When you have a wedding date set before you even propose to your girlfriend, it takes some of the surprise out of the whole ordeal. That's what happened with my now wife and I last fall. We had made the decision to get married a little earlier than originally planned due to some health issues in my family and her brother enlisting in the Marines and leaving in March of 2018. I knew she wouldn't have a wedding if there was even the slightest chance of her brother not being in attendance. So we decided on fall of 2017, October to be specific. We both love the fall colors and knew if we pushed it to November there was a chance the colors would be gone. After looking at the October calendar and seeing the 14th was a Saturday, 14 being her favorite number, it was set. October 14th 2017 was our wedding date. The only problem? I hadn't even proposed yet. We came up with a plan to save enough money, started looking at and booking venders, all of it. But I knew I wanted to surprise her with the ring. I didn't want to go to the store together and pick out a ring. I knew that if she knew I had it, I would never be able to surprise her. So I started to think of ways to pull it off and that's where the chaos began.
It all started with me telling her I had all of my money tied up in my camera equipment and wouldn't have any money to buy a ring until the spring (not a lie, thank God for financing ;) ) Her knowing how much equipment I had made that an easy story to get her mind off of it until spring.
The next step was contacting the amazing Cassie at Kessler Diamonds. We had gone in a few months earlier just to glance around and get some ideas, but nothing serious. I called up Cassie and told her what was going on and she instantly scheduled an appointment and told me to come in. Once in there we decided that in order to get Valerie the ring she wanted, it would have to be customized. Using the oldest trick since 2010, I logged into her Pinterest account and printed off a few pictures of rings she had saved and gave them to Cassie. And from that point on, they did everything. Cassie sent me a few renderings of the ring for approval and then called me a few weeks later to tell me it was ready. Seriously the easiest decision I made throughout this entire thing was going to Kessler's for the ring and having them custom design one for her.
The ring had been purchased and the next step was to drive to the other side of the state to ask her Dad for permission. This was no easy task as her father is a very busy man and I did not want him to know I was coming. The other trick was sneaking away for an afternoon with Valerie not knowing where I was, but also on an afternoon that I knew her dad would be home. This is where Valerie's younger sister came into play. A quick text to her on a Saturday morning to confirm her dad would be home, a quick little lie to Valerie about my afternoon plans and then I hopped in the car and drove 3 hours to Macomb for a short conversation. I was pretty confident the answer would be yes, but that was still a very long 3 hour drive. I actually sat in the parking lot of an Arby's for 30 minutes once I got into town trying to get up the nerve to pull into the driveway. Thankfully the Michigan football game was on and WatchESPN exists. Needless to say, the answer was yes. A few hugs and a beer later and I was back on the road trying to get home before Valerie got home from work.
Planning the perfect evening without Valerie knowing what was going on is something I will never try again. It involved phone calls to both of her bosses to get them involved in the plan, multiple lies from everyone and a lot of driving. The end result was telling Valerie she was giving a tour to representatives from Wine Spectator at Noto's Old World Italian Dining, the restaurant she worked at. This would get her into the restaurant, dressed nicely and down into the Wine Cellar, which is where I planned on proposing. For those who don't know Valerie, her hobby is wine. Drinking it, learning how it was made, where it was grown, what soil it was grown in, everything. When she heard she was giving a tour to reps from Wine Spectator, she got so excited I was genuinely scared she would be upset when she found out it wasn't actually happening.
Finally, the night was here. It was December 28th, 2016. Our families were driving in from the east side of the state, Valerie was at work at her day job and I was at home trying to not throw up. I swear the clock stopped moving for a few hours that day. I arrived at Noto's at roughly 5pm to get situated down in the cellar and to get our families hidden in the back kitchen. Valerie was to arrive at 5:45 and be sent to the cellar at 6 to start the tour. She was late. So at 6:07 she finally comes down the marble staircase where I was waiting. Everything from there is a total blur. Thankfully, between the camera that I set up and all of the family filming on their phones, we were able to capture the whole thing.
Needless to say, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made and one of the greatest nights of my life. And yes, that is including the actual wedding itself, which is a whole different story.