How we met: Natalie and I were matched on eHarmony on July 30, 2011 even though we both did not fit into the parameters we set on the website. eHarmony told us there were enough strong compatibility characteristics that we should take a risk. I had been rejected by eHarmony before because there were no matches for me. As well, I wasn’t sure about starting a relationship with someone that already had a ready-made family with two boys. Natalie was leery of dating a lawyer who also had never drank alcohol or coffee. We took the guided communication very seriously and quizzed each other daily until agreeing to a first date at the movies on August 14, 2011. We loved to go to same theater. Immediately after the date, I had to fly to San Francisco for a week. We were texting back and forth all week. The whole time, I wished I was spending the days and nights in San Francisco with her. There was an instant connection but neither of us could put our finger on why. Natalie originally nicknamed me Enigma as a result. All we knew for sure was that we were so comfortable with each other that everything came naturally – especially the laughter.
My eHarmony proposal: If you are going to wait 2 ½ years, the proposal better be special. During our time together, Natalie would hear proposal stories that would make her cringe and joke with me, “Add it to the list.” We went to Kauai in May of 2013 and when she did not come back engaged I got torched on Facebook. The pressure was building.
I had been trying to contact eHarmony for months without any success. I already had the ring for quite awhile. I had actually begun planning a proposal during our upcoming trip to Asheville. Finally, on February 3, 2014, I was contacted by Brenda, eHarmony’s Special Projects Coordinator, stating she would love to help. Everything instantly changed from a waiting game into a race to the finish. The Asheville trip was February 21st and I could not cancel those plans unless I got this eHarmony idea nailed down. In addition, two of Natalie’s three brothers were coming to visit for Valentine’s weekend. All of her brothers are in the Army and it is so rare that Natalie gets to see her family. I really wanted Natalie to be surrounded by family and friends when I proposed.
My idea was to surprise her using a fake eHarmony Success Story commercial audition. I would find the studio, actors and film crew. The catch would be that after we fill out the release forms at the studio and during the shoot, the eHarmony representative would politely, but with dismay, inform us that there was a mistake. These commercials are supposed to be filmed using eHarmony couples that are married. At this point, I would try to rectify the situation and when all other methods fail, I would surprise her by taking one knee and proposing. The trick was to convince her that the commercial was authentic before we got there. I wanted eHarmony to invite us to the audition because we had identified ourselves in the past as an eHarmony Success Story and they were starting regional ad campaigns.
So I began the process. I called all the local film departments looking for film students that wanted additional experience. I contacted every community theatre in a 50-mile radius. I made arrangements to rent all the film equipment and visited several options for studio space. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting much interest or nobody was available. After being together 2 ½ years, Natalie and I knew all the same people – I needed to rely upon outsiders to pull this off and the clock was ticking. Finally, I emailed a couple dozen production companies. If I couldn’t find actors to be my film crew, I would find a film crew to act. My one fear was that the project would require a budget more suited for Warner Brothers or DreamWorks. Surprisingly, the response was quite favorable. Production crews liked my idea and were willing to try to fit into my budget. It came down to chemistry. Leo and Brittany from Rad Red Creative in Tampa would not let me say no to them. They had so much enthusiasm and so many ideas. It was great to speak with someone as passionate about the project as me.
The team was in place and no time to waste. Going to the audition needed to be Natalie’s idea. Brenda and I drafted the email invitation to Natalie and discussed how she would respond to all of Natalie’s follow-up questions. Brenda even sent eHarmony releases to support the legitimacy. In the meantime, Rad Red Creative and I worked on the script, the call sheet, forms and the location release. After being initially skeptical and subsequently reluctant to take time away from a rare weekend with her brothers, Natalie booked a 10:00 a.m. appointment on Sunday, February 16, 2014 for us to audition as an eHarmony Success Couple. We were locked in – five days until the proposal.
Those were the longest five days of my life. I didn’t talk about the audition unless she did. I treated it like an afterthought. Valentine’s Day was just the icing on the cake, but she couldn’t know that. Orchids, sterling silver jewelry, poetry and personalized gifts…I wanted Valentine’s Day to stand out in her mind so she wasn’t looking ahead. Little did I know that her brother, Kyle, was going to help me without even realizing it. Kyle and Tina had been married almost two years but, with Kyle in Afghanistan most of that time, he had no opportunity to get Tina the wedding ring he wanted for her. Fast forward to Valentine’s Day and Kyle surprises Tina with a stunning double-banded wedding ring. She posts the picture of her ring finger on Facebook and tags Natalie because Natalie helped orchestrate the surprise. Suddenly, all of Natalie’s Facebook friends mistakenly think that she just got engaged two days before my actual proposal! Tina and Natalie corrected the misunderstanding and, just like Kauai, I got torched on Facebook for not pulling the trigger. More pressure.
Sunday morning I awoke at 4:00 a.m. without any hope of sleeping another wink. Everyone else was sound asleep because Natalie had solicited the services of a babysitter for all the kids so the grown-ups could have a night out on the town. I already had my outfit selected yet I did not have the presence of mind to try sticking the engagement ring box in my jacket pocket until now. It felt like I was trying to hide a shoebox under a sports coat. Now I was a ball of nerves. I cannot let her see the protruding ring box. I cannot let her touch the left side of my jacket. Alas, this was an eHarmony commercial audition – hugging, kissing and general P.D.A. was practically a requirement. We arrived at the studio and I’ll let the video explain what happened next:
She said yes! Natalie whips around to the production crew and exclaims, “You guys were in on it!” Congratulations and thank you’s are exchanged. Rad Red Creative came through for me. Elsewhere, my mom had arrived at our house that morning shortly after we departed to inform Natalie’s brothers that instead of eating breakfast they needed to get outside the studio because I was proposing to Natalie. I had kept the secret from everyone until the last minute. Double time: Karl, Kyle, Tina and the four kids quickly got ready and darted crosstown to the studio. The second surprise was Natalie walking out of the studio to find her family and friends waiting outside to congratulate her. Everything went according to plan. I love you, Natalie.
Photos by Rad Red Creative