Marriage is proposed in every way—and place—imaginable. Some proposals are sweet and subtle, while others are elaborate and extravagant.
Suitors pop the question during romantic dinners at elegant restaurants, through heartfelt poetry in Valentine’s Day cards and by slipping diamond rings inside Cracker Jack boxes. Others propose on bended knee atop majestic mountains, while sitting side by side in church or during the finale of Fourth of July fireworks.
Of more than 200 marriage proposal stories submitted to American Profile, the most unusual came from an anonymous reader who described hers as “rather embarrassing.”
“Way back in 1976, I was taking a bath at his apartment when he needed to come in to use the restroom. He told me that the level of comfort we both seemed to have in that moment prompted him to ask me to marry him. So he proposed to me while he was sitting on the toilet and I was in the bathtub.
“He still often asks me to marry him when we are together in our bathroom. I’m sure it is not the most romantic setting for most, but we both get a funny gleam in our eyes when others talk about their own marriage proposals.”
Here are a few other memorable proposals:
Message in a bottle
Ocean waves splashed against the shore as Jay Wellman and Carla Fox combed Folly Beach in South Carolina for seashells and sand dollars. During the couple’s morning seaside stroll, Carla spied a glimmering green bottle among the rocks and ran to explore. Pulling out the cork, she found a note inside that read:
“Drifting alone on a sea of blue Not knowing in this life if I’d find you. I’ve traveled far, I’ve traveled near, Never knowing which way to steer. So through the storms, I ride the tide, And with the current, I did abide. Now all this time I’ve trusted fate, It led me to you, my soul mate!”
Turning to her boyfriend, she found Jay on one knee and holding a diamond ring. “I was in shock that Jay could even write a poem,” recalls Carla, now 38, married for four years and living in Statesville, N.C. (pop. 23,320). “He was making it so special and memorable. My eyes just filled with tears.”
Jay, who had secretly placed the bottle among the rocks earlier that morning, says the seaside proposal just made sense. The 1999 movie Message in a Bottle is one of their favorite films and a drifting bottle is an apt metaphor for his life before meeting Carla. “When I spotted her, I knew at that moment that I didn’t need to move again or look any further, that I’d finally found home,” says Jay, 34.
Down payment on love
On July 3, 1946, 19-year-old Frances Weaver arrived home from her bank job and found Edwin Sidebottom waiting for her. Recently discharged from the U.S. Navy after serving in World War II, the 22-year-old sailor handed his sweetheart a slip of paper that came from Gordon’s jewelry store in downtown Houston.
“It was a receipt for a $1 down payment on a $100 wedding ring set,” says Frances, now 79 and living in Brenham, Texas (pop. 13,507). “Surprised, I looked at him and he nodded.” She nodded back and, two days later, they were married at the Baptist church.
After celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary last year—with four daughters, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren—it’s evident that the couple didn’t need a lot of words or hoopla to realize they were in love.
“I had known Edwin for four years and we wrote each other letters the entire time he was in the Navy,” Frances says.
Adds Edwin, 83: “Back in those days, we didn’t have fancy proposals or fancy weddings. We just got married.”
Having met while acting in a community theater in Heber Springs, Ark. (pop. 6,432), Kirby McNamee wanted to find a dramatic way to propose to his girlfriend, Carolyn Douglas. But it wasn’t until he sunk his very first hole-in-one last June on the fourth hole at the Thunderbird Country Club that the 43-year-old avid golfer developed a fitting plot.
Five days later, Kirby took Carolyn, 41, on a golfing date at the same course and arranged for about 20 family and friends, including Carolyn’s parents, to hide near the fourth hole. He parred the hole, she bogeyed, and disgusted over her poor play, Carolyn went to retrieve their golf balls. Beneath them she found a small wooden box with a brass latch. Before she could even open it, Kirby was on bended knee.
“Last week, I made a one-in-a-million shot on this hole, but I’ve found a one-in-a-billion lady in you,” Kirby said. “Would you do me the honor of being my wife and spending the rest of your life with me?”
As soon as the newly engaged couple hugged, family and friends “appeared out of nowhere” carrying flowers and riding up in their golf carts, Carolyn recalls.
The couple were wed in November. “What really impressed me was that she said ‘yes’ before she ever looked at the ring,” Kirby says.
Staging a proposal
Walking down a deserted hallway one evening in 1993 at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., college sweethearts Scott Jones and Colette Berheim happened upon a mutual friend who said she had “something to show us” in a nearby theater classroom. Inside, a theater-in-the-round was dimly lit, and Scott walked Colette to a couch that had been specially placed for front-row seating. A single spotlight appeared on stage as the house lights dimmed, and the narrator—Scott’s best friend—launched into the story of Scott and Colette’s courtship.
“For the next 20 minutes I watched several of our good friends portraying ‘our life,’” recalls Colette, who learned later that Scott had written the play and recruited friends to be the actors. “Many of the major events of our relationship were re-enacted with great comedy—from an unflattering portrayal of my ex-boyfriend to the nervous meeting between Scott and my father—it was all there."
As the play ended and the room emptied, the spotlight moved to the couple on the sofa, and the narrator said, “Now there’s just one thing left to be said.”
“Scott got down on one knee and asked me to continue the story with him,” Colette says. She did. After Scott’s self-penned proposal in the spring of 1993, the couple walked down the aisle that July. Today, they have three sons—ages 9, 6 and 2—and live in Kalispell, Mont. (pop. 14,223).
A cow and a vow
At his family’s dairy farm in Hudson, Iowa, (pop. 2,117), Blake Hansen, 25, invited girlfriend Jordan Drackley, 23, outside and made her close her eyes, whispering messages of love and trust as he led her to a side yard.
"You know how I want to spend the rest of my life with you," Blake said. Jordan responded yes. "So will you marry me?" he asked.
When she opened her eyes, Blake’s favorite Holstein cow, named Array, was tied to a tree and draped with a sheet that proclaimed "I [HEART] You, Jordan" on both sides. An engagement ring was fastened to a fishing line hanging around Array’s neck.
So was Blake's cow invited to their May 2005 wedding? "No," says Jordan, "but we used the cow's name in our wedding vows, promising to always support each other's 'array of goals.'"