Sarah and A.J.

How We Met

It all started a little over 9 years ago. I met A.J. when I was 16 years old, at the end of my junior year of high school. He went to an all boys’ catholic school, and I went to a small catholic school in a different suburb of Pittsburgh – so we never really should’ve crossed paths. But we had mutual friends that introduced us, and as soon as we met we became inseparable!

Sarah and A.J.'s Engagement in Phipps Conservatory

We dated for the rest of high school, went to Penn State together, and then moved in together right after college. We lived in Pittsburgh while A.J. attended law school, and then moved to Indianapolis after he graduated, and we will be moving to the west coast within the next month. We were never one of those couples that broke up or took breaks during our relationship, so by the time we actually get married, it’ll be an event over a decade in the making!

Wedding Proposal Ideas in Phipps Conservatory

How He Asked

The holiday season 2016 was unlike any other holiday season that we had experienced in our 8 years together. We were living in Indianapolis, but our lives were still in centralized in Pittsburgh. So between end of year deadlines at work and distance from our friends and family, A.J. and I both weren’t in the holiday spirit. We decided that as soon as we got back to Pittsburgh for the holiday weekend, we should go to Phipps Conservatory! Every Christmas season, Phipps transforms their botanical gardens into a winter wonderland – so if that didn’t get the sugarplums dancing in our heads, nothing would. So it was decided, on December 23rd we would visit Phipps! He had everything planned perfectly. In the morning, I was scheduled to get my annual Christmas manicure with my sisters (a gift from my Grandma, which conveniently guaranteed that my nails would be done), then we’d swing by Phipps to see the trees and lights before heading to an annual Christmas caroling party that we attend every year.

So with my freshly painted nails, I headed to meet A.J. at Phipps! As we were walking around all of the Christmas themed exhibits, A.J. became very interested in the only room that wasn’t to the theme: the rain-forest room. For a half hour, we walked around and examined every flower/tree/activity. I remember thinking “who knew that he was so into the tropical rain-forest?” After we thoroughly explored the jungle, we entered the main exhibit with a giant Christmas tree at its center – it was absolutely magical! As we sat there taking pictures on our phones, A.J. got very bothered by a family having a picnic in front of the main tree and suggested that we leave. I was confused, because we had a fine view of the tree and could take pictures in front of it later, but he insisted, so we left. We started walking into another corner of the conservatory and we came upon a tree with decorations matching our outfits (purple and red). As I stood there rambling on about the “Sarah and A.J. Tree”, and taking pictures on my phone, A.J. called my name. “One more second”, I replied. He called my name louder, and as I turned to face him he dropped to one knee.

Where to Propose in Phipps Conservatory

Engagement Proposal Ideas in Phipps Conservatory

His proposal was more legendary than I ever could’ve imagined. I will never forget hearing those four words at the end of the sweetest, most romantic speech: “Will you marry me”. It was above and beyond the greatest moment of my life. I couldn’t stop smiling and crying and I couldn’t wait to answer a resounding “YES”!

Marriage Proposal Ideas in Phipps Conservatory

Proposal Ideas Phipps Conservatory

Once he slipped the ring on my finger, and as I struggled to keep the remainder of my composure (to be honest, there was no composure left), he turned me around to reveal that he had hired a photographer to document everything!

Sarah's Proposal in Phipps Conservatory

After a brief proposal photo shoot, A.J. explained some of his bizarre behavior earlier in the day. Firstly, our photographer had to run out to get a new battery during our long visit in the tropical rain-forest room, which is why we lingered there for so long. Then, the photographer had told him that the best spot to propose was in front of the main tree, but the picnic ruined that plan. We were losing the light, so he had to coordinate with her to migrate to another spot all without me noticing. He’s lucky that I am easily distracted by ornaments and twinkly lights! Just as I thought that the night couldn’t get any better, A.J. surprised me with a proposal dinner party with all of our closest friends and family. He even managed to get my out of town friends to come into Pittsburgh two days before Christmas! I couldn’t believe it. All of my favorite people sat in one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate with us. The proposal party overflowed into the annual caroling party where we were greeted with applause and a champagne toast. Everything was beyond perfect – I wouldn’t change a thing! It was the best night of my life. I can’t wait to call this amazing man my husband!

Special Thanks

Maria Palermo