Proposal at the College of William & Mary
How We Met: Eric and I (Sam) were friends well before we ever became romantically involved. We met at the 2nd oldest university, The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, VA. As cheesy as it is (and we don’t normally lead with this foot) Eric played football and I was a cheerleader. Cue the John Hughes’ credits. Socially, we ran in the same circles yet we had never truly spent time together until our junior year. I knew of him, he knew of me, but we were still only acquaintances.
That is until my best friend at W&M, Meghan, shared some classes with Eric at the Business School. Then the thought actually crossed my mind…”He may not be a dumb jock after all.” Eventually he told me my majoring in English proved to him that I wasn’t some ditzy cheerleader either. It’s difficult to be either at our school, but hey, we’re human. Luckily our assumptions didn’t stop us from giving each other a chance.
Meghan started talking about this guy everyone called OB. She said he was a really nice guy. Turns out OB was Eric (His last name is O’Brien so everyone called him ‘OB’). Meghan and I were roommates and at a study session at our apartment Eric showed up with some grapes and cheese for a snack. Unbeknownst to Eric, this was one of my favorite snacks (a close second to Goldfish crackers) and I have no shame so I asked if I could have some. He smiled the warmest smile and politely shared.
Fast forward through some AOL Instant Messenger conversations and Facebook poking (admit it…you did it too) and we started hanging out one-on-one. Our first official date didn’t go so well. Eric loves golf and during the off-season worked at Kingsmill (a golf resort). The Michelob Ultra tournament is held at Kingsmill every year and they throw lots of parties for all the staff that help put the tournament on. Eric invited me to the staff dinner (very fancy for a college student’s budget). I don’t eat red meat regularly…Eric would eat a cow…raw…if it was legal. He ordered me a medium (although I claim it was rare) filet mignon steak for dinner. Even upon the pressing from his boss, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. To this day Eric swears he didn’t plan it that way. Our first kissed was shared under the fireworks at the end of that night.
From that day on we were practically inseparable. Wherever you saw my red, Mazda Miata—even at 6’2” Eric fit—people knew we were together. We both met each other’s families’ that year as well. I remember my mother commenting on, “Who is this OB I always hear you talking about?” I was practically the 5th roommate, as many hours as I clocked in at Eric’s house. We may not have known it at the time, but our strong foundation at the beginning has made for a great, long-lasting relationship…5 years later!
Any cheerleader will tell you, you cheer for the team not the player. Well secretly (OK, not so secretly) I always did and still do cheer for number 75! Go Tribe!
How He Asked: Eric and I had dated long distance pretty much upon graduating from W&M. I’ve lived in NYC & the D.C. area; he’s lived in Richmond, VA and London, England. So when I relocated to Stafford, VA to teach again, an hour long distance seemed like nothing. Over our 5+ year relationship we’d gained a dog, Boo Radley (but he prefers Boo). Boo is an integral part of our household. We’d travel on weekends to see each other, normally rotating every other weekend. Eric works in the Finance industry, so he has crazy long hours. Even if he could only see me for a few hours, he’d drive up to see us.
At this point, we’d become staples at each other’s holiday table—I’d travel to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving and he’d travel to Southeastern VA for Christmas. People began to inquire about when we were going to get married; however, we let it roll off our shoulders. “When we’re ready,” was normally our kind response. Eric seemed to take it in stride after the Year 4 mark when the interested parties began to wonder if something was wrong. I know everyone says they never pressured their fiancé to propose, but I truly didn’t. I was happy. His love was more than enough. He can make you feel like you’re the only person in the room of a hundred people. I’m not the easiest person to get along with either, so I knew God made Eric for me—and he assures me “vice versa.”
So imagine my surprise as we approached our 5th year anniversary when Eric suggested we move in together…in Little Rock, AR. He was interested in working for a finance firm in the area and he asked if I wanted to live together. The only major deterrent was the fact that we’d be away from our friends and family back on the East Coast. But, when Eric said, “You’re my home,” I was sold. I decided then and there that Boo and I were packing up and bringing our talents to Little Rock (cue LeBron).
It’s pretty typical to see people get engaged on major holidays, especially ones centered around family. One of my good friends got engaged on Thanksgiving Eve and when I ran into the O’Brien kitchen Thanksgiving morning and shared the news, a look of horror spread on everyone’s face. I couldn’t figure out then what caused their confused looks, but I know now it was because my ring was just around the corner.
Around the holiday season, Williamsburg gets all dolled up in its holiday finest for tourists. They call it Grand Illuminations. I used to dread this time of the year when I was a student at W&M but as an alum it really is magical. Eric and I decided to invite my parents up to good ol’ Billysburg to spend the day with us and tour Colonial Williamsburg. We brought Boo with us and booked a hotel so we could make a weekend out of it. I didn’t think anything of it—it’s a pretty typical event.
To kill time while waiting for my parents to arrive, we took Boo on campus for a walk. I needed to use the restroom so I popped into the Commons quickly. Then we walked to the most romantic spot on campus. It still hadn’t rang any bells, because we’d walked by this area before PLENTY of times as a couple. The Crim Dell and the Crim Dell Bridge have some campus history behind them. If you walk across the bridge by yourself, you’re doomed to singledom forever. On the flip side, whomever you walk across the bridge with is meant to be your soul mate. Eric feigned the idea that Boo was coming loose from his harness and so we stopped…right at the bridge.
Eric is a provider—a shower of love. Not a speaker of love. Next thing I know Eric starts talking about how much this place means to us, how much I mean to him, and how he can’t picture his life without my laugh, smile, and heart in it. For someone who is not one for words…he sure did nail them. I think I may have blacked out some while he was talking because next thing I know, he’s down on one knee with a ring box.
I was speechless, which is a feat in and of itself. I guess he was down there for a while because I remember him getting up and asking me if my non-talking was actually me saying yes. I said, “Yes!” jumped up and kissed him the hardest I’ve ever kissed him. He slipped the ring on my finger and after a few more moments we walked up the trail to the bridge. We were going to make it official. Here goes forever. We walked to the crest of the bridge and that’s when he told me he hired photographers to capture the entire proposal! I was floored! I couldn’t believe he would go through such lengths to make that day so special! That’s when he revealed where the photographers were hiding!
Behind the scenes, Eric had set everything up. It played out like a true Hollywood movie. When I stopped and used the restroom, he called Caitlin (1/2 of the photography duo of freshlywed) to confirm the drop. Then when we arrived at the Crim Dell Bridge, we were perfectly positioned for the stealth-like cameras to capture the images. Then the big reveal at the top of the bridge. If you look at the images in sequence, you can see my look of shock when he reveals his entire plan!
I knew I had the best, but I’m so glad Eric had the foresight to hire freshlywed to capture this moment!
Photos by Freshly Wed