Lauren and Charlie

How We Met: Charlie used to come up to Santa Barbara from Hollywood to visit his good friends every now and then, which is where I just so happened to live. One weekend, he was up visiting some pals, and I was itching for a girls night on the town with some of my ladies. Our two groups ended up at a local hotspot in downtown Santa Barbara called Joe’s. Joe’s has a bit of a reputation for making the stiffest drinks in the whole of Santa Barbara, so it’s a popular place to start the night. And of course, my girls and I decided to start there, just like Charlie and his friends.

At one point, I ran into a good friend (who happens to be male) and was chatting with him. As we’re concluding our conversation, this random guy (Charlie) comes up to me and just hugs me and says, “Hi,” and then walks away. Talk about weird. A little while later, he comes over AGAIN! And this time says, “So, was that guy your boyfriend? Cuz you can do a lot better.” I’m thinking, “WHO is this guy and WHAT is his deal?!” So, naturally I fired off a few sassy comments. When all of a sudden, all my girlfriends run up and go “Oh, you met Charlie!” like he’s the greatest guy in the world (little did I know, I’d soon think that). It was then decided that we would all bar hop together for a little while.

Over the course of the evening, Charlie turned from a line-dropping ridiculous bar-guy, to a hilarious and silly guy who clearly does not take himself too seriously, which was great, because I don’t take myself too seriously either. To this day, Charlie always says that immediately, he knew I was different, and rather than just dropping lines and being a jokester, he would just be himself (that was, of course, after dropping a few lines). During that night, he was himself, and it was awesome. On one occasion, we were so caught up in conversation, that we completely missed our friends moving on to another bar! At another spot, we danced like the HUGE dorks that we are. We had a great time, and he drove back up 2 days later from Hollywood and took me out to dinner for our first date and it’s been magic ever since.

Part of me thinks it’s hilarious that I met the love of my life in a BAR, but at the same time, it was a pretty awesome coincidence that I don’t think was a coincidence at all.

How He Asked: Charlie’s birthday is in the end of February, and in January, his sister asked me if I had anything special planned. At that point, I didn’t. She suggested we throw him a surprise party. I thought that was a GREAT idea. As we talked more about specifics, she threw out the idea of karaoke. I was in.

There were only two places in town that would be doing karaoke the night we had in mind. We decided to go with Old Town Tavern, in Goleta, Ca. The place is an utter dive (more on that later), but also a really great time. I’d never been there, but they have a very popular “college night” on Wednesdays that I’d heard good things about, and their karaoke started at 7pm instead of 10pm, so that was a better option for getting more people to come.

As January and February went by, things began coming together nicely. We had friends coming from both Santa Barbara and Los Angeles (and some from San Diego!). At one point, his sister asked if I was going to invite my parents. I hadn’t planned on it and didn’t really think it was that big a party for them to make the 6-hour drive to attend, but I figured I might as well give them a heads up. My Dad said he’d be there. Cool! My Mom would be in Hawaii with friends, but decided to change her flight to return a day early to make the party. Even cooler! Charlie’s sister later told me that their Dad was going to fly down (from Oregon) for the party too. WAY COOL!

As this was all happening, there were a few times, where in the back of my mind, I would think to myself, “Ya know, I know Charlie’s planning on proposing some time this year, and he’s pretty dang sneaky…I wouldn’t put it past him to somehow be behind all of this.” I thought it was a possibility, but I didn’t think that was actually what was happening. At that point, we hadn’t gone ring shopping together (a step in the process I really emphasized was important…I’m a bit particular…), so while it would be a good trick, I didn’t think this would be the big night. I’d remind myself, “We’re doing a nice thing for Charlie. It’s not all about ME.” Riiiiiiight.

The week of the party, I was so focused on making sure everything went right…reminding friends, buying birthday decorations, you name it. The day of, I was In. The. Zone. Coordinating with the people coming into town to make sure there weren’t any run-ins and on my phone more than normal (which is already a lot) — everything was going as planned. And I was pretty sure Charlie had NO IDEA.

I told Charlie we were doing something “special” but not too fancy that night to celebrate his birthday, that we’d be going to a place I’d never been before, where there’d be food and fun stuff to do. He kept guessing that we were going bowling (good guess) or to Chuck E. Cheese (joke guess). Charlie drove, while I kept giving play-by-play updates to his sister and my Dad, who had both been there for over an hour setting up and organizing everyone for the surprise. (Sadly, my Mom’s flight from Hawaii was cancelled, so she didn’t end up making it after all! Boo.)

We got out of the car and made our way to one of the dive-iest bars either of us has ever been to — no joke. As we walked up, we were, uh, serenaded by a middle-aged woman’s rendition of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” We went through the doors, and a crowd of about 45 people shouted “SURPRISE!!!” (including the rag-tag looking folks at the bar, all equipped with the noisemakers and hats I bought the night before). Charlie was SO SURPRISED. I’m standing next to him, just BEAMING. “We did it!” I thought, “We nailed this surprise party! BOO YAH.”

Charlie’s sister jumped on stage and began leading everyone in singing “Happy Birthday.” When that was done, she told Charlie and me to get up on stage. I thought that was a little random for me to get up there, it wasn’t my birthday after all, but I went up too. I said thanks to everyone for coming, blah blah, and then passed the mic to Charlie. He said “Oh my gosh, this is such a surprise! I didn’t know I had this many friends! And you’re all so good looking! …In keeping with the theme of surprises, I have a surprise too.” (Quick cut to my brain at this time…I honestly didn’t think anything fishy was going on…I thought he was just going to make some silly Charlie-joke, like “Lauren’s pregnant!” Something ridiculous like that.) He turns to me and says, “Lauren…” gets down on one knee, “Will you marry me!?” and holds out a black box containing a — HOLY COW!!! — GORGEOUS ring.

I FREAKED. Somehow, I hadn’t seen that coming AT ALL. My hands immediately went up over my mouth, and I kept looking out at the crowd and then back at Charlie, not fully comprehending what was happening. I honestly felt like every emotion had slammed into my face at once — like I was going to cry, scream, laugh, everything…through my face. I nodded frantically, Charlie said, “Is that a yes?” I squeaked out a “Yes!” in the mic, Charlie gave me the ring box, he stood up, and then we hugged. Yes, you heard that right…he gave me the box. Haha. I took it and said, “Put it on me!” Charlie: “Yeah! Put it on!” Me: “No, YOU put it on ME!” Charlie: “Yeah! Put it on!” So, I just put it on myself when we hugged again.

I got down from the stage and was bum-rushed — “Congratulations!!!”, pictures with friends, pictures of me with the ring, people wanting to see the ring, people giving me drinks, hugs, some people asking if I had a date (UHM, REALLY!? It JUST happened!)…It was surreal. I seriously feel like I blacked out from emotional overload — in the best way possible. The rest of the night, we did karaoke, danced, ate cake, and had a blast.

And that’s how it all went down. We got engaged at Old Town Tavern — a karaoke dive if there ever was one — and it was perfect. I love that so many of our friends and family were able to be there. I love that I was so utterly caught of guard. I love that how it all happened is just so “us.” I loved everything about it.