Olivia and Scott's Marriage Proposal at the New York Public Library

Image 1 of Olivia and Scott

How We Met

Olivia and I met in Chicago – we were both at a local Starbucks, taking a break from work. When it was my turn to order, I read the chalkboard next to the register with the “trivia question” of the day: “What city is nick-named the ‘glass city?’” – with it being my hometown, Toledo, Ohio, I easily answered, explaining to the barista that it was obviously Toledo and that it was my hometown. Just then, Olivia who was two or three customers behind me overheard my boasting of useless knowledge and said that she, too, was from Toledo. Excited to meet another Toledoan, I asked her if I could buy her a coffee (she said yes!) – then we took a walk around the city before going back to our respective offices. The rest is history! Actually… we met online, but that’s a better story, right? However, we are both from Toledo and grew up 5 miles away from one another only to meet in Chicago!

how they asked

What do you get the girl that doesn’t want an engagement ring? Engagement rings are convenient because they anchor the event – a couple can be anywhere and it will be “special.” I was tasked with proposing without the customary centerpiece and wanted to create a proposal that would: 1) capture my love for Olivia and 2) encapsulate our personalities (layman: our “couple vibe”). Olivia and I love reading and learning; one of our favorite things is to read together, share the excitement of the story or knowledge learned. Books are a large part of our lives together and I wanted to highlight this. I initially thought about writing a novella – something we always talked about doing together. Yet, I wanted something easily digestible in a short period of time, rather than making her sit down for hours reading it. After brainstorming with a close friend, he suggested a “Benjamin Button” lens – where I would write about our lives together starting at the end. Inspired, I spent the winter holidays drafting my story and personalized my book through Sentiment Publishing. I sought a company that specialized in PhD dissertation printing because I: 1) liked the classic, simple binding, and 2) knew that I could order small quantity.

I then found an incredible photographer – Laura Pennace Photography – when brainstorming how I would eventually present my book to Olivia. Laura had shot a proposal at the New York Public Library and I fell in love with her pictures, she was perfect! We collaborated on the final plans for the day; as the resident expert, she advised me on where we should be positioned, what to think about/remember to do, et cetera. I was ready!

The proposal day came … I was excited, yet cautiously hopeful that there would be no “curve balls” thrown our way! I planned with Olivia that we would get our library cards – a New York “to do” list item we had since we moved in July – and, told her that we were meeting with a friend in Midtown (so that we had a schedule and so that we wouldn’t wear exercise clothes for our long walk). We set off, walking from our apartment to the public library (~45 minute walk) and arrived right on time! Acting as if I had never been to the library (I went the week prior to scope it out), I suggested that we “check the place out” before getting our library cards. I led her to the Irma and Paul Milstein Room.

Image 2 of Olivia and Scott

The room has a row of bookshelves on one side of the room, with reading tables on the other – I suggested that we check out the books. As she led the way, I was able to place the book on the bookshelf without her noticing. After talking about some of the books we came across, I guided her back to the bookshelf where I left the book – and hoped that she would find it (she didn’t!). Trying to get her attention toward the book, I started talking about the books next to my book (“come on, Olivia! See it!”).

Image 3 of Olivia and Scott

Finally, she confusingly looked closer at a book, only to discover that she recognized the name on the binding (her own). She pulled it out of the bookshelf and gave me the “is this what I think it is”-look. I suggested that we find a place to read it together. We sat down and read the book together…our tears flowed, all-encompassed in the moment – the people that had gathered (including Laura, our photographer!) were no distraction. Olivia read the last line, “Olivia, my dearest, will you be my wife?” I got down on my knee and promised my life to the woman of my dreams.

Image 4 of Olivia and Scott

Image 5 of Olivia and Scott

Image 6 of Olivia and Scott

Special Thanks

Laura Pennace
 | Laura Pennace Photography