying as I read a sweet letter I had written weeks before. She flipped the page and saw “Will you marry me?” Thankfully, she said “yes”.


Special Thanks

Artifact Uprising
 | Proposal Book
Santa Barbara Picnic Company
 | Picnic Planning