On February 22, 2014, Charlie asked me to marry him.
I said yes. Duh.
JK…it’s a good story. Keep reading.
Charlie’s birthday is in the end of February, and in January, his sister, Z, asked me if I had anything special planned. At that point, I didn’t. She suggested we throw him a surprise party. I thought that was a GREAT idea. As we talked more about specifics, she threw out the idea of karaoke. I was in.
There were only two places in town that would be doing karaoke the night we had in mind. We decided to go with Old Town Tavern. The place is an utter dive (more on that later). I’d never been there, but they have a very popular “college night” on Wednesdays that I’d heard good things about, and their karaoke started at 7pm instead of 10pm, so they were the clear choice (Yes, I realize that makes me sound 100 years old…10pm, LATE?!? I’m too busy lately and thus really coveting my sleep and often go to bed earlier on the weekends than the weeknights, so yeah, early-bird special coming right up over here.)
As January and February went by, things began coming together nicely. We had friends coming from both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles (and some from San Diego!). At one point, Z asked if I was going to invite my parents. I hadn’t planned on it and didn’t really think it was that big a party for them to make the 6-hour drive to attend, but I figured I might as well give them a heads up. My Dad said he’d be there. Cool! My Mom would be in Hawaii with friends, but decided to change her flight to return a day early to make the party. Even cooler! Z later told me that their Dad was going to fly down (from Oregon) for the party too. WAY COOL!
As this was all happening, there were a few times, where in the back of my mind, I would think to myself, “Ya know, I know Charlie’s planning on proposing some time this year, and he’s pretty dang sneaky…I wouldn’t put it past him to somehow be behind all of this.” I thought it was a possibility, but I didn’t think that was actually what was happening. At that point, we hadn’t gone ring shopping together (a step in the process I really emphasized was important…I’m a bit particular…), so while it would be a good trick, I didn’t think this would be the big night. I’d remind myself, “We’re doing a nice thing for Charlie. It’s not all about ME.” Riiiiiiight.
The week of the party, I was so focused on making sure everything went right…reminding friends, buying birthday decorations, you name it. The day of, I was In. The. Zone. Coordinating with the people coming into town to make sure there weren’t any run-ins and on my phone more than normal (which is already a lot) — everything was going as planned. And I was pretty sure Charlie had NO IDEA.
I told Charlie we were doing something “special” but not too fancy that night to celebrate his birthday, that we’d be going to a place I’d never been before, where there’d be food and fun stuff to do. He kept guessing that we were going bowling (good guess) or to Chuck E. Cheese (joke guess). Charlie drove, while I kept giving play-by-play updates to Z and my Dad, who had both been there for over an hour setting up and organizing everyone for the surprise. (Sadly, my Mom’s flight from Hawaii was cancelled, so she didn’t end up making it after all 😦 boo.)
We got out of the car and made our way to one of the dive-iest bars either of us has ever been to — no joke. As we walked up, we were, uh, serenaded by a middle-aged woman’s rendition of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” We went through the doors, and a crowd of about 45 people shouted “SURPRISE!!!” (including the homeless-y folks at the bar, all equipped with the noisemakers and hats I bought the night before). Charlie was SO SURPRISED. I’m standing next to him, just BEAMING. “We did it!” I thought, “We nailed this surprise party! BOO YAH.”
Z jumped on stage and began leading everyone in singing “Happy Birthday.” When that was done, she told Charlie and me to get up on stage. I thought that was a little random for me to get up there, it wasn’t my birthday after all, but I went up too. I said thanks to everyone for coming, blah blah, and then passed the mic to Charlie. He said “Oh my gosh, this is such a surprise! I didn’t know I had this many friends! And you’re all so good looking! …In keeping with the theme of surprises, I have a surprise too.” (Quick cut to my brain at this time…I honestly didn’t think anything fishy was going on…I thought he was just going to make some silly Charlie joke, like “Lauren’s pregnant!” Something like that.) He turns to me and says, “Lauren…” gets down on one knee, “Will you marry me!?” and holds out a black box containing a — HOLY CRAP!!! — GORGEOUS ring.
I FREAKED. Somehow, I hadn’t seen that coming AT ALL. My hands immediately went up over my mouth, and I kept looking out at the crowd and then back at Charlie, not fully comprehending what was happening. I honestly felt like every emotion had slammed into my face at once — like I was going to cry, scream, laugh, everything…through my face. I nodded frantically, Charlie said, “Is that a yes?” I squeaked out a “Yes!” in the mic, Charlie gave me the ring box, he stood up, and then we hugged. Yes, you heard that right…he gave me the box. Haha. I took it and said, “Put it on me!” Charlie: “Yeah! Put it on!” Me: “No, YOU put it on ME!” Charlie: “Yeah! Put it on!” So, I just put it on myself when we hugged again.
I got down from the stage and was bum-rushed — “Congratulations!!!”, pictures with friends, pictures of me with the ring, people wanting to see the ring, people giving me drinks, hugs, some people asking if I had a date (UHM, REALLY!? It JUST happened!)…It was surreal. I seriously feel like I blacked out from emotional overload — in the best way possible. The rest of the night, we did karaoke, danced, ate cake, and had a blast.
And that’s how it all went down. We got engaged at Old Town Tavern — a dive if there ever was one — and it was perfect. I love that so many of our friends and family were able to be there. I love that I was so utterly caught of guard. I love that how it all happened is just so “us.” I loved everything about it.