Will you marry me?

by W. Andrew Powell

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

AKA: How to get engaged in Paris

In less than six months I’ll be walking down the aisle with my fiancé, and it’s a little hard to believe we’ve already been engaged for over seven months.

After writing a few blog entries on the wedding in general, I think that means I’m long overdue filling in the details about the start of this story: finding an engagement ring, deciding where to propose, and doing my best to make the night romantic and hopefully unforgettable.

For the most part, I wanted to finally share the story because it’s important to me, but I won’t lie that I’m also sharing the story because I wonder if it might not help some guys out there win points with their significant others.

I may not be the most romantic guy out there, but I’m definitely a romantic all the same, and this was one of those moments where I obviously decided I needed to prove myself a notch more than usual.

For a couple of years, Aisha and I had discussed taking a vacation to France, but we needed to save up first. As we started making plans though, very early on I realized I was going to make this an even bigger trip by proposing while we were there.

The reasoning was pretty simple. Aisha had always dreamed of going to France and seeing the Eiffel tower, so it seemed to make a lot of sense, and I knew it would be the best place to propose compared to almost anywhere else. It is, after all, a romantic city like few others, not to mention beautiful, charming, and filled with restaurants and cafes ideally suited to celebrating.

Other ideas did come to mind, and there were lots of opportunities where I could have proposed sooner, but France seemed like a grandiose gesture, and as much as I wanted to propose sooner, the alternatives paled in comparison to saying “Will you marry me…” in Paris.

Next, the other big question was not just where to propose, but with what. Before we flew to France I considered buying a ring and bringing it with me, but I was a bit worried there was a chance I would have to explain it in front of her to airport security, or that I might lose it or it might be stolen en route.

With that in mind, the trick became how I was going to find a ring–while we were travelling together–and somehow keep it a surprise. I also needed an idea where I was going to propose in Paris, and before I left I wanted to get her family’s permission without giving my plans away to her.

When it came to getting permission, it was an old-fashioned tradition that seemed integral to making sure the family was happy and that they also felt included. I wanted to be sure I had their blessing before anything else happened, and it was fairly easy to take a few minutes before we left to talk to all of them about it without Aisha knowing.

The next issue though was kind of mind-blowing to me: where was I going to propose? My first thought was to find a way to propose at the Moulin Rouge, because the 2001 film meant a lot to both of us, but as the moment approached it didn’t seem all that romantic, and I doubted we could get much privacy there, or a chance where I was going to be able to buy a ring in time.

Other options presented themselves, including in our hotel room, at some of the restaurants in Paris, or even somewhere else in France during our ten-day trip, but I realized I had a better opportunity with a nice dinner we had planned at Cafe de l’Homme across from the Eiffel Tower.

Now that I knew where I was going to propose, the quest started for a ring, and I had to act quickly to make something work. It couldn’t just be a bauble, or an onion ring (a la The Simpsons); this had to be the ring and I realized the best bet was to plan a trip to a shopping centre and convince Aisha it would be fun. (“Yes, I know we’re in Paris and there’s lots to see and do, but wouldn’t it be fun to go shopping?”)

The answer, thanks to some stunning architecture, was the grandiose Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann, which not only sold jewellery, but also had a wonderful view of Paris from the rooftop, a classy cafeteria, and an opportunity to ask Aisha to go shopping while I “picked something up”.

Asking Aisha to go shop on her own was obviously suspicious, but I did manage to convince her I was shopping for a little something I wanted to get for the trip and she’d just have to wait to find out what it was. Once she was out of sight, the adventure began as I spent the next 20 minutes tearing through the first floor of the store looking for a ring that was not only affordable, but also the right choice for Aisha.

Lucky for me, after a few moments in a Cartier store that clearly wasn’t going to work out, I ended up at Tiffany & Co. staring at the perfect solitaire, the kind of ring Aisha had said she always wanted.

A nervous afternoon later, with me hiding the ring in my camera bag, we ended up at dinner and my attempt to propose was officially thwarted by a speedy waiter who happened to bring our meal just as I was sitting beside Aisha talking about our life together so far.

Clearly, the element of surprise was gone, but I wasn’t going to propose with our meals in front of us, or with the ever growing crowd that was filling up the restaurant. I knew Aisha had figured out what was going on, but I decided there was still a chance to make the night special, so I waited the dinner out.

We finished, luckily enough, at 8:45–fifteen minutes before the Eiffel tower was set to sparkle, as it does every night when thousands of lights strobe across the surface of the structure. We walked out of the restaurant and down the steps to find a secluded spot along the edge of the park that leads down to the tower.

Taking my time digging through my bag to find my “camera,” I went down on one knee as Aisha stared expectantly at the Eiffel tower, and just as it started sparkling I spoke up to her and said the words… “Aisha, will you marry me?”

To be honest, I’d flubbed it up–I had meant to say her full name, but neither of us really noticed, and in a moment she said “Of course” and we were kissing with the tower sparkling away behind us. A very nice American couple even came up, asked if we had just gotten engaged (because, as she seemed to say, she could hardly believe she was there when such a thing happened), and happily took our picture for us.

There had been times where I didn’t know where to propose, what to say, or where I was going to find a ring, but it all came together, I believe, because I cared about her, I knew what would make her happy, and I did the best to make it a night she would remember, from dinner all the way through to the moment I proposed.

The thing is, not everyone will want to get engaged in Paris, or maybe it’s too expensive to go on vacation to that dream location right now, but if you want to propose there’s no reason you can’t ask right in your back yard. It’s all about the how and the why of it all, more than the where, and given the opportunity I had a lot of other ideas of where I would have proposed here in Ontario.

I’m a firm believer that anywhere can be romantic, and it just takes some initiative to make your significant other feel special. It can be simple, it can be elaborate, and as long as you love the person you’re proposing to, it will be right and they’ll remember it forever.

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