Rietta and John

How We Met

John and I have known each other since our freshman year of college at Auburn University, as we both went to the same church. I always thought he was the “Troy Bolton” of Auburn, and that any girl who dated him had to be the luckiest girl on earth. He says he always thought I was cute and even followed me on Instagram, but we didn’t really have a full conversation with each other until our junior year of college when we both signed up to go on a church-related trip to Washington D.C. I guess it took traveling 745 miles across the east coast to finally talk to each other. John didn’t really know anyone on this trip, so he got placed with a random roommate who happened to really like one of my best friends (my trip roomie). So the 4 of us spent the entire trip together, and I couldn’t believe how much John and I had in common, all the way down to our dads sounding like virtually the same person.

Rietta and John's Engagement in The Nunn Winston House at Kiesel Park in Auburn, Alabama

A couple of months later, my friend decided to invite John and I to the same party in the hope of setting us up. I hadn’t seen him since that church trip, and was insanely nervous. Would he care that I was there? Would he even talk to me? My friend and I strategically positioned ourselves on the couch across from the door, so that we wouldn’t miss his grand entrance.

When he finally did show up, he immediately looked right at me and the blood left his face (as did mine I’m sure). We spent the entire party talking, but when it was time for my friend and I to leave, he still hadn’t asked me out. My friend convinced me to “fake leaving” and then come back pretending I lost my wallet! A lot of people at the party were in on wanting John and I to date, of course including the hostess herself, so we texted people to get them in on looking for the “fake wallet.” John suspected my lie from the beginning, but tried to play along, internally grateful for the second chance to work up the nerve to ask me out. His roommate, however, didn’t buy it and proceeded to say, “Dude, you know she’s lying right?” This was the second time the blood left my face, and the hostess immediately threw herself into making everyone believe I truly had lost my wallet. I was beyond mortified and texted my friend who was still back at the car the keyword to get me out of the situation. She replied that she had found my wallet and that it had apparently been sitting under the passenger seat all along (oops what do ya know). At this point, I was just annoyed and wanted to go home, but right before my hand touched the doorknob, John stopped me and asked me out. I guess pretending you lost your fake wallet really does do the trick.

Where to Propose in The Nunn Winston House at Kiesel Park in Auburn, Alabama

How They Asked

John and I dated throughout our time as undergrads and into grad school at Auburn, he pursuing his Pharm.D. and me pursuing my MA in English- Fiction Writing. John loves to plan park dates, as there are various gorgeous parks surrounding Auburn and as I am always looking for a new place to read. One of our favorite parks is Kiesel Park where there is a historic white house called the Nunn Winston House, and whenever we passed it on our dates I couldn’t help but talk about how I wanted that house to be in a book I wrote someday or a short story, the house and its surrounding garden always seemed to speak to my imagination, which John knows well enough is always turning everything into a fantastical story. On many dates, we tried to open the front door or see if the house was open to visitors, but it never was. It seemed all but abandoned.

Rietta's Proposal in The Nunn Winston House at Kiesel Park in Auburn, Alabama

On the day that he proposed, John asked me if I wanted to get some fresh air and read at our usual spot at Kiesel Park. I enthusiastically agreed and we made a quick stop at our church’s chapel (now I know it was to pray that the day went well!) before heading to the park. When we got there, John had us take a quick selfie to add to my family’s thread of quarantine updates (they all knew what was happening and were preparing a virtual call later that night, so it must have been hilarious for them to see).

Engagement Proposal Ideas in The Nunn Winston House at Kiesel Park in Auburn, Alabama

We sat down to read for what felt like 5 seconds before John said he had to use the bathroom. He promptly got up and asked me to wait for him to return. Roughly 10 to 15 minutes passed, and I remember even sending him a funny post on Instagram that he swiftly responded to. Around the time I started to wonder what was going on, he called me: “Hey! So, I wandered past that house we always look at, and well, the door was unlocked! Do you wanna come, meet me here?” I agreed to come, my heart beating wildly out of my chest. I remember thinking there was no way that house was unlocked when we had tried to open it so many times! When I reached the house’s front steps, I called him again, and he told me to come inside.

Marriage Proposal Ideas in The Nunn Winston House at Kiesel Park in Auburn, Alabama

Waiting for me just beyond the front door was the picnic basket we always use on our park dates, an orange rose (my favorite flower as orange is my favorite color), and a tiny whiteboard. This is when I had a total freak out. John and the photographer told me later that they had been hiding in the house and heard me take deep breaths, trying to calm myself down. I even dropped the whiteboard! I had to read it at least 75 times before I comprehended what it was saying: “Rietta, take this picnic basket and go back outside to the park’s public restrooms, but don’t look inside it! I’ll see you soon, love you!” I finally picked the basket up and made my feet take me back outside. When I opened the bathroom door, my two best friends were waiting there for me.

Proposal Ideas The Nunn Winston House at Kiesel Park in Auburn, Alabama

I dropped the basket in complete shock, and they opened it for me revealing to me that inside was my favorite dress I have ever owned, my makeup, my jewelry, heels, basically anything I would need to get ready for a fancy date night with John. I was speechless and already felt so loved. They helped me get ready, showing me that the jewelry and perfume John had gotten me over the years was there, as they know how sentimental I am and how I would have wanted to wear it. Once I felt ready to go, they took all my things and told me to go back to the house where he would be waiting for me. As I walked back up the house’s steps, John opened the front door and lead me to the house’s front parlor across a trail of orange rose petals.

Within the room, he had set up a bouquet of orange roses, an orange book he had made for me, and a wooden plaque which was at first turned from my view. He talked about how much he loves my imagination, how I see so much beauty and potential in everything. He wanted to give me a storybook day, to bring my mind’s fantasies to life. He showed me that the orange book represented the story of us, how he had written a long note for me inside of it to start this “new chapter” of us and how he wanted us to write notes to each other back and forth in this book for the rest of our lives so that our kids could one day read our story.

He then turned the wooden plaque around and revealed that it was engraved with our favorite couple’s prayer. He asked me to pray the prayer we’d been praying every night together. After we prayed, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! My photographer friend was hiding behind the door frame the whole time, taking candid shots. He popped up and wished me congratulations, and we headed out to the adjacent open field.

Special Thanks

Andrew Denard
 | Photographer
 | made the orange book
KD Unique Designs
 | made the engraved plaque