Vesna and Bryan | Proposal with a Blue Box Surprise

B: We met in August of 2012. Vesna was starting her MBA. I was one year ahead and in my final year. Right before school started I was leading a retreat to Jasper for all the incoming students and tried to convince her that whitewater rafting down a cold river would be a lot of fun. She didn’t agree.

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V: Whitewater rafting is not my cup of tea but I did debate going on the trip and skipping out on the rafting. Bryan had told my colleagues to bring their swimming trunks. Bryan’s famous first words to me: “You, bring nothing.” Awkward pause. Then he walked away.

B: Awkward pause indeed. Much like calling her a few weeks later “uh, wanna go out?” Over the course of the year we had a lot of unusual dates. This included business case competitions (an international one dealing with the economics of tropical deforestation in Indonesia; a number of others in Toronto), a strategy consulting project for a sports association and some work on an energy project for a global consulting firm during school. Just some geeky fun.

V: Best looking geek I’ve ever met! What really drew me to Bryan is that he’s confident, really sincere, and effortlessly mentors and helps others. His unique quirks: he howls at his own jokes, is a self-proclaimed Microsoft Paint and Machu Picchu guru, and epically pauses movies so he comment on them. Yes he’s that guy.

B: When the school year was up, Vesna still had some more courses in the summer plus had some jobs she’d committed to, and then a trip to China. We were supposed to meet there but the stars didn’t align. On the other hand, I was a free agent. Having completed school I decided to take off to go a trip. A long trip — to Europe, Asia and Africa for four months in the summer. Indonesia was going to go from theory to concept. We did a lot of chatting via low-bandwidth Skype. Next time I’m getting a roaming plan and staying connected!

V: Long distance is the worst! I missed Bryan so much! Bryan is a thrill seeker… me, I’m risk averse. So Bryan did what any protective, loving man would do… he told me after the fact about his crazy adventures involving deadly predators of the animal kingdom. Icing on the cake was a mysterious black eye while Skyping. Good thing he’s sturdy.

B: Vesna’s culinary adventures in China weren’t that risk adverse! Steamed lettuce? Regardless, I had many good ideas about proposing on the road. A girlfriend who is OK with me petting slavering and scary Komodo Dragons in Indonesia is one worth proposing to after all. I pictured making him the ring bearer (like Meet the Parents with Ben Stiller). Especially since I had all kinds of other adventures to do first and tell her about later, with shark diving South Africa, gorilla trekking in Uganda, climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and getting roughed up in a boxing camp in Thailand. I owed her a great proposal.

B: I came back in the fall with my plans set. There were a few suspicious trips to the mall for Vesna to “please show me the ring that such-and-such-friend has.” The charade was flimsy but I managed to not expose the plan. After a few of these trips I knew the right ring to get and had it stashed away in my sock drawer. I spent a few secretive evenings with Beth van der Bij, our photographer for the event, who had great insight and suggestions.

V: I was so happy to have Bryan back after being gone for a few months! I didn’t see the proposal coming. I knew Bryan was the one but thought he would take his time. Bryan was just starting work and I was finishing up my last year of studies after all. His really late nights at the office, his refusal to let me go shopping with him, and his phone call to my parents all made sense afterwards!

B: For the proposal itself, I took Vesna on a mystery errand on Valentine’s Day. We drove past her favourite Restaurant, the Upper Crust. We arrived at Rutherford House on the North end of the University of Alberta campus. It was very cold. Vesna suspected that we were going to Rutherford House for tea. We walked on past. Then, she thought perhaps I was taking her to an event at the Business School. We walked right past. Vesna was now freezing She wondered out loud how warm and inviting the pedways and indoor walkways looked while I heard cameras snapping in the background. Beth was “photographing” Derek her husband in the distance. The disguise was great and even if it had not been, Vesna was too cold to notice.

V: I’ll never forget that freezing Valentine’s Day! I wore a polka dot dress and pink heels thinking that we’d just drive to a restaurant for a romantic dinner. I was so confused as to why Bryan just kept driving past my fave restaurant then took us to campus. My worst fear was a private dinner for two at the A&W on campus! I was obsessed about the cold and was completely baffled as to why Bryan chose to ignore my not-so-subtle pleas to walk indoors or park near entrances. He was definitely on a mission to take me somewhere! Even when he stopped in front of the old Arts building, set against the backdrop of the business building, I still didn’t clue in.

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B: I do like those Buddy Burgers… but I digress. I chose the Business Quad as it’s scenic, has some stately pine trees that I’m partial to from my first career in forestry and it’s right outside the building that we first met. That date was 535 days prior. I stopped Vesna and told her that, and that the next stop was the Earl’s on campus. That was where we went on a first date 499 days prior. I pulled out a ring. I’d previously thought of a 3-ring Venn Diagram, but that’s beside the point. Events conspired to put us in “the middle.”

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V: When Bryan told me our next stop was Earl’s, I literally thought he was out of his mind if he thought we were now going to walk to Earl’s! But then I started to understand what was happening. He pulled out a blue box and told me to untie the white ribbon. First the shock. Then the flood gate of tears. I can’t recall a single word of his speech, except the number 499, but I do remember that I thought it was so beautiful at the time. Bryan looked fantastic. I looked like I just attended a funeral. Then I heard the clicking. How did I not see the massive camera and bright lights?! Bryan informed me that they had been stalking us since the tea house. Talk about tunnel vision! It was really a magical moment and I am so happy that Beth managed to capture it all, running mascara and all!

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Photos by ENV Photography