Joel and Mary had been dating for 3 years and 4 months. This time was well spent - learning about each other, learning how to communicate and resolve things - however, Mary was a little worried. On the morning of March 23, 2002, Joel and Mary went to breakfast at a local 'diner'. Mary began to ask Joel a series of questions about his readiness and seriousness of their relationship (this questioning had been a little more frequent lately). Little did she know that he was planning a surprise for that night.
So after breakfast, Joel had a marketing class to go to and Mary had a bunch of errands to get done. Joel told Mary that his marketing class would end around 4pm or so. So she had a lot of time to get stuff done! One of the things that she likes to do is run through the park right by her house and go "through the arches" on her run. There is a big horse statue on top of these arches where Mary likes to go and think, sit and just hang.
Well it just so happened that day, as she was running towards the arches around 2 pm, that she saw Joel trying to move a garbage can in the middle of the arches. Imagine her surprise at finding him here: "wasn't he supposed to be at class?" Joel was surprised to see her also---part of his plan was that his class actually got out earlier than he had communicated and he was putting letters on the arches that said 'Marry Me Mary'.
He did not want to her to see or find out what he had done. So he quickly figured out some white lies to cover up his actions. He told her that class had gotten out early and he was walking home through the park; had seen the garbage can in the middle of the arches and thought it should be moved (nice one!). Both of these facts seemed plausible to Mary and yet she was still thrown by the uncanny prospect of seeing him in the middle of the park! Then, Mary wanted to walk through the arches on their way home and Joel was nervous that she would see his work. So he said to Mary, "race ya!" With Mary being the competitive person that she is, said yes of course. So they raced through the arches; and in fact, Mary tripped in the middle, but saw nothing.
Now, Joel and Mary had a "date night" that night. They had been trying nice restaurants in Chicago each month. Before Joel came to pick Mary up, he checked on the letters at the arches. Unfortunately, some of them had blown off. It was a windy day! So now it said, 'M_R__ _E M__Y'. What a bummer; though Joel still had more in store for Mary!
They went to dinner at Les Nomades, a very nice, French restaurant. Dinner was good and they were talking about how great they were as a couple, and "shouldn't we go forward." Mary had decided that maybe she should be a little more forward with her feelings. So being a little tentative, she said, "I think that I might want to spend the rest of my life with you." And Joel responded, "I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you. " Mary was so surprised! Especially after all the questions at breakfast Joel seemed all of sudden ready. She didn't know what to make of it, but it felt great and they didn't want to go home.
So they talked about going somewhere else. They didn't want to go to a bar so they decided to go for a walk and talk outside somewhere since it was such a nice night. Mary suggested the Arches but Joel mentioned Montrose Harbor. Luckily, she picked Montrose Harbor. After the letters had blown away, Joel didn't want to go to the arches - but it would at least be a good story for later.
So they went to Montrose Harbor (Mary had taken Joel there one night just for fun). They got out of the car and started looking at the Chicago skyline while holding hands; and then they started hugging (and kissing ;-). All of a sudden, Joel's chest started playing music. It was their song: "Come What May" from Moulin Rouge. Click below to hear the song.
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Mary kept thinking: "what is going on? Did he have a CD player in his coat? Had he planned this for date night? " Joel apparently was thinking: "Here we go... "
As the music ended, Joel got down on one knee and held out a small box. Mary was again thinking "What's going on? Did he buy me earrings? " She was kind of freaking out; starting to cry as she opened it - which she had trouble with - and a beautiful ring was inside. Joel said to Mary, "Will you marry me" crying through the words. She said through her tears, "yes I will - over and over and over. "
Unbelievable. Mary was blown away that they had just done that. They were both shaking a bit. And then as they went back to the car - another couple rolled down their window and said "Congratulations! " Joel then took Mary to the arches and explained about the letters. They had a great time - laughing and talking.
Later, at home, they felt the emotion of the evening carrying them and they couldn't just go to bed. So they went to Emilio's and talked about everything? It turns out Joel had the ring for a couple of months! They drank a pitcher of Sangria, hugged, laughed and talked; and felt a big change in themselves and in the world around them.