Our Engagement Story
As of this November, Jeremiah and I have been engaged for 1 full year. We didn’t officially celebrate, as our actual anniversary was only 16 days later, but I did spend a lot of time reflecting on the beauty, love and warmth of the day I said yes. It will always be a favorite memory and a reminder that I am loved beyond my wildest dreams.
As part of this reflection, I realized that I never shared our engagement story here! While most of our close friends and family know (and/or helped with some aspect of the plan), it was such a special day that I want to have it documented here, in writing, so that I can read back, year after year, and reflect on our love. So without further ado…
Jeremiah and I met on Tinder (we’re still praying that they’ll #sponsor the full cost of our wedding) while we were both living in NYC. I had actually logged on to the app to delete it, but before I could, I noticed an unread message in my inbox. Curiosity got the best of me and I opened it — “Well, I have to say I’m glad we matched. How’s your day going?” Something about Jeremiah’s message stood out to me — it was open, warm and to the point. Okay, fine, I thought to myself, I’ll give this app one more chance. And so I responded — likely with something a bit too long winded and kind of quirky — but somehow, he was hooked.
On our first date, we met for brunch at L’Express. I went to the wrong location & ran 40 minutes late. On the phone, out of breath and flustered, I apologized profusely; Jeremiah was reassuring —“Don’t worry about it at all; just get here safely. Can I order you anything so it’s ready when you arrive?” What a kind-hearted man, I thought while frantically hailing another cab, I’m making him wait 40 minutes and his only concern is having something ready for me when I show up. When I finally got there, I was struck by just how handsome he was — 6’5”, dark-rimmed glasses, bright brown eyes, and a warm smile. He embraced me in greeting and I felt my nerves melt away. There was something solid and reassuring and right about being with him.
By the end of our second date — a walk through Central Park, during which we had bad portraits done — I wrote in my journal that I knew I was going to marry Jeremiah. Premature? Probably. Yet a year later, in City Park, he got down on one knee.
Friday, November 10, 2017. | Our anniversary was around the corner and, though the exact details were a secret, Jeremiah let me know that he had planned an elaborate ATL stay-cation. To prepare, the night before I packed a small duffel bag with a weekend’s worth of clothing and all of my toiletries; the plan was that Jeremiah would check our things in to wherever we were staying, and then pick me up from work so that we could head straight to dinner. That morning, before he dropped me off at work, I asked if he could pick me up any earlier than 6 PM — my week had been exhausting & I wanted an excuse to start the weekend a bit early. I remember him vaguely saying, “We’ll see,” but also explaining that the dinner reservations had been made for that evening and likely couldn’t change. We kissed goodbye & I headed into work.
Around 12 PM, my work calendar dinged — there was a meeting to review new housekeeping rules for the company — but I was in the middle of a client email and ignored the alert. As everyone else gathered into the meeting room, I quickly typed out a few final sentences. My manager popped her head out of the meeting room — “Isabelle, are you coming?” Yeah, just one second. I hit send and then bounded up the stairs and into the meeting room. Opening up my planner, I clicked my pen and got ready to take notes. “So…this isn’t a real meeting” my manager said. Before I could even register what she was saying, she slid a manilla envelope across the table toward me. “This is a fake meeting that we put on your calendar so we could give you this.”
I reached out for the envelope and then looked around the room at everyone, wide eyed and nervously laughing. “Read it!” someone encouraged.
I opened the manilla envelope with nervous anticipation. Inside were two smaller envelopes. The first said “Open Me” and the second said, “Do Not Open Yet! I Mean It!” I opened the first and scanned the letter silently; only a few sentences in, I started to cry. “What does it say?” someone asked. I read it out loud:
Remember that time you were a child and your mother picked you up from school with a surprise cruise? I have to admit, I’ve taken some inspiration from your mother. We’re not going on a stay-cation this weekend…
Outside is a car waiting to take you to the airport. The driver is my friend, Ian, and his number is 770-XXX-XXXX.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to trust me and do exactly as I say. I need you to change into your dress, pack up your things and put them away. I need you to then call Ian and tell him you’re ready to be picked up. Trust Ian. He’s a friend of mine.
By the time you arrive at the airport, you will have what you need to board the plane, I promise. Trust me. Don’t open the “DO NOT OPEN YET” envelope until the plane lands. I await you at the end of your journey. Please trust me and I’ll see you soon.
Bon voyage, baby…
My mind whirred. Had I finished all of my work? What did my clients need before the end of the day? I was getting on a plane (?!) — did I even have my wallet and license? My co-workers assured me that they could handle any remaining work I had to do and that I could go. Suddenly, I realized that this was it — Jeremiah was going to propose. I had no idea where the day would take me, but I was ready to say yes to everything that came my way, including the four words I hoped he’d say.
I put only my wallet into my purse and dialed Ian’s number — he was right outside. Wrapping my coat around me, I stepped through the doors of the office and saw a giant black Escalade pull up against the curb. Ian stepped out and opened the door to the backseat. Climbing in, I looked toward my office — everyone was outside to cheer and wave goodbye — I waved through the tinted window until the office was just a speck in the distance.
The ride to the airport was smooth and uneventful. I remember having an interesting conversation with Ian, and vaguely thinking to myself that I should write every detail down — what I talked about, what I was thinking — but feeling too overwhelmed to do so. When we pulled up to the Southwest terminal, I suddenly turned to Ian — Wait, I have no idea where I’m going!" In response, he handed me my plane ticket. It was to New Orleans, LA — a city on my bucket list & a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I started to cry again.
With only my wallet, phone and plane ticket, I stepped into the Atlanta Airport and made my way through security in a complete daze. I remember wanting someone, anyone, to ask me where I was going so that I could let all of the excitement spill out into the airport terminal. I’m going to New Orleans! I wanted to scream to anyone that would listen. My boyfriend planned something for our anniversary and I have no idea what it is or what to expect but I’m probably getting engaged and I keep spontaneously crying and how am I supposed to wait another two hours for this plane to take off?! Of course, no one asked me where I was going, and instead of letting my excitement spill over, I remained almost-bursting with nervous anticipation. I was so excited that despite being an experienced flyer, I got lost on the way to my gate!
I looked for Jeremiah around every corner & frantically texted him, trying to get him to release a few more hints or new information. An hour in to waiting at my gate, I realized that he wasn’t flying with me. In theory, I should’ve known this pretty quickly, as he has a phobia of flying and drives everywhere, but a small part of me half expected him to find him, mid-panic attack, at gate C 23. Oh my God, he’s driving there! It hit me like a brick wall. He had dropped me off at work and then immediately kicked off the 6.5-hour drive to New Orleans. He was doing anything and everything to make this day, whatever it held, a success and my heart swelled.
Once the plane landed in New Orleans, I finally opened the second letter:
So help me, Iz, you better not be reading this unless you’re on or near the tarmac at your destination - I’ll know if you did!
That out of the way, congratulations! You’ve successfully completed the first half of the mission. The next part is super easy.
I’ve booked a car service to bring you to your final destination. It’s waiting for you curbside! They’ve been tracking your flight and are at your terminal.
Car Service: New Orleans Car Service
Confirmation #: 18964
They will be in contact with you soon, probably via text, to confirm the curbside pick up. They have your information. Meet with the car service and hop in the car and you’ll be well on your way to me! When you arrive at your destination, hop out of the car and give me a call.
You’re doing great. We’re almost there.
My driver was easy to find and I spent the ride nervously chatting about nothing. Eventually, I told him all about all that was happening & he joyously shared in my excitement. Just as we were pulling up to the spot, Jeremiah texted that he needed a few more minutes and so we ended up doing a few extra loops around the block, giddily laughing with one another, as a bigger, life-changing moment was so clearly right around the corner. Finally I got the OK to be dropped off. The moment was here.
When I finally laid eyes on the love of my life, all thought and background noise flew from my mind. He stood in a suit and tie with a nervous smile that I had never seen before playing across his lips. He told me to put my things down, and so I placed my coat, purse and phone on the ground nearby. Finally, I stepped toward him.
Jeremiah looked at me for a long beat and then got down on one knee, opening up a jewelry box with his grandmother’s diamond ring in it. “Will you marry me?” There wasn’t a need for more words. The entire day — the plane ride and scavenger hunt and chauffeur rides — painted a vivid picture of his love. “Yes,” I said, and he stood up to kiss me. “Yes,” I kept saying, over and over again, as a photographer* snapped photos of the moment.
There, in city park, with the backdrop of the setting sun and weeping willows and slow gliding swans, I became Jeremiah’s fiancée. I committed my love to him for the rest of our days without a shadow of a doubt. I promised to be his partner, friend and lover until my last breath. “Yes.”
The rest of the weekend was absolutely phenomenal. That night, we called our families with the news and then went to Bayona for an incredible dinner. Jeremiah’s boss and co-workers had a bottle of champagne sent to us and we drank, ate and loved the night away. For the remainder of the weekend, we walked and explored the city and both of us fell in love with its charm. It was also the weekend of the annual New Orleans Book Festival (Jeremiah purposefully planned our engagement around the event!) and I met and had my book signed by one of my favorite authors, Jesmyn Ward. By Sunday we were SO full of love and laughter and the excitement of lifetime of possibilities.
It was truly the best weekend of my life.
Now, we’re only 6 months away from our wedding date and I’m just so overcome with emotion that we’ll be able to celebrate our love again, this time with family and friends. Saying yes to Jeremiah and a lifetime together has, by far, been one of the best choices I’ve made in this lifetime. I can’t wait to see where the years bring us next.