How We Met
It all began in late August when we were introduced through our mutual friend, Claire Cunningham. | was immediately intrigued by Claire’s comment, “He is the nicest guy ever, Kaitlyn. I could totally see you together!” Trusting my close friend’s instinct, I followed Mark via Instagram. I was impressed with Mark’s photos but did not send a message. I was traveling on a three-week venture to see my close friends and cousin out west when I noticed Mark sent a Direct Message. He cleverly inquired about my location with the “red rocks.” Charmed by his comments, I responded that I was in Sedona visiting my cousin. Our chatting continued until I arrived back in Harbor Springs on September 3, 2017. The very next day (Labor Day) Mark officially asked me out on our first date. Although I felt a bit jet-lagged, I was very excited to finally meet Mark in person. I quickly showered and decided what to wear. With only two miles to drive, Mark arrived on time and greeted me (with my wet hair) with a big smile. He went out of his way to open every door for me. When Mark opened the passenger door gingerly and held out his hand, I wondered if it was some kind of joke. I was not accustomed to the “queen” treatment and soon discovered he was “the biggest gentleman to ever exist!” Their first meeting ended up morphing into an amazing five-hour date beginning at North Perk Coffee in Petoskey. We conversed about running and our favorite adventures. After a caffeine boost, we spontaneously continued our date and drove north on M-119 to hike the vineyards at Pond Hill Farm. This location is close to my heart as it embraces many special memories from my childhood including the squash rocket challenge, hayrides, and barn dances. We laughed while petting the goats and then climbed to the arbor at the peak of Pond Hill Vineyard. We ate grapes and enjoyed a spectacular view of Little Traverse Bay. Later that evening, we went on our “second date” to Menonaqua Beach where our friend Claire lives. We took a refreshing dip in Lake Michigan and savored a beautiful sunset over the bay. Neither of us wanted the date to end! Before he respectfully walked me to the door, Mark asked me to go on a “third date” the next day. I was so impressed by Mark’s genuine kindness that I did not hesitate about spending more time with him. We decided to take a bike ride all the way from Harbor Springs to Bay Harbor. I knew Mark was special when he wouldn’t allow me to bike on the side of the road closest to traffic. Not only was he protective, but he also has a romantic side. Midway along the Little Traverse Wheelway, he leaned over and swiftly snagged a daisy and gave it to me. Later that night, we went to the Paper Station restaurant and discovered our mutual love of kale salad with tuna. We finished our dinner just in time to capture another gorgeous sunset along M-119 in the tunnel of trees. The next day, Mark left for a two-month yacht trip as the assistant captain while I continued working at the ophthalmologist office in Petoskey. We continued to talk each day; our hearts grew closer even though we were miles apart. Once Mark returned to Michigan, we took a day trip to Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes where he asked me to be his girlfriend. It was a romantic surprise as we stood atop the apex overlooking the exquisite Grand Traverse Bay. I remember telling my mom, “Mark is the sweetest and most loving guy.”
How They Asked
In planning for the engagement, Mark knew I would want three things: (1) the proposal to be a surprise, (2) fingernails polished, and (3)photos of the event. Since I always have to know every detail of everything, pulling this off without a snag was a long shot. Thankfully, Mark had me convinced that the ring was not ready yet. He let me know this AFTER I got my nails done with my friends. In the meantime, Mark fell while running a few days before and split his knee open resulting in a trip to the emergency room and eleven stitches! Doctor’s orders were to rest and keep his leg straight, so getting down on one knee certainly was looking bleak. On December 30th, Mark made plans to visit Pond Hill Farm after church with Alivia (Mark’s sister) since she was visiting from New York and leaving the next day. I was looking forward to spending time with Mark and Livvy. Little did I know, Mark did indeed have a ring and also had scoped out a surprise location (their favorite summertime swimming spot on Little Traverse Bay).
He went out the night before and sunk a bottle of champagne to the bottom of the bay and stashed some glasses packed in a box under some of the rocks. The stage was set for popping the question (hoping I would say “yes”)! We drove toward Pond Hill and after a couple of miles down the road, Livvy (just as planned), suggested they go check out that pier they swam off in the summer. Mark objected at first (as planned) saying, “It is going to be really cold down there!” Mark turned the car toward the pier as Livvy requested. Mark could tell I wasn’t too enthused about the detour, but my “down for anything” attitude helped and I went along with it (success)! We proceeded to drive to the end of the lane to park. As we were getting out of the car, Mark took the ring box from the side door pocket and hid it in his coat hood.
The night before, a cold front blew in and created waves that were breaking over the pier all night. With the icy conditions, Mark put his arm around me and we cautiously made our way to the end of the pier. Livvy took a few spontaneous photos with her phone and requested some of us. As we posed for a photo, Mark carefully pulled the ring from his hood. Before I could fully realize what was going on, he managed to flex his knee enough to get down on one and POPPED THE QUESTION (success)! A look of surprise washed over my face, and I realized what was happening!
I regained myself enough to say ”YES!” Thankfully, Livvy was ready with the camera to capture the moment of surprise. Shortly after a huge hug and kiss, Mark went to the edge of the pier and started pulling on the string. I became nervous he was going to fall in and would have to deploy my lifeguarding skills on our engagement day! I was completely surprised as Mark pulled the champagne from the water and presented it to me. We happily drove up to Pond Hill to celebrate with lunch and some wine tasting. We reminisced about our first date at Pond Hill. After an exciting afternoon, we went back and shared the story with their families and celebrated with a special Alessi salmon dinner.