Until December 2009 anyway.
We’d been dating (again) for over a year. I’d been ring shopping for about a month, crafting my plan of attack in the two hours of driving I had to do to visit jewelers.
Because I have a massive and fast-moving mouth I’d always talked about how I was going to create a proposal that had never been and could never be topped. That got a little dicey when one of my roommates took his girlfriend for a helicopter ride before proposing at his family’s lake house, but I knew I had to give it a shot. In the end I settled on a week-long, gift-filled scavenger hunt with a theme entitled “X marks the spot.”
She knew it was coming immediately too, subtlety wasn’t paramount in my plan. But it didn’t matter much, the entire week was still magical.
On the Sunday night prior to the week we got engaged I dropped a big, red X on her porch. I have no clue (pun) where the “X marks the spot” theme came from other than I dreamed it up a few weeks (or days) before everything happened. It just came to me. Providence I suppose.
On Monday we went to our favorite restaurant in the world (Thai Cafe, Stillwater, OK) and I handed over a fortune cookie which had a clue that led her to the a pair of 2010 Masters tickets. This, inevitably, led to a lengthy “did you get this gift for me or for you?” conversation that I probably deserved.
I knew that conversation was going to happen too, so as a savvy veteran of scavenger hunting and gift-giving I defused the potential engagement-week incident by giving her an Anthropologie gift card next. This, my friends, is the easiest way to my wife’s heart. Well, that or hooking up Domino magazine to a defibrillator.
This was followed by an extravaganza of coffee products. I felt guilty for many months that the lot of these came from Starbucks instead of [fill in indie, hippie coffee shop that plays Ray Lamontange music for 17 of their 20 open hours].
And what is coffee without some good books to read? I picked up a few of her favorite stories by Jane Austen and an aforementioned Domino product. She did dances in her sleep.
Finally, another secret gift led to the big finale, or as I like to call it “the engagement ceremony that almost didn’t happen because my brother and I almost died trying to decorate the roof of a semi-icy pavilion with Christmas lights.” But it did happen, and it was incredible.
My favorite part of the entire week was when she opened the antique treasure box with her new engagement ring in it and light poured out as if someone had just unlocked a box of golden mirrors (see video below). In fact, when we showed the video at our wedding one of my friends said “that was my favorite part of the entire night.” Oh you mean other than the fact that two of your best friends surprised you with a wedding nobody knew about? We’re jumping ahead though…baby steps.
The next six months, from December 19th on, were a tightly strung whirlwind of awesome. I say tightly strung because we managed to not tell any of our friends that we got engaged. Nobody knew. Just our parents and brother and sisters. That’s it. Or maybe everybody knew and just didn’t have the stones to tell me and really the joke’s been on me the entire time. Ignorance and bliss and such.
I moved to Dallas in April of 2010 to take a new job and left my bride-to-be-that-nobody-knew-about up in Oklahoma. If planning a secret wedding while living in the same city is difficult and stressful (and it is), doing it from 300 miles away is not something I would recommend to the emotionally unstable. Which begs the question: why would we subject ourselves to this madness?
We had talked for some time about eloping and considered it a viable option for a while. We definitely wanted to do something different from what our friends had done. In the end though we couldn’t pull the trigger on running away. There were too many people who meant way too much to us for us to not have them at our wedding.
Together though, we decided we didn’t care if our wedding was the biggest or best or nicest or most fun, we wanted to focus on our pending marriage. So we kept it to ourselves. Jen’s favorite quote during our engagement in reference to our friends and family was “I don’t care if you’re a part of my wedding, I just want you to be a part of my marriage.” I thought that was insightful. And haughty. But mostly insightful.
The secret enagement was actually a lot more fun for Jen than you would probably imagine it to be. I caught a truckload of flak from my guy friends that I needed to “man up and ask her to marry me.” This was sufficient for a lifetime’s worth of lessons on humility. I had about 28 different versions of “I’m about to rock your world with an engagement that already happened and a wedding you never saw coming” ready to fire back with but I bit my tongue every time and fended them off.
Jen, on the other hand, would crucify me publicly. “I don’t know what he’s waiting for?!” and “Maybe I need to just move on” and “If there’s another woman I’m going to violently remove some of his extremities” were a few of her favorite phrases. Of course, all females within shouting distance would nod vigorously and shout “Amens!” to anything negative she said about me. All the while she was sleeping with that silly little ring on every single night. I’d created a monster.
Our pastor (and her boss) was in on it too. If Jen scolded me ironically, he lambasted me virulently. So that was fun. Although, I will say he was also a major part of my favorite part of our engagement. Every Wednesday morning at 6 AM we would get up and attend marriage counseling with him in a back room at our church. Daylight never saw our conversations and test-taking which meant nobody else ever knew about them. Focus was paramount and we loved it.
The looming question we were asking each other all Spring was, “how should we wrap all this up and deliver it to the world so that our marriage is sanctified and God is glorified?” The answer, as it usually is, was for me to get my crafting skills on. And by on I mean ON.
So I moved to Dallas and started crafting. I whipped up these little invitations to an “engagement party” at Jen’s parents house in Hennessey, OK on June 5, 2010. Jen took care of the paper flowers, eclectic vases, and other decor and my brother handled all PR and media-related material. Our moms helped too, filling in the holes (sometimes gaping) we missed. Our sisters ran diversion after diversion to keep the secret under wraps, pretty good little liars they are. I’m still not real sure what our dads did. I think they just sat back and threw money at the areas where we needed help. And there were times when we needed some good money throwers.
The months of engagement went off as planned. Secret stashed, decor created, honeymoon planned, nobody knew.
Click HERE for part 3