Over the next couple of months I began contacting English-speaking photographers living in Paris. I reached out to a handful that I really like after perusing their websites and portfolios, and luckily heard back from the person I had at the top of my list, Rhianne Jones. After exchanging emails with her about my vision for the proposal and considering her suggestions, I finally had a plan in place. The next step was to get a ring.
I scheduled an appointment with Theo, a jeweler my mom has gone to in the past and who my oldest brother went to for his engagement ring. I tried to educate myself on different cuts and settings and whatnot, but it was still overwhelming sitting in the chair across from Theo as he asked me a number of questions I didn't know the answers to. He laid out a whole slew of settings, diamonds, and full rings while I picked out different aspects from each that I liked to form my own custom design. Over the next couple of weeks Theo did his thing and called me when it was ready. Opening the ring box for the first time was a feeling I hadn't experienced before. It was like my excitement and nerves combined into a super-feeling. Excitervousness? Yeah, let's go with that. At that moment the proposal was no longer an idea, it was real. The ring looked astonishing and I knew Sarah was going to love it.
It was now time to speak with her parents, get their blessing, and explain how I was going to propose to their daughter. Thankfully they were extremely excited and gave me their blessing to propose to Sarah. I'm not sure if women will ever fully understand how daunting it is to speak with their parents about marrying their daughter. It's a huge step, and I'm incredibly honored to be accepted by Sarah's parents as a part of their family. The Surprise Proposal was officially a go, and I could not wait to get on that plane.
My mom dropped us off at the airport Thursday morning, March 13, for our first leg of the trip to London with the ring tucked away in my backpack. All I could think about was how horrifying it would be if security scanned my bag and decided to search it after seeing a small item wrapped in a pair of boxers and socks. I know I probably don't give them enough credit for what they do, but still, it terrified me. After talking with the most unpleasant ticket attendant on planet earth, I received a call from my mom.
"Hey, did you forget your garment bag at home? I just realized I didn't see you take it into the airport."
My mom told me she would try to get back home, get the suit, and bring it back to me before we had to go through security and board the plane. There was no way that was going to happen, though. It was 5:30 pm rush-hour on a Wednesday in Dallas, we live 22 miles from the airport, and our plane boarded in 40 minutes. Sarah could see the look of frustration on my face and tried to comfort me. She couldn't completely understand why I was so flustered. "It's only a few shirts, I'm sure Dan (our friend we stayed with in London) will have some you can borrow!" Ha, silly Saruh. If only you knew.
With 10 minutes left before boarding, my mom calls and tells me she's pulling up to where she dropped us off at the airport. I couldn't believe it. She actually got home and back in time. BEST MOM EVER! We went through security with ease and I released a monstrous sigh of relief as we made our way to the gate.
Fast Forward to Saturday.
We had a fun couple of days in London with our good friend Dan. Dan was a foreign exchange student at OU and Sarah and I both became friends with him before ever knowing each other. The ring stayed tucked away in my backpack underneath Dans bed the last couple of days as I would periodically reach my hand in there to make sure it hadn't walked off. Anytime I went to the restroom or showered at Dan's apartment, my backpack came with me. We left the following morning for Paris, and as we got on the train goosebumps quickly washed over me.
We arrived in Paris on Sunday and spent the day doing as many touristy things as we could. We rounded off the day at the Eifell just before sunset. We got small bottles of champagne and croque monsieurs as I listened to a woman yell at me in french about...something. I'm not sure what she said, but she sounded very passionate. It was kind of terrifying, actually.
To fill you in on some details, Sarah and I decided back in January that we weren't going to do much for Valentines day this year since we were both saving up for the trip. Instead, it was her suggestion that I plan a date/activity while in Paris to act as a pseudo-Valentines day. This was perfect because I had an excuse to block off the next morning for the proposal and be all secretive about it without her getting suspicious.
Now, back to where I was. As we sat on a bench drinking our champagne, Sarah began to ask me about what I had planned the following morning. She has a love/hate relationship when it comes to surprises. She loves the thought of them, but her curiosity and eagerness get the best of her and she either begs me to tell her what the surprise is, or asks if she can tell me what my surprise is. It's pretty funny. So as she was trying to pry into my brain, I knew I had to tell her something. Anything, really, to ensure she didn't get suspicious about a possible proposal. I told her we were meeting with a small group in the morning and going on a fine wine and cheese tour of Paris. You may be asking yourself, "Wait, who drinks a bunch of wine at 7:30 am?" I hoped Sarah wouldn't question it since we were in a foreign country/on vacation, and luckily I was right. Implying we were doing something somewhat fancy also gave me reason enough to wear a suit and for her to wear something a little nicer. That night Sarah set the alarm on her phone for 6 am. I'm not sure how I was able to fall asleep that night, but I crashed.
I woke up the next morning, but not to the sound of an alarm. I noticed sunlight was coming through the window as it made its way through the clouds and light drizzle outside. Right away something didn't feel right. See, the whole point of planning the proposal for 7:30 am was not only to arrive before all the other tourists did, but also for Rhianne to capture the moment as the sun was rising for lighting and mood purposes. I knew waking up to a sunlit hotel room was a bad sign.
I reached for my phone. It was 7 am. Panic Mode: Engage.
"Sarah, get up, get up. It's 7 ' clock. We gotta get ready and get out of here!" It turns out Sarah's phone never updated from London to Paris time, so her alarm went off as I was waking her up. I rushed to the bathroom and took the quickest shower of my life. I couldn't hide my frustration, and didn't even try to. I was trimming my beard while also complaining about the wrinkles on my suit. Again, Sarah didn't understand why I was so worried about things as tedious as shaving and having a nicely pressed suit. As she was getting ready I snagged the ring out of my backpack and put it in my jacket pocket, then ran down to the front desk to ask the attendant to call us a cab. However, she somehow failed to do so and told me to just walk to the cab station a couple blocks down. THANKS LADY. I texted Rhianne (shout out to Whatspp) and told her we were running a little behind. She calmed my nerves a tad by telling me Trocadéro was still free of tourists. It was 7:30 at this point.
I retrieved Sarah from the room and we basically ran down the street to the cab station. During our jaunt, I had to perpetuate the wine and cheese tour lie by explaining that the group was going to wait till 7:45 for everyone to arrive. We finally got to a cab and I made sure Sarah sat to my right since the ring box was in my left jacket pocket. She never noticed it, but it felt like I was carrying a brick in my pocket that Sarah was going to point out at any moment. I nervously checked the time on my watch, my phone, and the clock on the taxi's dashboard repeatedly as if one of them would display a time that would stop me from fidgeting. 7:45 hits and we're still in the cab. I'm trying so hard to mask my nerves at this point, but I'm fairly certain I failed to do so. I have no clue what was going through Sarah's head during the cab ride. I'm sure she was bummed that we were most likely going to miss the wine and cheese tour, but she would be fine with doing anything as long as we were doing it together.
We arrived at Trocadéro at 8 o' clock on the dot. "They may have waited till 8 for us," I shouted as I paid the taxi driver and hopped out of the car simultaneously. We walked out onto the square and there was no one in sight. In that moment we both accepted that the tour wasn't going to happen (I did my best to act disappointed). I pulled out my phone to "check the tour info in my email to see if it showed where the first stop was on the tour." Really, I was texting Rhianne to let her know we had arrived. As I was drafting my text to Rhianne, Sarah asked me the question that almost ruined everything.
"What's the name of this tour group?"
"Um, I can't exactly remember but it's a really generic name like Wine & Cheese of Paris."
Way to go, self. Grade-A answer right there.
"Ha, uh, ok." Again, no idea what she was thinking.
I saw Rhianne making her way over to us in the distance and a whole new set of nerves kicked in. She approached us and began asking us a question. The following dialogue was all planned out between her and I months ago.
Rhianne: "Hi, excuse me, do you speak English?"
Us: "Yes we do!"
Rhianne: (With a small sigh of relief) "Ok good! Well my name is Rhianne and I'm a photography student from England. I love taking pictures of couples and you two look very nice, would you mind if I take a couple of picture of you?"
Us: "Oh absolutely, go for it!"
Good thing my speaking part consisted of like 7 words because I'm a terrible actor. She then directed us over to one side of the square and began instructing us a bit as she snapped some photos. After a couple of minutes, she walked back over to us and showed us the photos she took. Rhianne then gave me a sticky note with her website and email address on it and told us to email her when we had a chance so she could share the photos with us. After exchanging thank yous, Rhianne walked back to her camera bag where she had taken the pictures. It was now my time to shine.
My heart was racing and my voice was shaking a bit, but I managed to get some words out. I told her how awesome this whole experience had been, that I want to travel and go on more adventures with her, and how much I love her. She let out the typical "awww" and reciprocated her feelings for me. I went to grab the ring out of my pocket and dropped down on one knee. As I did, Sarah looked down at her purse to make sure it was zipped up (she was worried about getting her stuff stolen from the stranger who just took photos of us).
My knee touched the ground just before Sarah looked up from her purse. Quickly noticing I was no longer standing next to her, she looked down and I said those four magical words that would change our relationship forever. To be completely honest, that moment went by in a blink and I kind of blacked out from nerves. It wasn't until a month later when we got the photos from Rhianne that I realized she had kissed me while I was still on my knee.
Rhianne made her way over to us and explained to Sarah that she was a professional photographer, not a student, and I had hired her. I booked Rhianne for an hour and a half so we could take some more photos around Tracadéro and at Pont des Arts, better known as the love lock bridge, for save-the-dates, wedding invitations, and simply just for us to have. Rhianne gave us five minutes alone before we began so Sarah could process everything that was happening. Then we got to shootin'.
Rhianne did an amazing job with the photos and was such a joy to be around. She bought us a lock and marker from a man at Ponts des Arts the day before so we could write our names on it and latch it on one of the chain links. After shooting at Pont des Arts, we said goodbye to Rhianne and made our way to a cafe across the street to enjoy coffee and croissants. I had planned on eating before we left that morning, but the whole alarm thing quickly ruined that. I ate at least a gazillion croissants at that cafe. During our breakfast, I told Sarah all about my planning process and answered all the questions she had. I must have let out 10 huge sighs of relief at the cafe now that I had all of that stress behind me. I could finally enjoy a full day in Paris with my fiancée.
Coincidentally one of my older brothers also proposed to his girlfriend that day, completely unplanned. Needless to say our family members were doubly excited after they received the news from both of us over the phone throughout the day. The following morning Sarah and I got on a train back to London and spent one last night with Dan out on the town before flying back to the U.S. the next morning.
We got on the plane Wednesday morning and all of the typical vacation-ending thoughts ran through my head. We had a blast in Europe and were already talking about what we wanted to do and see the next time we made it across the pond. During the flight home I would catch Sarah looking at her ring with the smirk on her face that makes me smile in response every time. All of the anxiety and planning of the proposal was more than worth it. Now comes the next step in our journey as an engaged couple.