The Tuesday after Christmas, a girlfriend of mine let me know she would be in New York City for the week. She invited me and Mike to a last-minute New Year’s Eve “small get-together” at the apartment she would be staying in. It sounded like a perfect plan, mostly because I was excited to avoid purchasing expensive tickets and standing in dreadful lines only to attempt celebrating at a bar with one-in, one-out access. I asked Mike if he would be willing to tone down our previously crazy New Year’s Eves and instead spend the last minutes of 2015 and first few of 2016 with this group of close friends. He was all for it.
On Thursday, New Year’s Eve, Mike let me know he was able to get a last-minute dinner reservation. I asked questions like “How?” and “Where?” and “What about the party?” He responded, “Can I just have my fun with dinner, and then we will go to Cally’s?” Though wary, knowing how aggressive restaurants in NYC can get on New Year’s Eve, I agreed to his plan. But a couple of hours, suspicions and stomach growls later, I once again started questioning where we were going for dinner. After playfully bugging Mike, he finally told me the spot.
Uncharacteristically and only because we were running behind schedule, I suggested we take a taxi to the restaurant, but Mike insisted that we either walk or take the subway. I looked down at my heels and knew that I may not make it walking, so I reluctantly agreed to the subway. We got off the train at what I thought was one stop too early, but I let it go and decided we could walk from there. As we approached Washington Square Park, Mike suggested that we take a picture in front of the giant, glittering Christmas tree. I thought that was a great idea, so we quickly took a selfie and continued to walk through the park. As we passed under the arch, Mike stopped and turned me around so that we were standing face-to-face. It was in that moment, maybe by some magical, women’s gut intuition, that it hit me: he was going to propose. Suddenly, the whole day began to make sense. Why he didn’t want to tell me where we were going, why we couldn’t take a cab, why we exited the subway one stop too early.
My heart was pounding as my breath tried to match its speed. My eyes welled up, and I pushed my hair over my face in what turned out to be a failed attempt to pull myself together considering my hair became soaked with tears!
“I haven’t been completely honest in our plans for tonight,” he said through his simultaneously mischievous and loving smirk.
My body was completely shaking. Mike let me know that one of our friends, a photographer, was hiding in the park taking pictures. After a passionate and heartfelt speech, he knelt down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
I did not hesitate for one second. I screamed “YES!” and jumped into his arms. Blinded by the moment, I hadn’t noticed until this point that a crowd of people had formed around us in the park. They began to clap, and I turned to find our friend who was taking pictures. Little did I know, the proposal was the first in a series of surprises that night; It was only beginning.
After passing through the crowd of earnest well-wishers, his arm around me, we continued heading to the restaurant. Despite shaking hands, I managed to call and text my parents and siblings. In hindsight, they were all pretty quick to rush me off the phone with “We wish we could be there” and “Send us pictures!”
When we arrived at the restaurant, Mike gave the hostess the name on our reservation. As she directed us toward a table in the back, I could have sworn I saw a familiar face rushing at me through the crowded tables. “It’s my mom!?” I turned to Mike with a face that can only be described as an elated question mark. Following my mom’s lead was my sister, dad, brother, and Mike’s entire family, too. Both of our families live in Florida, so needless to say, I was floored. We laughed, we cried, we hugged. Mike beamed as his second surprise unfolded.
After a delicious dinner with our families, Mike’s dad announced that he had some champagne back at the AirBnB-rented apartment he and Mike’s mom were staying at, and the table agreed to join him there for a toast before Mike and I left to spend midnight with our friends.
The elevator in the SoHo building was small, so I volunteered to take the second trip up insisting that we shouldn’t cram into a tiny elevator. When I lost the battle, like the ones before it that day, I should have known something was up. But I was too overjoyed and overwhelmed, and I could have never anticipated that Mike would have another surprise in store.
Our two families piled into the elevator and when we got off on our floor, the door to the apartment swung open to display what would be the third surprise of the night: a beautiful, red-brick, lofted apartment filled with around 30 people. As they cheered their “congratulations!” in unison, I crumbled to the floor in utter disbelief. At first I didn’t quite understand the extent of people who filled the room, but once my closest friends rushed to gather me up from the shiny wood floor, it became clear that Mike had gathered my closest friends, from near and far, to celebrate our engagement with us.
All of the most important people in my life were in a room, together. As I hugged them one-by-one (and tried my best to not smear mascara on their shirts) I wondered, “How did they all get here? How long has this been a secret? How did they keep it a secret?!”
Mike took my hand and gave me a tour of the apartment he rented for the occasion. Not only was it filled with “She said yes!” banners and engagement decorations, but there was also a photo booth, created by Mike, against the beautiful red brick, monogrammed M&M cupcakes, and beautifully framed photos documenting our seven-year relationship. The refrigerator was stocked with champagne bottles, and as soon as I was able to control my waterworks enough to hold a glass, we popped them in celebration.
As 2015 came to a close, my friends, family and loved ones began counting down, embracing each other with glasses in hand. Ten seconds later, it was 2016. Mike and I kissed, and I knew that although the clock had struck 12, my fairy tale had just begun.