Let me tell you, it's really hard to sit on a secret for a long time.
After JoyBeth and I agreed that we wanted to take that "M" word step, I had to act quickly. After all, we weren't going to be one of those couples that stays engaged for two or three years (no offense if you've done that, but really?). The timing of things meant that either we'd get married that next fall (the fall of 2014) or we'd have to wait until the spring of 2015, which was too long.
That meant we had to act quickly. And by we, I mostly mean me. Ladies, I know you deal with the brunt of the pressure when planning the wedding, which I've obviously learned is a lot (married women are nodding their heads here). But let me just say, as a guy, putting together the marriage proposal creates nearly the same amount of pressure, if not more. We have to get everything perfect, and we have to come up with some special way to propose to make it memorable and in a manner that the girl can be proud to tell her friends and family, all with a relatively short time to plan and all while keeping it secret from her.
It doesn't work in the guys' favor when every man's significant other is constantly watching ridiculous videos on YouTube showing the most lavish proposals of all time. You know, like that one guy who arranges for a big song production along the beach with everyone person his significant other knows singing along? Or that guy who flies in on a parachute at a stadium in front of thousands of people? Or the soldier who makes a surprise return from overseas to shockingly pop the question while a million cameras are secretly recording the entire thing? Yeah, not cool. Those guys make the 99 percent of normal guys' proposal that much more difficult and scrutinized.
Before even trying to plan the proposal, I had to have "the talk" with her dad. This is a tradition that needs to stay emphasized (or get re-emphasized if needed). As a man taking on a bride, you are taking responsibility for her, a responsibility that is currently handled by her dad. He isn't supposed to make this transition easy for you. It's more than just a simple statement of "I'd like to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage." As JoyBeth's dad pointed out, there's a lot more than just taking on a wife for which I was asking. It might be an antiquated notion now, but in some ways, marriage is a rite of passage for a man, especially in Biblical and spiritual terms. Her dad did a great job of laying out the responsibilities of a husband and making sure I was up for the task.
After the conversation was finished—we talked for a couple hours, actually, and I got a great chance to get to know him during the process—I felt a huge sense of relief. I had the okay to start the planning of the proposal.
But where to go from there?
The biggest tip I can offer guys who want to pop the question someday? Find out what her idea of a perfect proposal would be. Some girls wouldn't want to be in front of dozens of people she knows or thousands of people she doesn't know. Some girls might want the night to be about just the two of them. Some girls like simple, creative ideas. Thankfully for me, JoyBeth didn't prefer a huge gathering where I'd have to coordinate with a bunch of people (a side issue there is depending on that many people to not blow the secret, though hopefully that's unlikely). Pick up clues to what kind of setting and scenario she'd prefer and build off of that.
I had taken a couple suggestions about possibly asking her on Christmas day, but there were a couple problems with that. One, I wasn't going to have her ring in time. Two, the proposal only would've been in front of either my family or hers, not both. So that didn't seem fair. Three, I just don't think Christmas is a good day for that, anyway.
I decided the date would be Jan. 20, our eight-month anniversary. The problem was I decided this nearly a month beforehand. And I already had an idea of how I wanted to do it, so it was a matter of waiting. This didn't make talking about getting married easy. Every now and then, we'd get excited about it again, but I'd have to tell her I didn't know when it was going to happen.
We also faced an unusual challenge: two other couples with whom we were friends through church either had recently gotten engaged or were planning to do so around the same time. In fact, we're all getting married within a six-week span this coming fall. We all wanted to make sure we have our moment in the sun instead of upstaging each other. There was a lot of coordinating to do, particularly with one of the couples that ended up getting engaged not too much earlier than when I was planning to propose. In the end, it all worked out well for everyone.
One of the biggest benefits to all of us getting engaged around the same time, however, was the ease of buying her ring. All three of the girls had gone ring shopping several times already (it's okay to admit that you do this too much, ladies), and JoyBeth already knew which ring she would want when the time came. So I met at Zales with her roommate, she showed me which ring it was, and I just bought it then (well, I put a chunk down and will have the rest paid off by the time we get married). Fellas, don't try to be cool and pick out the most expensive ring if you don't know if she'll like it. Most likely, she will not care if she already knows what her ring will look like when she gets it.
The proposal date was set. The ring was purchased. The plan was hatched. But no amount of preplanning this proposal made the actual night any easier.
Check my next blog entry for Part 2 of "The Proposal" Thursday to see how that special night went down.