steps to an engagement

So today I’ll tell the extended version of my engagement to Kara.

I initially planned to propose around Memorial Day of this year, as that would mark our 2-year anniversary of when we started dating. But, losing my job put the kibosh on that plan (and our plans to buy a condo, but that’s another story). Was Kara going to say “no, I’m not marrying an unemployed loser?” Of course not. But it remained a point of–pride? responsibility?–for me to say “I need to have all my ducks in a row before I can commit to partnering with someone else.”

I almost said “take care of” there, but that’s just not true. Kara and I are partners and equals, first and foremost. And frankly, I’d be overjoyed if she were bringing home the bulk of the bacon. But just as a corporation has to prepare its books internally before a merger, I had to do the same with my job situation.

The groundwork, however, was laid. There were three primary tasks that had to be completed for the proposal. First, I needed permission from the parents. Second, I needed a ring. Third, I needed a proposal plan.

The ring, ironically, was both the first and last thing to come together. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I had my grandmother Rose’s ring, and my intention for some time had been to get the center stone reset in a new mounting that would both fit Kara’s hand and be a design that she really liked. Not that she didn’t like the original, but she was interested in a silver-finish ring, either white gold or platinum, and we had gone back and forth on whether she wanted a solitaire setting or some side stones.

We wanted to have a setting that would accentuate the center stone, not make it look smaller by having similarly-sized diamonds on either side. Also, she initially wanted platinum, but after some discussions with friends and a jeweler, she chose white gold. Mainly, this was because gold maintains a shine more readily than platinum, which develops a dull patina that makes the metal look aged, thus requiring more frequent polishing. Also, platinum is heavier than gold, which can be noticable after awhile. And of course, platinum is considerably more expensive, and although she and I didn’t talk quite as much about cost-of-ring matters, I knew I would rather spend money on some nice shiny side stones and a good design than on the metal.

So I had some designs in mind, and I would revisit this some time later.

In the meantime, I had to figure out how to get myself to the appropriate place at an appropriate time when I’d have Kara’s mum or dad to myself so I could ask for permission. I took care of mum first. I was picking up my motorcycle in June, I think it was, and Kara had left for work. I was riding back from Rockport down to Brookline. Before I left, I suggested that mum and I relax on the deck and chat…legitimate, as I had had a heck of a time extricating the bike from the soft stones below the deck, and did need to catch my breath.

So I said, “I have a serious question for you,” and she smiled and said, “Yes?” and I said, “I have to get a job first, but once I have my life together, I would like permission to marry your daughter,” and she got tears in her eyes and said it would be just fine with her. So she was the first one in her family to know that I was definitely moving forward with things.

I believe that, in chronological order, the next thing we did was go to Long’s Jewelers to look at rings, but I’m not sure. At any rate, we looked at a bunch of rings, I got some info, and she decided on the basic design of what she liked, which eventually was realized in the ring design I bought.

I had the chance to ask her dad when he asked me for help waxing his boat, which had just come out of the marine center or dry dock or whatever where it had gone through some refitting. Early in the waxing process he said, “So, by the way, what are you guys doing exactly?” meaning “are you on the same page as far as marriage plans are concerned?” I said, “Well, actually, funny you should say that. Can I marry your daughter?” He said “Yes, I would be happy to have you as my son-in-law,” shook my hand, and said “Ok, now we got that taken care of. Let’s talk about fishing” or something to that effect. So he didn’t throw me in off the dock, for which I am eternally grateful.

The original idea for the proposal had been in my head for literally years. There is a particular rocky outcropping that looks over the two beaches where Kara spent a lot of her childhood, and where we often spend weekends during the summer. We had gone out there years ago, when I first visited Rockport, and sat on the rocks looking out at the ocean, so it was of course a very special spot to me. And because it looked over the beach where Kara spent most of her childhood, I felt it was a special spot to her too. So I planned to somehow get her up there, take a knee, give some sort of proposal speech, and show her a ring.

Of course, I also considered some other options. One that I looked into was proposing at the Pearl Jam concert we went to over the summer; I actually did send an email to the band, but rather obviously didn’t hear anything back. At least I gave it a shot.

I also considered a more elaborate plan, letting her friends and relatives know the date and time of the proposal, so they could afterwards meet us on the beach and we could have a toast together. I decided that that would be overly complex and even harder to pull off.

So I went with the simple proposal. In addition, I decided that, since I am very long-winded and Kara would likely expect a lengthy speech, I would be extra nice and give a very short and sweet speech. At one point it was just going to be “I love you, will you marry me?” but I ended up going just a few sentences longer than that.

Also, on the recommendation of MJP, I picked up some champagne and some champagne flutes so we could celebrate on the rocks afterwards. I wanted to keep it simple, but not too too simple.

Ok. So, fast-forward a bit. Beginning of this month, I get a job. I decide that I’m going to go forward with things. I decide that I want to propose on Saturday, August 12th. I had considered waiting until Labor Day, to sort of bookend the summer, but decided that I would rather just give her the ring and let her have those extra weeks of enjoying being engaged.

We are supposed to meet with some of Kara’s mum’s friends that afternoon. The plan is that I will either propose before we meet with them, or after we meet with them. My personal preference is sunset, but we will see. Sunday would be easier, but I don’t want our engagement anniversary to be on the 13th.

I decide to look at rings. The weekend before, Jody mentions Descenza again, where she and Brock got their wedding rings. I look at their website and see that they have a location in Framingham, not far from work.

Thursday. I tell my boss that I’m taking a long lunch. I grab my grandmother’s ring and a picture of the ring that Kara had liked from Long’s, which I had found on their website. I go into Descenza, put them down on the counter, and tell the guy, “I would like this stone, in a ring that looks like this picture. Whatcha got?” He finds a few designs. He says that there is one design that he really likes and thinks that I will like, has a bit of trouble finding it, but eventually does. It is perfect. It is the last one they have in stock. He holds up my stone next to the setting and it looks like it will match wonderfully in both size and the quality of the stones. I ask him to hold it for me until Saturday.

Thursday night, Kara calls me while I am hanging out at Corrib. “I was thinking I would come over Friday night and then we would head up to Rockport on Saturday.” Now, I have NEVER told her before that I didn’t want her company, for any reason. But I have to this time, because I obviously can’t have her with me when I go to pick up the ring. I make up some stupid excuse about hanging out with friends…friends I had already seen earlier in the week, and it would be very unusual for me to spend two evenings with them in the same week. She suspects shenanigans, and will later accuse me of being “shady,” which is absolutely true. I am shady, and I know she is wondering if I’m planning on breaking up with her or something, which is how it looks. I feel really bad, but these are the sacrifices that must be made. It will be made up to her on Saturday.

Saturday morning rolls around. I have some champagne flutes and a bottle of champagne that I had bought on Friday after work. I get to Descenza, where events transpire that I have cronicled in the entry partially written in their parking lot; to sum up, the mounting is going to take longer that I wanted. I was getting nervous around now that Kara’s mum’s friends might hang around too late, and I wouldn’t be able to get her to the beach at sunset, so I figured I would propose earlier, when she was already at the beach (she was spending the morning at the beach, and leaving around 1 to head back to the house). At one point, when I wasn’t sure how late I would be, I was going to call her mum and specifically enlist her help in keeping Kara at the beach until I had time to get there, but I then determined that there was no way I was going to be able to propose until later.

I hadn’t called her all day, which was also very unusual for me. I finally called while I was on the road, running late, and she told me that there were no worries, to just take my time and not crash into a ditch. She greeted me at the door when I got to her mum’s house. “Are we alright?” she said. I laughed inside, thinking, “You don’t know just how alright we are.” “You’re being shady,” she said.

We had lobster on the deck and I tried to be sociable and overcome the nervousness I felt inside. At one point, I managed to put the bottle of champagne in the crisper, where I figured it would be less likely to be discovered. Mum did notice it, at which point she knew exactly what was up, but was very stealthy and didn’t mention it at all. In fact, I had no idea she knew what I was up to until she mentioned it sometime later.

At one point during the afternoon I nonchalantly suggested to Kara that we perhaps go out to the rocks and just enjoy the sunset later in the evening, which she seemed fine with. I pretended that I was just tired from adjusting to the new job, and that I wanted to spend some time with her, as I hadn’t seen her very much in the previous few weeks.

So Kara’s mum’s friends left, we cleaned up the dishes a bit, and I managed to get the bottle of champagne into my backpack, which contained the flutes. The ring was intially going to go into my pocket, but the big square box was fairly obvious, so that went into the backpack too. I had no idea mum observed me moving the champagne from the crisper to my backpack to the car, but apparently she did.

Kara, however, had no clue. I learned later that, while she expected me to propose, she figured I would do it later, perhaps closer to Christmas, and that she was genuinely concerned over why I was acting weird. Robin had asked Kara if I was acting “proposal shady, or shady shady,” and Kara said she wasn’t sure, but leaned more towards the latter. The “sunset on the rocks” thing didn’t tip her off either, which was really my most major concern: how do I get her to a really romantic spot at sunset after I’ve been acting weird without her suspecting exactly what is going on? Turns out she just figured we would hang out and spend some quiet time together.

She saw the backpack in the car and wondered what was up with that, too. “Did you bring some booze?” she asked, thinking that I had brought along a couple of beers. “Yeah,” I said. “Did you bring cups?” she said. At this point, her major concern was getting busted for having open containers. I assured her that I did have drinking receptacles, which turned out not to be party cups, but actually crystal flutes, but she didn’t know that.

So we got up to the rocks, and I searched for a flattish spot where I could kneel down. Having found a good location, I put the bag down, turned to her and said, “Ok…”

I bent over and opened up the pocket of the bag, took out the ring box, and got down on one knee. At this point, she was completely surprised, and said something to the effect of, “Is this real? Are you really proposing right now?” to which I replied “Yes.” She was rather overwhelmed and confused and actually started to bend over as if she was going to get down on a knee as well; I had to say “No no, you stand up, I kneel down” or something like that.

So neither one of us remembers exactly what I said. I believe it was something like this:

“I always have a lot to say, but this is one time what I want to say can be summed up pretty quickly. You are my partner, you are my soulmate, you are my best friend, you are my better half. I love you. Kara Elizabeth DeMarco, will you marry me?”

And I opened up the ring box, and she said “Yes Mark,” and the rest is history.

She loved the ring, and she loved the proposal. We sat there on the rocks and drank champagne and watched the sunset, and I told her this story, about all that went into the proposal. A few hours later, after my cheek stopped twitching (I had a nervous tic while I was proposing, but at least I wasn’t sweaty and my voice didn’t crack, so there’s that) and we were both feeling mellow, we headed back to the house to start telling people.

So that is the story of how Mark William Dalius proposed to Kara Elizabeth DeMarco on the rocks by Saratoga Creek, between Long Beach and Cape Hedge, in the town of Rockport, Massachusetts, sometime around sunset on August 12th, 2006. And they lived happily ever after.

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6 Responses to steps to an engagement

  1. PA Mom says:

    ahhhhhhhhhh that’s so sweet!!!

  2. Matt says:

    That’s a really good story. Well done.

  3. Kara says:

    Aww thats soo sweet. I dont even know you but its sweet. I googled my name and i got this. Your wife has the smae exact name as me first middle and last.
    Anyway thats a very sweet propsal

  4. Carol & Phil says:

    Little did we know when we were sitting on the deck eating lobster that this would be the day you asked Kara to marry you. I am glad that we didn’t stay too late and let you have your sunset and VERY romantic proposal opportunity! Kara’s mom has been telling me for months how much she liked you,Mark, and how wonderful you and Kara were together. We are very happy for both of you and wish you a wonderful life together! Congrats on your new condo as well.

  5. Danielle says:

    Congrats. Please pass my congrats along to Kara. I actually graduated with her and haven’t seen her in years. I’m happy for you guys.
    All the best.

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