Upon announcing our engagement before Christmas, I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of people interested to hear how I proposed. Did I have a ring? Did I get down on one knee? Did she see it coming? Ok, I say ‘people’, but really it was just you ladies. You fella’s out there really couldn’t care less. The extent of your interest was “nice one”.
So anyway, I thought I’d write a bit about it here. If anything, it might help myself and Jen to remember the occasion long after parenthood has taken its toll. T-minus 146 days for anyone counting. Sorry the pictures aren’t up to my usual standard.
I’d been thinking about proposing for quite a while. I mean, I didn’t really believe in true love, one person for everyone, when you know you know, all that shit. The past 20 odd years left me that way. But when I met Jen, I kind of did know. With her, I knew that where I was and where we were going, was where I wanted to be. Does that make sense? I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Except maybe California. Seriously. Who wouldn’t want to be there?! The sun, the sea, the beautiful people! Anyway, I digress.
So the plan was made. Get a ring. Find a place. Ask the question.
I looked to two of my closest friends for inspiration. One proposed on a roof top bar (I think that’s right) in New York. The other was in a local pub after a curry. So I thought, as long as I make the grade somewhere in between those two, I’ll be ok.
With a little help from John and the staff at Excel Jewellery in Nottingham, I chose the diamond, the style, the band, the design and had the ring made. John at Excel had been recommended to me by a close friend, which I’m glad they did! All I had to do now was think about the when, the where and the how.
For Jens Birthday (in October), I told her that I’d take her away for a night in a hotel. Albeit not on her actual birthday. She’d have to wait a little while. So I just told her the date, and that we were going away for a day and a night. The rest was top secret.
Fast forward to December. I’d made Jen an Advent Calendar consisting of 24 envelopes. Each with a different treat inside, ranging from chocolates, to nik-naks and other little surprises. You might have noticed them on the wall behind Jen in a recent photo on Instagram.
On the 9th December, unlike the previous 8 days, there was actually 4 envelopes for her to open. I explained that I would tell her at different times of the day when she could open each one. I’d VERY carefully numbered them so I knew which to open and when. Otherwise that day would have gone very differently.
With bags packed for an overnight stay, off we went in my trusty old car. At this point Jen still had no clue as to where we were headed, or what we were going to do when we got there.
We arrived at Stanmore Tube Station Car Park. “We’re going to London then” she guessed correctly. Once we were sat on the tube, I told her she could open the first envelope. Inside it said that we were going to watch the matinee performance of Matilda. We’d talked about going to see that before, so immediate brownie points for me for paying attention!
After the show had finished (it was pretty awesome by the way. Those kids have certainly got some crazy mad skills) we headed back to the underground and opened up envelope number two – information regarding our hotel for the night.
I knew the walk from the tube to the hotel might give away where we were going for dinner, so I had to carefully walk us the long way round, without it being obvious that we’d nearly walked in a big circle.
After checking in we moved onto envelope number three. Dinner at the First Dates Restaurant – The Paternoster Chop House at St Pauls.
Being avid watches of the Channel 4 dating show ever since we first started dating, I thought this quite a good option for dinner, and a good place for, well, you know.
Jen did have to get over the disappointment of finding out that Fred the Maitre D on the show would not be there. Nor Merlin behind the bar, or any of the waiting staff. They’re only there for the filming. They don’t actually work there. I don’t even think they’re waitresses! Every day’s a school day.
When I’d booked the table back in October, I’d told them I was planning to propose. They even called me the day before to check it was still going ahead. So they sat us to the side of the restaurant to have a bit more privacy. I still felt like we were a bit crammed in (the restaurant was heaving) so I was starting to panic a little bit because I just didn’t feel like there was room to get down and do the deed.
After the main course (which was delicious by the way) I was discreetly pulled to one side by the Manager who asked me what the plan was. I explained that the tables either side were too close, so he agreed that when one of them finished, he would quickly clear the table and nudge it along a bit. Giving me a window of about 10 minutes before they seated more guests.
So while we were waiting for dessert, the table to our left finished, paid and jogged on.
Now was the time. It was now or never. The manager was pacing behind me, catching my eye in the mirror to check if I was going to do it.
Should I do it? Was this the right place? The right environment? My back up plan was outside on the steps of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The problem being, it was freezing cold outside and there’s no way I’d be able to get Jen to stand still for 2 minuets once that cold hit her.
Throughout all the hesitation, I realised that the reason for not being sure had absolutely nothing to do with if I’d wanted to live the rest of my life with the lady sat opposite me. I knew I wanted to. I’d known that for a while. The hesitation was me questioning if the actual planned proposal was in fact good enough. Had I thought it through? Was this the right place and the right time?
Deep breath. Sod it. Here goes. I asked Jen to take out the fourth envelope.
As she started to open it, I reached inside my pocket, pulled out the box and got down on one knee. Inside the envelope was printed those four words I’d been waiting to ask her. The look of surprise on her face will stay with me for a long time. Just as I’m sure the look on my face will stay with her when she told me we were having a baby.
While on one knee, it quickly became apparent that the entire restaurant had stopped what they were doing and were looking at us. The whole room was silent, although Jen still managed not to hear the next words that came out of my mouth. The words I’d prepared and practiced over and over again. So I simply opened the box and placed the ring on her finger, and asked her to marry me.
Lucky for me, she said yes! And as I stood up to give her a kiss, the briefly quiet restaurant erupted with cheers and applause.
It was such a surreal yet wonderful moment. We seriously felt the love in the room. People came over to congratulate us, we had handshakes, kisses, one couple even sent over some champagne. As did the Manager, together with some chocolate truffles on a board which said “Congratulations”.
I was just so glad that the secret I’d kept was finally out. It was so hard keeping all this planning and organising away from Jen. We talk about everything together.
She was happy. I was happy. Our families were happy (yes I had asked her fathers permission the night before).
Jen said afterwards that she’d thought she would absolutely be able to tell if ever I was going to propose. That she’d be able to see it coming. How wrong she was!
I’m just glad it all worked out and that I’d put the envelopes in the correct order. Otherwise this story might have ended a lot sooner, with an impromptu proposal on a tube train at Stanmore!