I love surprising people. Our surprise engagement party was going to be the biggest secret I had ever kept. But our friends and family weren’t the only people I wanted to surprise. I had a little something up my sleeve for Brandon too.
As I got to thinking about how we were going to share our news, I needed to come up with something that wasn’t going to be anticlimactic. We’ve all been there: you have exciting news to announce and wait until all your people are together. You queue the drumroll. Make the announcement. And it falls flat. There are crickets. The truth is, most big life changes take time for people to adjust. Creating a moment of genuine surprise followed up with excitement can be tricky. But I set this as my goal. I wanted people to share in our story with us. Since they weren’t there when the proposal happened, I needed to figure out how to allow our friends and family to participate in our moment.
Why tell them when we can show them?
I wanted to show them the video of the proposal. We could rent TVs, an AV system, and create a little video of the proposal. Yes. Yes and Yes. I liked this idea. But I needed to flesh it out. Were we just going to play the video and then expect everyone to clap afterwards? I think not as this would still leave a chance for that awkward pause. But then it hit me.
What if I created a video about our story through my parent’s eyes? It would start with them talking about how my dad proposed to my mom. Then they’d start talking about Brandon and me, queue the actual proposal video, and we had a touching story on our hands. All the while, I would keep it a secret from Brandon so the day of, he could be surprised too.
I liked this idea so off I went. I rented a studio, found a videographer, convinced my parents to do it, sent them a list of interview questions, and voila! We made a little movie magic.
A huge shoutout goes to my mom and dad: they both took a day off from work, drove through rush hour traffic, and dressed up in formal wear on a rainy Wednesday in order to make my vision come to life. They were the stars of the show and I’m so grateful for all the energy they put into this. It was a huge ask but they never complained. They are absolute rockstars. And I can’t wait for you to see them in this video. They were amazing.
As an aside: if your parents are still together and alive, schedule a shoot like this today. Don’t wait. Just do it. I now have 2 hours of footage with mom and dad telling stories and talking about life. I will cherish and rewatch this footage for the rest of my life. They shared how they met. Their first date. How my dad proposed. Highlights from their wedding day. All the little details I never knew are now mine to keep forever. I wish my parents would have done this with their parents. I know we’d watch it every year as a family. You get to see the love and go back in time. This video shoot was the highlight of my year. You don’t need to put it together for some big event. Just sit them down and start rolling. I promise you’ll never regret it.
As I said in my toast the night of our engagement party, the single greatest gift Brandon has ever given me is the daily reminder that time is not infinite. The people we love aren’t here to stay. The nature of age gap relationships is such that you’ll likely lose everyone you love many years before you die. This is true not just for your spouse, but for your parents too. Now being in an age gap relationship doesn’t mean your parents will die any sooner, but it is a constant reminder to appreciate time with the people you love. It changes your perspective and shuffles your priorities. I am constantly amazed by my mom and dad. They are two of the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet and I’ve always been close with them. But being young, it’s easy to take time together for granted. Or to think your parents will always be there to tell their stories. They won’t. So next time you see yours, grab a camera, start asking questions, and watch them light up.
Back to the video…
Up until the day before the party, I was fervently making edits to the video. But come 6PM, the final draft was sitting in my inbox – ready for our big day. Feeling accomplished, I walked into our house and Brandon was sitting in his office. With a look of panic on his face, he asked, “How are we announcing the engagement tomorrow?! Are we making a toast?” Little did he know what I had in store. I told him I had a plan and preferred not to tell him. But he’s not one for surprises either. So I sat on his lap, pulled the video up on his computer, and we watched the whole thing through. We were both tearful at the end and judging by his reaction, I knew I nailed it.
Come the night of the party, everyone arrived and brought birthday gifts. We all sat down for dinner and just as dessert was coming out, I clinked my glass to make my toast. It went something like this:
“As my closest friends and family, you know me well – I can’t do anything without putting my heart into it, which makes me emotional and certainly a cryer. So in order to make it through this toast, I needed to write down my thoughts to ensure I say a few of the most important words a person can say. I’ve been working on these words for exactly 44 days and I’ve found the ones I’d like to share with you.
Tonight we are celebrating 3 occasions.
First, my 25th birthday. Growing up, I went through many phases and each of you have been by my side during those transitions – for that, I thank you. Whether I was vegan, overtly religious, or on a lean cuisine only diet, you’ve supported me. My craziest so called “phase” was certainly when I fell in love with a man twice my age and can honestly say that without your support, I don’t know that we’d all be here tonight. So for that, I give my sincerest thank you.
On my 25th birthday, the people I have the deepest gratitude for are my parents. I truly have the most incredible parents and each of you in this room know that to be true.
They both have shaped me into the person I am today and I’d like to think I have only your best qualities but still, I aspire to become all that both of you are:
Dad – there’s no one who lights up a room like you. Your stories, your infectious energy coupled with your intelligence are qualities I adore.
Mom – there’s no woman quite like you. When I think of you, the following words ring in my head – Grace. Class. Empathy. Warmth. Everything I aspire to be as a woman is manifested in you.
At 25, I am proud of who I am but will never stop reaching to be more similar to my amazing parents.
Our second celebration tonight is my sweet love’s 50th birthday. There isn’t a day that goes by without thinking about getting older but not for traditional, girly reasons. Yes, I worry about wrinkles and skin elasticity like every other woman but my daily thoughts are much more involved.
Brandon and I have an age gap. This comes as no surprise to you but it’s certainly something that we work through everyday. It often makes me sad and I cry when I give myself temporary permission to stop and reflect. However, with all of the sadness this brings, this is the single greatest gift Brandon has ever given me. More than his love, our age gap is a constant reminder that time can’t be wasted. His time is precious. Our time together is precious. And because of this, we work hard to make the most of each day together because we know our time isn’t infinite. Don’t get me wrong, 50 is young and maybe it’s the new 20. 50 is a big one and I am deeply proud of the person he is and the time I get to spend with him.
Our final celebration is the most important of the 3. As my grandpa Lu would say, “tonight, we are celebrating the magic of love”. This is the real reason we’ve brought you here tonight as we can’t imagine celebrating our love without the people we love.
Please turn your attention to the screens and share with us the next chapter of our lives.”
All 6 screens in our little event space illuminated and we shared our news. There was laughter. There were tears. And it concluded with a toast from my dad and Brandon finally gave me my ring. I think a few people had an idea that news was coming, but judging by the photos, most were genuinely surprised.
We had pulled it off and it was everything I hoped it could be.
**At some point, I’ll get the video posted but it needs to be updated. Apparently Youtube has this thing called a copyright sensor and the video is fraught with music from Sam Smith to Frank Sinatra. Whoops.Stay tuned**
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