In Her Words
And that’s how we got engaged – hovering 1500 feet above Napa valley. As I mentioned on our ring page, I knew we were getting engaged soon, it was just a matter of when. One of Bryan’s greatest traits is that he enjoys surprises, so I am no stranger to last-minute trips, notes on the ceiling when I wake up, and little gifts just because. He also, however, hates to be predictable, so it was impossible for me to guess when he would propose. Right after we made our rings, he had a wealth of options to choose from, yet he kept me waiting! For example, we stopped for a break while driving through Scotland. Bryan told me to turn around to take a video of a plane that flew over the hillside. I was convinced I would turn around to him on his knees. Nope. We took a late night walk through Paris on an absolutely gorgeous day. Nada. When my birthday came around, I figured surely he would do it right before I flew home to see family. Uh uh. He hinted at meeting up with my mother and I at one of the port stops on a cruise we took. I secretly looked for him each morning when we got off the boat. I was dying!
After a while, I decided to quit expecting it and just let it…happen. I knew the day would come eventually.
On a Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 5:30 am. I figured it was an accident until Bryan came bouncing in and said “Get up! We’re going for a balloon ride!” Bryan is somewhat scared of heights, so I was surprised he was willing to go. The “could this be the day?” voice did pop into my head, but I dismissed it. Bryan would definitely not propose when other people were around, as I had mentioned I wanted to be alone when it happened.
The balloon was huge and had four compartments. Bryan was told we would have one of those to ourselves, but they ended up putting an additional person with us. I couldn’t understand why Bryan seemed so annoyed with the notion of sharing our space. It worked out well in the end though. About halfway into the ride, he asked the woman next to us to take our picture. After a test shot, he handed her the camera again and requested that she take one more pic. Suddenly, he pulled out the ring and asked me to marry him! At first, I was so caught off guard that I didn’t even say yes. I think I whimpered out something that sounded like a tiny “yyeaaah.” He whispered to me “You’re supposed to say yes.” I made it clear that I wanted to marry him, them yelled out “I’M GETTING MARRIED!!” to the surprise of everyone else in the balloon. I called my mother right away, but at first she couldn’t hear me between the blasts of hot gas that were keeping the balloon afloat. Not wanting to bother the other passengers, I waited (totally impatiently) to reach the ground before sharing the news with others.
BTW, I’m so happy he didn’t listen to the part about me wanting to be alone when we got engaged. It’s so awesome having the moment captured in images.
In His Words
There have been so many wonderful, memorable moments so far in our relationship – our ‘first dates’ in Florida and Bermuda, Picnic Island on our epic trip to Fiji, driving the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Heather’s 1-year book for me and our backpacking trip to Lake Aloha, our adventures homesurfing on airbnb, our weekends in Sonoma… So when we decided that we wanted to get married, I started brainstorming ways I might create another memorable moment for us to remember for a lifetime.
I knew that the people in our lives were expecting something might be up – every time we went on a trip, we’d practically hear the bets being wagered in back rooms! What fortunes were won and lost with that surprise trip to Hawaii? The ‘romantic’ night in Paris? That off-and-away trip through the idyllic Isle of Skye?
The truth is, I had lots of great opportunities to propose to Heather in a big way – but I guess a part of me wanted the event to symbolize something personally challenging as well. Marriage is something that I walk towards with open arms and a warm heart, but it is, after all, something completely new and somewhat frightening in its novelty. I also feel that challenging your fears is the best way to overcome them, so my ideal proposal was going to be something that felt symbolic for our union while at the same time representing a meaningful personal challenge that I was willing to work to overcome.
When I was coming up with ideas for the proposal (my sister will attest that they were at times a bit lacking inpracticality), I realized that the balloon ride would be a perfect setting. It represents our love of travel and our shared sense of adventure. It meant I would be hundreds of feet in the air, and thus facing my long-held fear of heights. And it meant symbolically that our union would be formed as we soared together to grand new heights.
And boy! The night of the pre-engagement was really tricky for me. I absolutely love surprising people (Heatherespecially), but darned it if I can’t keep a secret for the life of me! I was so giddy with anticipation that I could barely sleep! Luckily, not much was required – after a long dinner with my lifelong friend and soon-to-be best man, Mike, we had only a few hours to sleep before my alarm went off at 5:30am!
Fortunately, we both awoke with gusto (after a sleep cycle, it would seem) and Heather was excited with the news that we would be flying in a hot air balloon that morning over the Napa Valley. Like a prize fighter who somewhat predictably swipes with the left and then goes for the knockout with the right, I was hoping against hope that she wouldn’t expect the upcoming matrimonial inquisition. I jumped in my pants, which contained a most precious object placed the night before, and we hopped in the car for our drive both eager for what was in store for the day.
Fast-forward to helping Heather into the balloon basket (or was it Heather helping me?), which was to be our serene wickery sanctuary of betrothing. We were all clear for lift-off! But wait! Wait a minute! One more couple and no more basket sections left – and a woman is hoisted into our section… Alas, foul fate – my platform newly restricted, with nary room to drop to a knee! I tried to conceal my sudden foul temperament towards balloon operators from Heather, but I knew she wondered why I cared so much. But my plans! My precious precious plans!
And lift-off: you wouldn’t expect that rising above the earth so rapidly would be that silent. No throbbing rotors, no whirring jet engines – just the breeze and stillness of the day. Effortless, natural. I would imagine having wings would feel like this. It was pretty thrilling. At first I was a little white-knuckled on the hand-rail, but after a few minutes I began to admire the view and the crystal clear sky ahead of us.
But there was a choice to be made: I was feeling good – perfect flying conditions, awesome pilot, a happy girlfriend at my side… But the visions I had had of the event had come to pass differently in reality. I knew that it would be okay for me to back down and wait for another, more perfect moment. It would still be a great memory for us to share, and I could come up with another worthy moment!
But then I realized that there was a lemonade mixer in my hands in the form of a camera with a wide angle lens (that Heather had bought me for my 30th birthday!). If I handed the camera to the woman next to us and asked her to take our picture, I’d have both the opportunity to propose AND get photos of the event! Isn’t it wonderful how things tend to work out, even if not in the way we originally envisioned?
Knowing that no one can ever find the shutter button on my camera, I had the woman take a “warm up” shot first, and then (Heather’s first indication that Bryan was up to something fishy) I asked her to take another photo, “just in case”.
This time, our unwitting amateur engagement photographer at the ready, I reached into my pocket, and slid the ring I forged onto Heather’s finger and asked her to marry me.