How We Met
Danielle and I met at a bank in 2010. It was my first day on the job and she was the last member of staff I was introduced to. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but I vividly remember telling my friends that very evening that I had just been introduced to the most beautiful girl in the world.
At the time, we were both juggling school, work and crazy schedules, but we connected instantly and enjoyed the little time we got to spend together. As much as you can dread going to work, I would look forward all week to the shifts I knew we’d be working together. I may have even put a little product in my hair on those days. A few months after joining, I resigned to focus on school. The two of us stayed in contact through social media and our love for common interests like basketball and Harry Potter. Then one day in mid-2012, Danielle was cleaning her phone’s address book when she came across my number.
She sent a text with an old nickname and that sparked a four year conversation that has never ended.
how they asked
There is only one moment in a relationship where a man reserves the right to bold-facedly lie to the woman he loves. That moment is when he proposes. For me, it was Sunday January 17th. The biggest question surrounding our engagement was never if to propose, rather how.
It played in my mind for months like an after-school special that starts with “so you’ve decided to propose”.
I probably had half a dozen plans to start with: lip sync, flash mob, intimate dinner, mariachi band, choreographed Backstreet Boys number. But then you start asking yourself the hard questions: would she prefer a private or public proposal? What aspects of our relationship do I want to come through in this moment? When she tells this story, for years and years, what do I want it to be remembered for?
For me, it all boiled down to one word: surprise.
My would-be fiancé is one of the hardest people to surprise I’ve ever met. It’s to her credit that she knows me so well, and can map out my thought process before my neurons even begin firing, but that’s never stopped me from trying to surprise her. I knew in order to pull it off, it would take time, it would take a great deal of planning and it would require a fair share of luck. Infiltrate her mind, occupy her reality, change what she thinks into what she knows. That was my M-O; it helped that I had just watched Inception too.
One of the biggest challenges was getting her to reserve the date of the eventual proposal in her calendar, without tipping her off as to the magnitude of how important that was. To fixate on a day month’s in advance would be to show my hand, to leave it to the last minute could prove very disastrous if clashing with her schedule. So how do you get someone to hold a date without telling them?
Have you ever blocked time in your calendar for working on something, or to complete a task, but to everyone else it shows as ‘busy’? That’s essentially what I was trying to do with her social life. So I made up a fake event, and sent her an invite on behalf of the restaurant that was ‘hosting’ it.
But why would I randomly arrange such an event, out of the blue? How could I slip this in without arousing suspicions around this random gift? For gift-giving to fly under the radar, I had to bide my time and wait until Christmas.
Amidst the small to medium sized gifts, my girlfriend opened two envelopes on Christmas Eve. The first was meant to make her cry. As horrible as that sounds, I know when she’s emotional, she’s most occupied with not appearing like a blubbering mess, and she lets little details go. So after a heart-felt (real) gift, I gave her a second envelope containing an invitation crafted by a talented graphic designer at my work.
She raised her eyebrows, hugged me in appreciation, and proceeded to open the smaller, much more promising jewelry box shaped gift (which held a watch, for those wondering). And that’s how my plan was set in motion.
I had my date. Now I just needed to bring it all together.
Weighing all of my options from my list of proposal ideas, I could never settle on one because it meant eliminating the others. That’s when I realized, what I was after wasn’t one idea, I wanted to create an experience: an experience made especially for her, that had our friends and family interwoven, but was wrapped up in a few details that could only be drawn from our unique past together.
With the help of the masterful event planners at EST, I booked out Barsa Taberna, an amazingly intimate, eclectic but romantic venue just south of the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. We aren’t overly private people (it’s hard to be when you both work in social media), but I knew if there were people around us when it happened, I may not say all of the things I wanted to say, and she may not react as naturally as she would if we were alone. It was perfect: the intimate and secluded setting allowed me to have my moment with my would-be fiancé, and invite family afterwards to celebrate after we had some alone time.
I owe much of actually getting to the restaurant to the amazing punctuality and performance put on by my sister, who not only navigated the unpredictable traffic conditions of Toronto as her chauffeur, but used their outing as an excuse to vet everything from her wardrobe to her expectations. She arrived promptly on the hour at the venue, ready for what she thought was an afternoon of tapas and family.
She was welcomed and whisked in by our server, who vaguely recollected the reservation under her name, before directing her towards the main dining hall. She walked in, and with the absence of an escort, turned the wrong way when she saw my familiar coat and bag, on a table on the opposite end of the restaurant. As she settled herself, the most picturesque scene stood in tableau behind her, waiting.
It was then that she turned around with a start, to see a single table set up theatre style in front of a massive projection of the words ‘Play Me’, and a table and chair, engulfed in a heart-shaped row of candles.
Even then, it didn’t resonate that this was all for her, and she surveyed it apprehensively.
Even then, when the violinist began playing our song, and even when I held her hand, shaking.
“What is this?” she whispered, more out of sheer wonderment than suspicion.
I stopped just short of the candles, where I knew the photographer was sure to see. I said her name in a quivering voice, and she proved she knew me as well as I boasted above – she instantly understood what was happening; she burst into tears.
The next minute and a half were a blur as I spewed whatever came to mind, most of which was probably incoherent babble, some of which may have even been in Swahili, and she stood there, looking down at me, half certain this was a dream, but fully engaged (ha!), unsure if this was real or a dream, she simply had to take it in.
I uttered the most important question of my life and she didn’t leave me waiting very long. Upon choking out a ‘yes’ before our embrace, the projector sprung to life with a slideshow of the past four years we’d spent together.
She cried through memories, one eye firmly fixated on the screen, while the other was still taking in the new hardware on her ring finger. As the screen went black, she smiled at me as if we could now talk for the first time, only to be interrupted once more by the video coming back to life, displaying our friends and family around the world, all who had recorded wishes of congratulations. There were many faces and voices we hadn’t been around in so long, it was pure jubilation to know that they too were a part of our special day.
The video came to a close, and this time I played the role of all-knowing partner, handing her my phone and instructing her to call her mother. No answer.
So I suggested she call mine. No answer. We followed by trying her entire family but to no avail. She looked down, somewhat disappointed that she was robbed of screaming her big news through the telephone, only to be startled into consciousness by the screams of all those who she failed to reach, as they entered behind her, huge smiles, champagne in hand.
They congratulated us, the drinks and food flowed, and I breathed the biggest sigh of relief.