After hours of contemplating what my very first post should be about, I decided to start this blog on a cheery note! So, here comes the story of The Surprise Proposal.
Last Saturday, I headed over to Ilsan to meet up with a couple of girl friends who had invited me to go to a dessert cafe in a hotel in Seoul where you could “sample all the cakes and teas you want”. They’d told me a couple of weeks ago that they had an extra ticket for this special event, and it’d be nice to dress up and have a girly tea-party kind of day. I immediately accepted their invitation upon hearing “free cake samples all day”.
I arrive at the subway station, but only one of them is waiting for me there. She says, “Before we head to Seoul, Jungmin (the other friend) has agreed to help her college friend with a surprise proposal for his girlfriend today and she says the more people there the better.” I suspect nothing, just excited to be a part of someone’s special day. We walk a few blocks and arrive at Dominican Joe Cafe, one of my favorite little niches in that area.
Me: “Aww, this is my favorite cafe here! He’s doing it here? I didn’t know so many people knew about it because it’s so small.”
We go in and there is a big projection screen set up with one chair in the middle of the cafe, facing it. There are about 10 people I don’t know sitting on the left side of the cafe, and Jungmin on the right waiting for us. We sit down, and the boyfriend comes over to us with his buddy holding a camcorder and asks me to say a few words to his girlfriend, whom I’ve never met. I just stammer out an awkward congratulatory message, and then the guy gives us our job: to pop the confetti after he says “Will you marry me?” I eagerly accept this simple mission, thinking to myself how sweet this guy is for choosing such a cute, intimate place for this event.
Everyone is busy setting up, then someone says “She’s coming!”
A cute girl all dressed up walks in, stands there surprised for a sec, and the boyfriend leads her to the chair. A video immediately starts up. Bruno Mars’ ‘Marry You’ comes on, and we watch a slideshow compilation of random people each holding up a whiteboard with messages they wrote to the girl, such as “Say yes!” and “Your boyfriend is one of a kind!”. She looks up at her boyfriend once every few moments and smiles, holding his hand on her shoulder. I’m smiling to myself, thinkin’ how cute they are and wondering how my boyfriend will propose to me (he told me it’s going to come sometime in the summer).
The slideshow ends and the video text says now it’s time to introduce who this special lady is. Baby pictures of the girl appear on the screen, and I realize… that little kid is me. That’s me and my dad. That’s me and my sister. That’s me and my mom….
And that’s when the tears spill over. (Yes, I cried. He succeeded.) All those strangers in the cafe now laugh and applaud, and the (fake) boyfriend leads me to that chair. The screen now shows pictures of the grown up me, with little messages from my boyfriend accompanying each one. Then, a group of my friends/coworkers run into the cafe with a bunch of balloons, shouting “Congratulations!!” Finally, my boyfriend comes out from behind the screen holding a bouquet with all of my favorite flowers, and a fresh load of tears spill over. He stands behind my chair and we all watch a second video – a compilation of our couple pictures and more messages from him, with the last words being: “나랑 결혼해줄래?” (Will you marry me?).
He stands me up, facing him. I’m pretty sure I looked like a wreck.
He then starts a romantic speech, in perfect ENGLISH! (His English is still at a beginner’s level.)
Later I learn that he’d asked my friend in America through Facebook for help translating his heartfelt message into English, and then he practiced it for months trying to memorize it. It’s the first time he’s ever spoken English to me, and his nervous, shaking voice touched my heart. This is the first time I’ve ever cried this much in public.
Then, he gets down on one knee. Everyone is dead silent. He pulls out a little black box. Inside is the perfect diamond ring, exactly my style. Not too big, not too small, simple band.
“Will you marry me?”
I can’t remember clearly now, but I think I nodded my yes because I was still choked up.
He gets up, puts on the ring, and it’s a perfect fit!
Then he pulls out another thinner band studded with tiny crystals from his pocket that hugs the main band on top – so beautiful, and again EXACTLY to my taste!
Everyone cheers, and then it’s just a blur of hugging, wiping off tears and worrying about makeup smudging, taking pictures with the guests (all of whom turned out to be his coworkers and friends I haven’t met yet!) and smiling til it hurt. Turns out my fiance had rented the whole cafe for this, and everyone inside had been there for hours preparing for the surprise before I arrived. Next, we headed over to a restaurant for some steak and I got to know my fiance’s buddies and introduce my friends and coworkers as well.
There are so many more anecdotes that go with all the FIVE MONTHS of planning and preparations he’s done for that one evening, but I haven’t heard them all yet. For example, he snapped pics of all those strangers holding whiteboards in the video from all over Seoul, Myungdong, Hongdae, Namsan, Ilsan, Daehakro, etc. and even went all the way to Itaewon in order to get messages written in English by foreigners there, using broken English to ask for the favor. He got rejected quite a lot because Koreans are less open to doing this kind of thing for a stranger. Still, he collected over 70 strangers’ messages in all, including ones from all of my coworkers (while I was on a 3-day field trip with students), my hairdresser, chiropractor, and even the dogs at our favorite dog cafe hahaha.
Side note: Proposals are not common in the Korean culture. Here, it’s more like the guy and girl decide to get married, they talk it over with their parents, the parents meet up to discuss the details, and they hold a wedding after a few months. No engagement rings, no going-down-on-one-knee. But my fiance went through all this trouble to respect the American side of me!
Definitely the most romantic day of my life. ♥