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All in the Asking
By Susan Mehalick

Your marriage can last a lifetime—and if you’re creative, so will the story of how it was proposed

Dino Petrocelli

‘Mike proposed to me today!” Barb said with a big smile and a laugh. The joke was that the couple had already been married for 10 years and had four kids, a dog and a cat to show for it. Nonetheless, Barb was tickled by the gesture. The rather belated proposal was delivered via a radio request line, and when Mike popped the big question, Barb says, it was the first time that her husband actually asked her to marry him.

The nonproposal that led to her down the aisle in the first place, she says, was delivered in a more roundabout way: “He never really asked me to marry him,” she explains. “He said, ‘What would you say if I asked you to marry me?’ I told him I would say ‘yes,’ but then he never really asked.”

Regardless, Mike obviously indicated his intentions, even if his approach was less than direct. The moral of the story is that the exchange between two people of a simple question, and the response to it, is one that most couples remember for a lifetime. And if a marriage proposal is delivered in a creative way, all the better—especially since the story of the proposal is one that’s often repeated to friends and family throughout the years.

While the pressure to come up with the ultimate marriage proposal may weigh heavily on the shoulders of the one doing the asking, some of the most innovative proposals are natural extensions of a couple’s relationship—their shared experiences, notions of romance, even their dreams of a life together.

For instance, Ethan mused that the most romantic place he could propose to Lily would be at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But as luck and finances would have it, a trip to France was not in the cards for their near future. Not wanting to put off marriage plans indefinitely, Ethan decided to bring the spirit of the City of Love closer to home. “He found this [scaled-down] replica of the Eiffel Tower in a catalog and ordered it,” Lily explains. “Then he set it up in the field by our house and lured me outside by telling me there were deer in the field. When I got onto the porch, he shined a light on the tower. Once I realized what it was, I knew what was going on.”

No less sweet in his intent, Jeff came up with the perfect way to propose when it was time to take the next step with his longtime girlfriend. “We’d been regulars at this one restaurant for years, and one of our favorite parts of any meal there has always been dessert,” he says.

One night when the couple went out for dinner as usual, Jeff asked the head waiter to be his accomplice. Jeff handed over the engagement ring and asked that it be added to the dessert tray when it was brought to the couple’s table after dinner.

“I’ll never forget the look on Sarah’s face when she saw the ring sitting there,” Jeff remembers. “I was worried that she might not see it, or that she’d pretend not to see it and say that she was full and didn’t want dessert, just to bust my chops—but she was really surprised and she gasped and her eyes welled up with tears.”

Dawn says she was similarly bowled over when her now- husband, Mark, asked for her hand in marriage. “We were getting ready to go out to a black-tie event,” she says. “We were running late and rushing around trying to get ready after a long day at work. I was wearing a new dress, and when I came downstairs, Mark just looked and me. I thought something was wrong. He said, ‘Something’s missing.’ ”

Taking his comment literally, Dawn checked to see whether she’d put in both earrings, touched her neck to make sure she was wearing her pendant; when all was in order she looked at Mark a bit bemused, she recalls. “That’s when he said, ‘You should be wearing this,’ and pulled the engagement ring out of his pocket, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.”

It’s true that the task of doing the asking often falls to the male in a couple, thanks to cultural traditions (the roots of which will not be debated here), but there are some exceptional women who would rather take matters into their own hands than have their partners ask for their hands in marriage. And creativity counts, regardless of who’s asking whom.

Conditions had to be perfect if Wendy wanted to pull off her proposal scheme when she posed the question of marriage to John. “I guess I didn’t really ask. It was more like a written command,” she explains. “John’s office in grad school had a perfect view of a courtyard. One day after it snowed, I stomped through the pristine snow outside his window and wrote “Marry me” in huge letters.”

Wendy then threw snowballs at John’s office window to get his attention; when he looked out, he saw the message. She got her response when John came outside to pelt her with snow. When he tackled her to the ground, Wendy says, he yelled, “Yes! I’ll marry you!”

How could he refuse a proposal like that?

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