On Saturday night, my life changed. At just after , I asked Brittany Lynn Kidman to marry me. (Spoiler warning: she said yes.) It came as a surprise to her, and, to be honest, as a surprise to me too. More on that later. I’m sure by now, you’ve probably read her side of her story, but like all good tales (and even annoying, confusing tales like The Sound and the Fury) you miss a lot of details without hearing the other side. This is my story.
The Original Plan
For months, I have been planning how I would propose marriage to Brittany. It was going to be on the last day of exams at the end of this upcoming fall semester. When the campus was quiet, I would walk her though the President’s Park, stopping in the rotunda. At that point, she would probably figure out what was going on, and I would drop on a knee and ask. We would then proceed to the restaurant, where there would be champagne already on the table. At that point, the unicorns would come and serve our food, and a chariot powered by dreams would sweep us away into sunset. Needless to say, the plan still needed a lot of work, and, in retrospect, wasn’t that good to start.
Buying the Ring
Months ago, we decided that Brittany should accompany me to pick out the ring. Apparently, despite her consciously believing I could find a ring she would like, her subconscious felt differently. After a solid week of dreams/nightmares about me picking black leather rings with chains hanging off (or something similar), I decided that she should just pick out her own ring to eliminate the risk of her getting one she hated.
My plan was get the ring this summer before we got back to school. On , Brittany reminded me that the “summer before we got back to school” was rapidly approaching its end. Running out of time and having a free weekend for once led me to surprise her by saying, “Let’s go tomorrow!” I needed a ring, and the opportunity had plopped down on my doorstep, so I took it.
The next morning, Brittany and I, accompanied by my mom (for wisdom and moral support) got in the car and traveled to Skatell’s Jewelers in West Ashley. It was a wholly better experience when compared to the high-pressure sales practices used by the mall jewelers. We looked around, asked a bunch of questions, and eventually settled on a three stone ring with a plain band. After we ate lunch at the mall, though, Brittany told me that, although she liked the ring, she didn’t love it, per se. I was confused, because I am a guy.
On the way home, we decided to stop at Colucci’s Jewelers in downtown Summerville. The atmosphere was different still. It wasn’t a high pressure sale, but it also wasn’t relaxed like Skatell’s. Instead, everyone, from Mr. Colucci himself to the staff people took a genuine interest in our satisfaction.
The first ring that we picked up had three stones, all round cut, with a plain band. I honestly cannot tell you what was different between it and the one we settled on earlier. We looked at the ring carefully. I thought the stones looked rather dull. Mom and Brittany thought they were odd colors, but didn’t agree on the shade. In either case, our opinions on the merchandise bothered the whole staff, who immediately sent it back to be cleaned and reinspected. To prove to us that the quality was as high as they claimed, Mr. Colucci escorted us outside to view the ring in sunlight. I was struck by how much clearer it looked than under artificial light. Mom was struck by how cool the magnifying glass was. Brittany, on the other hand, was in love. Her face lit up, and was sparkling more brilliantly than the diamonds. She knew that it was the perfect ring, and I knew that she was right. I bought the ring on the spot.
The Ride Home
Even as all of the paperwork was filled out and we got into the car, that sparkle never left her face. I haven’t seen anyone look that happy in my life. Ever. All the way home, she was beaming, and the thought of making her wait until December to move forward began to seem downright cruel. Mom asked if I just wanted to stay at Brittany’s house, but I felt I needed to go home and think about what I needed to do. As we pulled out of her driveway, I looked at Mom and told her that I had to ask soon. She agreed.
Planning the Date
By this point, it was after 3:00 PM. I had to move fast. The 4th of July was the next day, and I knew it would be too hectic. That left that same evening.
We got home and my parents and I started bouncing ideas off each other. Brittany always said she wanted to be dressed up when I proposed, so I tried to think of a place which would force her to dress nicely. Dad suggested the dining room at Woodlands Inn, which is the old 5 star restaurant in the state. That seemed to do the trick. A few more minor details were lined up, and a half hour later, we had 8:00 reservations and a well thought out date. I even had a fake story lined up: as far as Brittany knew, this would be our annual 4th of July date, but a day earlier to keep the next day somewhat sane.
A Brief Diversion
Before any of the evening’s festivities could unfold, though, we had to first go to Red, White, and Blue on the Green in downtown Summerville. It was just about as entertaining as could be expected: lots of games that could only appeal to kids, a man dressed in a pig suit, a dog dressed as the statue of liberty, and a Fleetwood Mac cover band. We ended up spending most of our time walking though the rest of downtown, chatting about trivial stuff, all the while I was trying to speak slowly and seem nonchalant about the upcoming “date.” It was darn near impossible.
Changing, Asking, and Last Minute Corrections
Once we got back to her house, I decided to go ahead and change into my suit, even though it was really too early. This was intentional; she would not want to get prettied-up that soon, so I would have a bit of time to take care of last-minute arrangements. I placed the ring inside my coat pocket, and walked outside. As luck would have it, she had just started getting ready, giving me ample time to ask for the blessing of her mother and stepfather in person and her father over the phone (not ideal, but necessary given the circumstances.) Just as I got off the phone with her dad, she came out in her little black dress.
Just as we prepared to go, a thought crossed my mind: Brittany is a hugger. Surely she would feel the ring in my coat pocket when she went in for the hug. As I was trying to figure out how to cope with this situation, Brittany’s mom told her to turn off the light in the back room. This was my chance! I got back there, moved the ring where my keys were, my keys where my iPod was, and I then set my iPod on he kitchen table next to her purse. With that, my pockets felt the same as before, and the ring was comfortably concealed. Show time.
Bumbling and Stumbling
We got to Woodlands at just about 7:00. We parked (not realizing they had a valet) and walked up towards the door. On the way in, Brittany pulled out my iPod from her purse, and was confused as to how it got there. My heart needlessly started racing, for I figured that she would realize that it was not in my pocket, and begin to speculate what was holding its place. She didn’t put more thought into it. I resumed breathing.
The valet met us at the front steps and asked us if we had reservations, and then offered that we could be seated early. I declined, and told him that we would prefer to wait outside for a while. I walked Brittany down the brick path to the side doors where we took our prom pictures two years ago. Aside: prom was two years ago…
I began reciting my hastily rehearsed speech. I began by reminding her how much I love her. It was completely unnecessary, but seemed like a good place to start. I then started talking about the events of the day, and how excited I was to see her face lighting up like the midday sun. She replied that it would be even more radiant when finally proposed. That caught me off guard. How do you respond to a sarcastic comment about “someday” getting engaged while in the middle of asking. I decided the best course of action would be to shrug it off.
At that point in my story about the day, I had already come to the present moment. I started talking about the place we were, and what we had first thought about it. When we first moved here a decade ago, someone mentioned Woodlands to my family. We were shocked to discover it was a 5 star restaurant, because the name could work equally well as a southern barbecue joint or something. I wrapped this part of the story up quickly, because it ended up being less interesting in real life than I had imagined earlier.
Finally, I used the name of the place as a segue to names in general. This part I had rehearsed for months:
You know, it’s funny how many names I’ve called you in just the short time we’ve dated. When I met you, you were Bacon. Then Brittany. Lynn. Gold leader. Baby. But even with all these names and nicknames, there’s one more that I want you to have.
She jokingly interjected,
At that point I slowly dropped to my knee and started fumbling in my pocket for the ring. It was caught underneath my wallet, and I couldn’t get it out. Not wanting to delay the question any longer, I threw my wallet on the ground, pulled out the ring, asked Brittany to marry me, and slid the ring on her finger. In her shock, she was crying and could not verbally say yes, but her nodding got the point across. In my shock at actually surprising her, the next few minutes became a blur.
The next thing I remember, we were walking towards the front of the restaurant again. The hosts had both door opened wide for us, a handful of tissues for Brittany, and congratulated us. After asking my name for the reservation, we were introduced as Mr. and the soon to be Mrs. Flake. It was a great sound.
The rest of the evening was magical. The food was delicious, the staff was wonderful, and we received congratulations all night long. For any other guys looking for a proposal venue, this was perfect: we were made to feel like royalty (the only downside was that I had to pay like royalty too.)
How such an unplanned day could have gone so well I will never know. Going ring shopping was suggested on a whim. Going to a second store was impulsive. That store being open and us being treated so well was luck. Throwing out my plans and starting over was terrifying, but ended up worrying out better than I could have dreamed. One completely off-the-cuff afternoon turned into one of the greatest days of my life.